About My Blogs

Like many writers, I've started, abandoned and returned to a number of blogs over the years, including ones on this site, at Medium and at the Huffington Post. I wrote a blog called Backward Messages for about three years, exploring the scapegoating of violent video games, heavy metal, the occult and other topics. I also occasionally post recipes from my kitchen at Gluten-Free With Everything

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Entries in Alcest (2)


Nine New Albums I Loved in 2016 (And Three More by My Friends)

So much good music comes out every year, and part of the joy of the turning of the year is getting to read other people’s best-of-year lists, so I can find out about all the music I missed. It’s rarer, though, that I latch onto enough music in a year to put together a list of my own. 2016 was one of those years, though, and here are some of my favorites, in no other order but their release dates:

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Alcest, Shelter, and Misunderstanding Metal

It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but I’m still angry about Alcest’s new album, “Shelter.” Sure, it’s a gorgeous, if weightless, piece of pop. Neige said he wanted to make an album that erased any traces of metal from his repertoire. Mission accomplished. I’m all in favor of musicians going in a direction that feels right for them, even if it means hurting fans’ feelings or producing something that potentially doesn’t work out musically.

My problem (well, one of them) is with the way Neige described the new album when he was interviewed by SPIN magazine a few months back: “It's just a safe place to escape, this secret thing we all have when life is going too fast and you are full of anxiety. I think we are living in a very tough era, and it is very easy to get lost and forget who you are. This shelter is a very precious thing that is never changing and that you always go back to.”

If that’s what he thinks “Shelter” is, then what did he think his previous albums were? For me, that’s the perfect description of Alcest’s earlier work, particularly “Écailles de Lune” and “Les Voyages de l'Âme,” which struck the perfect balance between beauty and raw pain. It’s also how many metal fans would describe their favorite album -- no matter how dark, loud or ugly. For Neige to say that “Shelter” provides a safe place is for him to suggest that metal doesn’t provide such a place, and it makes me wonder how he can say such a thing after being part of the metal scene for so long.

People change. Sometimes, metal stops making sense or sounding good anymore, and that’s fine. And maybe Neige wasn’t suggesting that people shouldn’t or can’t find shelter in a genre he’s leaving behind. But that’s exactly how it came out -- both in that interview and in the album he’s made.

Thankfully, other bands are carrying the blackgaze torch, including Woods of Desolation, whose newest album, “As the Stars,” comes close to that balance of beauty and harshness that Alcest perfected. Check out the whole thing with the Bandcamp player below. What other bands would you recommend for Alcest fans who are struggling to get over their “Shelter”-induced heartbreak?