Alcest brought together a diverse crowd of shoegaze fans, hipsters and metalheads when they returned to Melbourne

Alcest arrived in Australia for the second time following a six-year absence, to showcase their 2016 release, Kodama. Joining Alcest for a night of alliterative band names were Melbourne acts Arbrynth and Alithia.
Arbrynth set the scene with their brand of progressive metal drawing allusions to the folk elements of Opeth’s canon. Their set was executed with undeniable skill and precision. Where the music of Arbrynth gelled perfectly with Alcest’s atmosphere, Alithia at first seemed an odd choice as supporting artist. They worked hard to situate themselves outside of conventional genre boundaries, but their sound can be described as eccentric prog/post-rock with tribalistic percussion and a psychedelic feel. Scepticism about the bands fit faded away, however, as Alithia’s performance went on and their incredible energy was made apparent.
Alcest started in 1999 as a black metal project, and both vocalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter have previously played with French heavyweights Peste Noire along with others. The black metal influence had virtually faded as of Alcest’s fifth full-length release, and only manifests in brief sections of blast beats and harsh vocals. What is interesting is that Alcest maintains appeal with otherwise staunch metalheads. Thus, the crowd was a mix of shoegaze fans, hipsters and heavy fiends. Alcest’s performance worked to bring together a diverse crowd, united by their focus on and love of the band’s unique, incomparable sound.
Despite their packed touring schedule, the drain and exhaustion did not translate to the performance. Listeners were gifted with Alcest building an incredible and immersive atmosphere from start to finish.
Most of the tracks were from Alcest’s latest album, Kodama, inspired by Hayao Miyazake’s Princess Mononoke and translated from Japanese to mean ‘spirit’. Spiritual or otherworldly seemed as good a description of Alcest’s performance, with Neige’s ethereal vocals playing lightly off the guitar’s wall-of-sound approach.
The performance maintained the quality of Alcest’s studio work. A persistent contrast between peaceful vocals and chord progressions against the energy and depth instrumentation.
Words by Sam Gaffney
Image by Sean Fabre-Simmonds
Highlight: The excitement of such a diverse crowd at the prospect of seeing Alcest.
Lowlight: Dickheads showcasing their gutteral prowess while Neige was trying to speak got a bit old.
Crowd favourite: Revisiting an old classic, with Souvenirs d'un autre monde.