Date / Venue: Monday April 24th, 2017 - Whammy Bar, Auckland
A number of years ago I wrote an article holding "It's not about the music, it's about the message" as an opinion piece over the fact that regardless of the genre of music - the key thing to take away, or in that instance - feed into yourself is the message being presented through the music.
More often than not lately I've been thinking of revising that sentiment with "it's about the emotion". Whether that's an emotional release that lets you vent anger, frustration, hurt, or even shame, but an emotional recharge - the power to build you up, inspire you with hope, confidence, a resolve to do... something; even it's just the escape of your problems and fall into a state of tranquility and calm for a few minutes. It's yet another aspect of the journey that music takes us on. As one of, if not THE pioneers of what is now dubbed "black gaze" - Alcest have perfected melding the tumultuous writhing of black metal, with the sombre, melancholic, and dream-like qualities of shoegaze - innocent songs begin before revealing in ourselves some hard truths about ourselves and we find ourselves coming face to face with those expressions of anger, frustration, or hurt - the tone and mood of each song drawing us in and having us face it head on - a cathartic release made possible by scathing black metal screams and rasping groans, but soon enough, we break through those feelings and find ourselves transported to what can only be described as a higher plane.
We're now at peace and drifting - clean melodic vocals guiding and lifting above the cacophony sitting precariously alongside us - it's a hard feeling/sound to describe accurately - but it's a euphoric state of mind often found in modern day Christian worship; it's an equally strange site to behold - a room full of swirling guitars and distortion, melodic clean vocals soaring above everything, and a crowd of metal heads - perfectly still.
But a well air conditioned spacious church we were not at - it was a hot, stifling Whammy Bar on Auckland's infamous K-Road, the room was packed, but not so that one could wander and move around to find those sweet spots beneath the godly air-conditioning fans, "The Dark Third" and "Mothra" had just finished setting the mood when Alcest took the stage with "Onyx", a mellow, oozing track calming us all, before shifting into the title track "Kodama" easing us into the oncoming set.
It was a strange experience to have a crowd slow clap in a song during an (albeit shoe-gaze natured) black metal show - bringing both surrealism and intensity to their act, I find it increasingly hard to put into words just what it's like to bare witness to Alcest live - I think it's something that you just have to actually witness yourself.
The emotional journey that each of us take away from such a show, and from such music - is deeply personal, and different for everyone. Regardless of what story, or intent the band themselves have for their music - it's our interpretation, that brings about our own euphoria and release.
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