Alcest at the Islington Assembly Hall – 01/02/2014

On the Shelter tour, Alcest made their only UK appearance in front of a capacity crowd at London’s beautiful Islington Assembly Hall. Supporting the blackgaze pioneers came eclectic support from England’s own The Fauns and Finland’s Hexvessel.

On the back of their great 2013 album “Lights”,  dream pop/shoe gaze group The Fauns opened the proceedings with a great performance. Their two guitarists weave a dreamy effects laden atmosphere, with Alison Garner’s ethereal voice gliding beautifully over it, reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, adding an extra layer to the wall of distortion driven sound. Mixing slower dreamier tracks such as Lovestruck, with more upbeat, spirited tracks  such as “With You” and Let’s Go” they  deliver a brilliantly energetic set, and open the concert brilliantly.

Finland’s five piece Hexvessel are a rather interesting group, playing psychedelic folk music, while also taking cues from doom metal and the blues, and all this creates a brilliant earthy atmosphere, the band create a great vision of their native Finland. Their music is mainly rooted in folk, with lead guitarist Simo Kuosmanen playing excellent blusey wah-fueled solos as well as down beat melancholic riffs, while multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Helen interchanges between keyboards, trumpet and flute, adding another experimental and sometimes psychedelic dimension to their sound.Singer/rhythm guitarist Mat McNerny has an excellent, rich tone to his voice which really makes the songs come alive. Their intriguing set goes down really well with the audience, especially the ten minute doomy epic “His Portal Tomb” and the catchy cover song “Women of Salem” originally of Yoko Ono.

Alcest steal the show however, playing a particularly passionate and varied set, consisting of tracks from across all four of their full length albums, but mainly focusing on their latest album Shelter. Opening with the beautiful and bright “Opale”, their shimmering guitars along with Niege’s excellent voice weave an ethereal atmosphere throughout the hall, the mellow atmosphere of the album really brought to life by their passionate performance. With other mellow, beautiful pieces such as “Voix Sereines” and “Sur l’océan couleur de fer” they also add some of the older heavier material to their set too, with “Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles” really combining the shoegaze and black metal sound perfectly,  Niege’s raspy black metal screams being in fantastic form. He gives an incredibly intense performance, this song being one of the highlights of the set, with shimmering guitar effects and fast double bass drumming creating a perfect wall of sound, in fact its in these heavier moments that the band is at their best throughout the show.

They close the set with two older tracks in the form of “Percées de lumière”  and “Souvenirs d’un autre monde”, the older tracks going down well with the audience, and performed in excellent fashion, before being called back for an encore in the form of “Délivrance”, a near ten minute epic. It’s a perfect song to close their set, starting mellow and building into a fantastic complete wall of sound, until the other members leave the stage, leaving Niege frantically playing distorted riffs alone, before walking off too, leaving his guitar and letting the final notes ring out throughout the venue. It was an absolutely superb performance, and the capacity crowd loved every minute of it.

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