Alcest - Écailles de Lune
- "Blackened-french-shoegaze" is what I first heard this described as and that alone made me check it out just to see what the hell it is. Alcest is a shoegaze/post-metal/atmospheric black metal (tags according to last.fm) project of just two guys from France. While it sounds like something that would never work the way they blend the theatricality, fast-paced rhythms and fierce vocals of black metal with the entwining atmosphere, dreamy melodies and echoes of shoegaze is nothing short of extraordinary. I can't think of another word besides beautiful to describe this record, it traverses from ghastly to haunting to enchanting. Pick this up if only for the fact that there is nothing else like it that I can think of.
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
- Hot on the heels of last year's Static Tensions comes Spiral Shadow, and for this release Kylesa ups the levels of pysch-rock and rhythmic complexity. Kylesa has always been a band that struck me as "riffs first" and they still do but peel back the in-you-face rawness and there is a level of dense complexity that few bands exhibit. Their use of two drummers to create tight intricacy and rhythmic complex grooves without going on ten minute long space-prog abstractions is a skill in it's own. While keeping the grooves and riffs first Kylesa attempts to blend a lot extremes, the almost pop-radio riff that starts the track "Don't Look Back" is mixed with a thick and dense driving verse progression. One of my favorite things about this band is how they use the blend of vocals from guitarists Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants. At times it sounds like a call and response between the shouted vocals of Phillip with the witchly haunting singing of Laura. Noise mixed with melody, ragged simplicity mixed skilled musicianship, and dreamy soundscapes mixed with thick cutting sludge metal riffs, Kylesa continues deliver.