LIVE: Mono / Alcest @ Electric Brixton, London

By Glen Bushell

Two of the most interesting, and indeed, moving albums to be released this year have come from tonight’s line up. Mono’s ‘Requiem For Hell’ was a thunderous body of work, while ‘Kodama’ from Alcest was a reinvention of post-black metal. It makes tonight’s double headline show in London particularly special.

French blackgaze pioneers Alcest take to the stage first; no back drop, no over the top light show, just the band. There’s no need for pomp and pageantry when it comes to Alcest, as their music is powerful enough on its own as they open with the title track from ‘Kodama.’ The melodies that weave in and out of their intricate compositions are instantly engaging, luring you in to their spiritual world.

Despite coming from black metal stock, Alcest epitomise the modern variation of the genre. Even with the more abrasive elements of ‘Je Suis D’alliers’, or their hypnotising classic, ‘Ecallies De Lune – Part one,’ it is still very bright and intoxicating. Their expert use of guitar pedals adds vibrant layers to their art, washed with lush reverb, and filling every inch of available space in the room.

The mastermind of Alcest, Neige, cuts a very humble figure on stage. He is polite as he addresses the crowd, and shows genuine appreciation to the audience who are drawn to the music he pours so much of his soul into. He loses himself through the dreamy vocal melodies of ‘Autre Temps’ and ‘Eclosion’, then sounding visceral with the pained screams of ‘Percees De Lumiere’. Closing with a gorgeous run through ‘Deliverance’, Alcest assert themselves as one of the most exciting bands in metal today.

Japanese post-rock titans, Mono, are a far different beast. Their six song set looms for just over an hour, kicking off with the stunning ‘Ashes In The Snow’. The songs take shape at a methodical place, mirroring the intricacies of the bands recordings. At their heaviest, they are almost apocalyptic, then sullen at their most serene.

Having to pick a set from a very stacked back catalogue of music must be hard, especially when their songs average at ten minutes in length, but tonight they do a great job at satisfying everyone. Older tracks, ‘Dream Oydessy’ and ‘Recoil, Ignite’ fit well next to ‘Death In Rebirth’, even if at times the set tends to feel a bit drawn out in places. It may be down to the enchantment of Alcest, but if Mono had been on before, then perhaps it would be more exciting.

However, the previous forty plus minutes of music feel like a countdown to the final twenty minutes. The title track from ‘Requiem For Hell’ is simply breathtaking live. It makes everything worth waiting for, and it brings their set to a close in stunning fashion.

Tonight proved to be a showcase for two fantastic bands, both of who show the endless capabilities of their music. Alcest may have triumphed over Mono, but it was only by a whisker. If these bands continue to think outside the box and inspire the way they way they do, they will be known as two of the greatest of all time.