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I'm no good at assigning arbitrary percentages based on little but opinion and rhetoric. But I just listened to this album again after a long break from countless listens, and I wanted to come here and state for the record that this album is an example of one the few times that a human creation explodes into being and you know that it's Real.
One of the few times you come away thinking, "How did this happen? How did it come to be that someone made this?"
Many things are made--many creations, many works of art. And music. But probably the majority that you encounter just seem blah. The lesser percentage of music releases is good, and there are more than we generally seem to think. Bias and opinions keep us from seeing that even plenty of pop art has good in it. And a smaller percentage of what's good is actually great. We recognize some genius in those great works.
But a few works explode into our world, and we think, "How did this even get made?" It doesn't sound like anything we've heard before--not REALLY. Not like this. And even everything after it, maybe including the artist's own work, is an echo in its wake. And for what the work is, it's essentially perfect. It's an absolute work of genius, and it's flabbergasting that someone actually produced it.
I just can't believe someone actually made this album. When I first heard Genevieve via samples made available by the label, I was immediately arrested. I bought a copy as quickly as possible, and I listened to it more times than I can remember. I also watched online as the band member or members, fans, and flamers produced an uproar of nonsense and dishonesty. So much dishonesty and delusion came to surround this band, this person or people, this entity, and the music got lost in that. But this is a major accomplishment, a major work of art alongside which any great work of art should feel comfortable in terms of quality, and I honestly believe this.
Tonight I liken Genevieve to a quasar. It bursts forth from a black hole of dishonesty, perhaps of ethical and spiritual collapse. An individual turned deeply into himself, become a universe of actual genius turned solipsistically self-aware and crushing inward. Every attempt of the outside to penetrate to the truth of being is rejected, misled, deceived, and made a mockery of in its failed attempts to connect with the mind, spirit, and soul of the creator behind Genevieve. This is tragic and heartbreaking. But in this deep collapse, the surrounding of which is a crushing of space across which human arms can never reach, an explosion of real, powerful energy shoots out and escapes the black hole in a gamma ray. This true quasar burst of energy is Genevieve. It's something of a miracle that for what it is, it's perfect. It blows my mind that things like this produced from humans exist.
It's a work of genius, and not in the pretended way that a particular Sigh album was cast years ago. A piece of poorly made junk with no cohesion was held aloft as brilliant, and if you didn't think so, well then that just revealed your idiocy and Poor Taste. But it wasn't brilliant, and it wasn't genius, and it wasn't beautiful, and it wasn't true. It told you that if you didn't like it (which you didn't), then you were too stupid to understand its genius. Therefore, everyone said it was genius because they were afraid of being called stupid. But the album was still low quality, regardless of whether or not you were "stupid."
Genevieve is the opposite. It's absolutely brilliant and perfect for what it is. I will always remember Velvet Cacoon and the mind behind it for this album--not for the other albums, real or fictional. Or for the hype, real or fictional. I won't say that you have to have a certain genius to recognize a certain genius--because hopefully that isn't true at all. Hopefully if you have an inclination to hear the genius and beauty of this particular music, as well as the awareness to know that it's surrounded by a lot of lies, dishonesty, delusion, and destruction, you will be able to hear what is truly amazing about this album--after the fog of nonsense has had time to clear.
On paper this Oregon duo looked good: a black metal duo made up of a girl called LVG handling the hissy reptilian vocals and playing a custom-made guitar with a diesel tank that emits fuel for the fire to help generate the guitar sounds; and a boy called SGL providing the vision and direction, and I assume operating the drum machines and rhythms. They claimed also to belong to an ecoterrorist organisation called the Earth Liberation Front which sure would not endear them to the police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in their country. This would explain why their faces are shadowed in the CD sleeve photographs so no-one could identify them ... hmm, why would you want your photos taken if you don't anyone to see and identify you to the authorities then?
Well on this first "proper" release, the so-called dieselharp guitar turns out to be fuzzy and buzzy with any crackly fire noises all but edited out. The rhythms seem under-powered and leaden and LVG's vocals are either submerged in the droning buzz or they are just too far back in the mix: they are just so whispery. I hope against hope that she'll soon start screaming and turn into a voracious vampire or demented sea serpent. No, no such luck - her style is too subdued and tasteful for this kind of music.
The musicians do generate a lot of aggression here and at this stage in their career VC could have carved out a unique niche in black metal drone. While I agree the music should do most of the talking with a minimum of frills and theatrics, on this occasion with the tracks structured rather like songs but with few lyrics I think some pieces could have benefitted from an all-out cathartic explosion with guitars detonating - sonically of course, not literally! - and drum machines going completely berserk and chattering away at 1,000 BPM. LVG could shout or scream and throw a hissy fit and all of this chaos could have sent "Genevieve" straight to another sonic plane of existence.
The last track "Bete Noir" is a 17-minute dark ambient work-out with low-pitched drones and floaty effects. While it's creepy and ghostly, I think LVG's vocals could have been useful here with reverb treatment and lots of distortion at various points in the track to create even more of an impression of an underwater leviathan lurking in the deep black mists of the sea.
Not a bad album but a little too well-behaved for what I think VC were capable of: the album has a good sound at least and the potential exists for the music to go in a more Gothic / Romantic / black ambient direction or a droning sound architecture path. The vocals are too far back in the mix and perhaps the underwater theme of the album is restricting their expression.
As it turned out, the stories about VC using a dieselharp guitar, SGL spending time in a mental asylum and the band members being ecoterrorists turned out to be just stories. Thanks guys, you let down a lot of people including me.
An original version of this review appeared in The Sound Projector (Issue 14, 2005 - 2006) which is no longer in print.
Velvet Cacoon’s “Genevieve” is a tale of madness. Lies, deceit, diesel harps, boats out in the calm sea, blood in salt water, hallucinogenic drugs, mind-numbing drug trips, dextromethorphan and quite possibly some of the best and most original black metal for the turn of the century leaving behind the old masters and preparing for the new guard.
Overnight Velvet Cacoon became an sensation in the black metal underground on the tips of every pronged serpent tongue and for good reason. Their background was truly different. But why the hate and disgust? Simple: They lied and made some of the biggest stories than any band could come up with for publicity alone. Made-up stories of ultra-left eco fascisms, diesel harps, countless trips on hallucinogenic drugs, and other stories that would make anyone scratch their heads. Velvet Cacoon might have been the biggest thing in the black metal underground but that was shortly before the cat was let out of the bag about how everything they did was completely made-up. Oh it pissed so many black metal fans off. But in the end they got more attention than any band has seen since. Before I go on to describing the music, let's back-track a bit to what had everyone up in arms.
Exhibit A). Diesel Harps
Exhibit B). Dextromethorphan.
I mean, just how the fuck did they come up with something called a diesel harp??? This was believed to be the main instrument used by on "Genevieve" to make some of the most hypnotic passages since Burzum. What is a diesel harp you might say? (Cues in hokey music from 50‘s government school videos dealing with personal hygiene): A harp powered by a diesel engine fueled by a tank the size of a small fish aquarium filled with salt water from the sea with droplets of human blood? It’s weird to what people will actually believe in to thinking such a contraption could actually be engineered to perform such duties in playing music. Yes, I admit it sound like a cool idea, and sounds great on paper. Now I don’t want to seem like my review is meant to put down the reader or other people whom have reviewed this album probably even better than me but do you think anyone in their right mind could beyond a shadow of a doubt truly believe that? Obviously people did, and when VC said "Oh yeah it's all total bullshit"....you can only imagine what happened next.
Next to the stories of the infamous diesel harp, there were the stories of mass consumption of the chemical called Dextromethorphan which added to the hypnotic affect of their trance-inducing music. Now THIS part may not have been so far-fetched due to how the music has such a strong effect. For those who don't look on the labels of over the counter drugs, dextromethorphan is a hallucinogenic antitussive drug that is used in cough syrup to prevent the person from coughing and hacking. If used in the right amount, yeah you can hallucinate. Not in the bad sense, but just enough to give you a slight buzz. I've had a few times where I was given codiene-stength cough syrup with promethazine(Sizzurp as known on the street) from the doctor and yes I did in fact fall into a weird state of sleep where it would be considered hallucinative. Facts state that when exceeding label-specified maximum dosages, dextromethorphan acts as a dissociative psychedelic drug. Its mechanism of action is as an NMDA receptor antagonist, producing effects similar to those of the controlled substances ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP). WOO-HOO! Time to PAR-TAY! If belived that the members of VC were taking the large amounts of the chemical, it's obvious they would be in one of two states: in a psychiatric ward suffering from chemical-induced psychosis OR in the hospital suffering from the worst withdrawals known to man seeing how it does have both psychological and physical dependencies. More so of the later as indicated.
VC has only two main members; Vocalist/Guitarist/Drummer Josh who goes by the initials SGL, and guitarist Angela LVG. Jjosh’s vocal deliverance is down-right sinister sounding. The most you hear out of him in the entire album is a combo of haunting whispers and extremely raspy black metal vocals in the vein of early Burzum. They are not loud or high, but at a tone that sends shivers up your spine. Him along with Angela both weave and intertwine some of the most hypnotic and trance-inducing riffs ever recorded. Not even Burzum’s Varg Virkenes could have come up with some of these melodies. There are some keyboard parts which bring a more ambient/ethereal sound in between certain songs. These invoke the dark nights by the sea on the northwestern coast of the U.S. The drums are obviously a drum machine, but are programmed to mimic the sound of a human heart beating when high on cough syrup. I conducted an experimental when I had a bad chest cough after chain-smoking two packs of clove cigarettes. I drank the cough syrup and started listening to “Genevieve” on the stereo at a decent volume and lo and behold, I could feel my heartbeat matching the same rhythm as the drum machine. Pretty mind-expanding stuff. for the most part, the vocals, guitars, and drums are swimming in one of the most darkest and necro sound productions ever experienced. The sound is warm, fuzzy much like when staring through the eyes of someone who is on a dextromethrophan. Images of being lost in a daze for days on the shores of the northwestern states where the days are long, cold, and grey. For the record, and this is my most honest and sincere opinion, “Genevieve” is the most outstanding sound for a black metal album since Dark throne’s “Transylvanian Hunger”. It’s that damn dark and it will stay in your head for months to come.
Velvet Cacoon did something which up to about a few years ago, many black metal acts just started tinkering around with; bringing in influences from the goth/ darkwave/ ethereal genres to enhance the atmosphere. Wolves In the Throne Room, Circle of Ouroborus, Alcest, Amesoeurs and Lifelover were just coming onto the scene with their post-punk/80’s Goth-influenced brand of black metal but had not fully progressed into their own. Velvet Cacoon over a period of just a couple of years had perfected a very original sound. Could Velvet Cacoon have ushered in a new wave of black metal bands? Did they have a crystal ball which they could foresee the next movement as far as influences go? Who knows. But by chorological means, yes they were the first to start gaining notice. Their first LP “Dextronaut” was one of the bigger sleeper in 2002 amongst the current artists that were gaining notoriety such as Xasthur, Krieg, Nachtmystium, etc. Then when “Genevieve” came out”, nothing could and still to this day match it’s drone-like effect it has on it’s listeners. After 6 months of it’s release, the truth was told and so began the controversy. The shockwaves are still being felt to this very day.
“Genevieve” starts out with the song simply titled “1” with a loud distorted boom and the drug then takes affect upon the listener. Already you are being exposed to the first wave of a band that probably doesn’t know how powerful the music is, but already the listener is one with the music and everything around him has begun to fade away. “P.S. Nautical” is a slight bit faster and Josh’s vocals are by now completely haunting. The beat is picking up speed but never goes past a certain pace. “Avalon Polo” starts out with a really depressive melody that would have fans of I Shalt Become drooling over and is the slightly more deranged brother of “P.S. Nautical”. It has some pretty sinister breaks where we experience some breakdowns which evoke a sense of dread before going back into the storm at sea. “Laudanum” is completely doom metal in the most catatonic of states. Josh vocals are gurgling almost. This song goes through a few tempo changes before we hear some haunting keyboards and then nothing but Josh’s whispering and completely undecipherable vocals. Fans of depressive suicidal black metal should take note of this song. “Fauna And Flora” picks the pace back up and is a continuation of the first three songs. The title track “Genevieve” is probably the most black metal song on here which is nothing short Burzum-worship at it‘s best. “Bete Noir” is the most haunting of all the tracks and ends the album on a high note with it’s droning keyboards that gives it the final touches of what is possibly one of the more bleaker albums anyone could possibly listen to.
Listening to “Genevieve” is like partaking in a drug trip. It has the fear and dread-filled hallucinating highs and extremely depressing lows. All the while your mind and body are flowing in and out of total intoxication. It’s also the probably one of the more influential black metal albums within the past 10 years. How many bands have sprung up on the internet and Myspace where you don’t listen to their music and say to yourself “Velvet Cacoon did it way better”? It’s also what is considered the biggest prank joke in black metal history seeing how it caused so much controversy. It’s all that and more. Velvet Cacoon are one of those bands you are either a major fan boy of(which I am) or you would love nothing more than to forget the little trick LVG and SGL played on you. Already it’s an album that is made up or stories and legends, and it will more than likely be an album that in 10 years time everybody will be praising it in some new retro-based phase/trend when black metal again has been sacked by pale-imitations and what have you. If you have never listen to “Genevieve” before….hold out your hand and swallow this little pill.
Velvet Cacoon is stuck in the center of America’s controversial black metal scene. Some have called them riders of a new land, others label Portland’s duo burnt-out druggies, and Korouva once said dazzling things about Velvet Cacoon’s originality, haha. So here’s “Genevieve,” a praised full-length from these strange individuals that everyone seems to embrace for its damaging minimalism, low-grade instrumentation, and repetition so vague you could face a lobotomy via music if you’re not careful when handling. But you know, the status quo says it’s good, even though the status quo claims something with damaging minimalism, low-grade instrumentation, and repetition so vague you could face a lobotomy via music if you’re not careful when handling is grasping the finest hour of black metal. I’m not trying to be a bastard, but let’s get real: “Genevieve” is paralyzed, drugged, and intentionally catatonic; dead to the Earth, it has the might of damp soil.
The actual response to the claims of eco-terrorism, diesel-based guitars recorded underwater, and some new, fresh age of anarchistic black metal is ironically the sole truth behind Velvet Cacoon: it’s all just a big lie. The music itself is layered down to a few steps, including playing extremely simplistic riffs smothered over transparent percussion that really requires no skill to perform; now just picture a few chords per songs plucked upon predictable drums, and then echoing…and echoing….and echoing...and that’s it until the track-number on your CD player roles over. Once that happens, expect the same talentless texture to overcome the remaining slabs found throughout “Genevieve.” The album itself is shamefully asinine, both inside and out, but that’s precisely the point, as sad as it sounds.
From here on out, the base of Velvet Cacoon’s stability lies in repetition of said formula, circling again and again and again. Pretty tiring as you could imagine, not to mention the production is so unclear – intentionally, of course – that the music almost feels lucid in its own right; clever concept, yet just too guileless for enjoyment. Ambient influence? Yea, but you’ll quickly detect the calm parts of “Genevieve” are thoughtless pieces of rehashed droning waves that are, you guessed it, sapless. Fluffy passages and seventeen minutes of ambient blandness can’t maneuver into anything remotely artistically motivating; it’s just predictable and empty throughout. Gas-powered guitar or not, “Genevieve” successfully attracts the droning, hypnotic atmosphere this ambient-influenced faction strived for, albeit causing sleepiness from its burdensome redundancy while Velvet Cacoon continues throughout their little observation. Shit, the vocals sound like frail whispers in this stormy sea of scalding rain and gloomy fog, only to appear like high-pitched slurps. So, if you aren’t catching on already, here’s a boost: Velvet Cacoon is no different from stereotypical black metal bands. Just add the typical black metal norm, and squeeze it out for six or seven minutes; DNA entwines, and “Genevieve” hath been vomited forth. It chugs. It continues. It bores, and then, you snore.
Perhaps there’s more to the story that I’m just not seeing when sitting eye-to-eye with Velvet Cacoon, yet on a musical platform, there’s no doubt “Genevieve” plods around aimlessly, using minimal substance and really nothing dangerously original to aid this strange projection, apparently trying to add a trippy edge to black metal. At day’s end, I can’t say it’s anything else than soulless and zombie-like, so much so that there’s literally no spine to the band, and that’s not what metal of this magnitude is about. Overall, Velvet Cacoon has failed, and I’m still certain “Genevieve” is an ocean away from mastering any aspect black metal could ever materialize. Time to be a realist: this one ain’t revolutionary.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
I did not get into Velvet Cacoon till last year (2007). So by that time all the hype and controversy and everything else had been blown wide open. I bought "Genevieve" because a very good friend who had introduced me to black metal highly recommended it. Firstly warning me something along the lines of "Everything you read about them is probably a lie..".
I think the fact that I have been a fan of various ambient/dark ambient/drone/experimental/weird forms of music for years and years greatly contributes to why I like this album so much. From a pure metal head stand-point it may seem not very good but I was simply blown away but the fuzzy guitars and layers of ambiance. People seem to like to compare bands to another bands in a review but what band has had guitars that sound like this?
The album opens up with the aptly titled "1" which is probably my least favorite track on the CD. Not that there is anything wrong with it, I think its just the fact that its the track on the disc to most resemble "standard black metal". I also have heard this song a lot because I downloaded it before buying the album.
The closing track "Bete Noir" is a very long dark ambient piece that would strongly appeal to fans of groups like Lustmord and may seem very minimal but I really enjoy it at high volume on a decent set of speakers...
As a whole I think this album is rather hard to describe. The theme of the sea is definitely conveyed, not only through song titles but also the fact that a lot of the music has a very watery quality to it. Whatever processing was used in the making of the music blends the instruments together very well. the synths that are used are mixed in a way that they feel organic and not like some retro keyboard that's more cheesy than anything else. (Which has been a stumbling block for several black metal releases I've heard in the past).
So overall, its not a typical black metal release but Velvet Cacoon does what they do very well and it seems like there are plenty of people already stepping up to try and imitate them. Ignore the controversy and crazy stories and enjoy it!
This is the first and probably the last metal release I will ever give such a rating to in my lifetime. But after my experience with them, the bombshell, and all the controversy I feel it is high time I say my peace on this artist, despite how confrontational and outrageous so many of their deceived fans think it is.
My first encounter with this group was in 2004 when I discovered this album up for sale at Red Stream. Of course, it also came with a huge paragraph on all their 'history'. I read interviews that spoke of their 'single torch concert' the ridiculous claim of playing a gas-powered guitar amped by a tank of water, the eco-terrorist ties, and all the other shat they were flooding the web with. As a black metal fan who had a strong taste for the eclectic, I was totally swamped by all this and bought in to all the hype.
So I eagerly awaited until the album was dropped off at my domicile by the postman. I felt (like I do when I get any album from an odd or obscure group) that I was yet on the verge of an incredible artistic listening experience. So I popped that baby into my player and listened to it all the way through, then again, and then a third time…
And what was the result?
As I heard over and over the Velvet Cacoon experience awash over me, it slowly became clear to me that something was wrong. This music was uninteresting, it was almost monotone, it was well awful. I had know the band had a heavy drug influence, but it became clear to me that all the cough syrup had actually become the greatest contributor to Genevive. And what resulted was a sludge of musical nothing. They were just stoned out of their minds and by the end of the album, barely able to even play their own instruments. Honestly, this all must have mostly been a single recorded session of the players stoned out of their minds. No musical creativity, no talent, and bottomline NO INDIVIDUALITY. They didn’t even go through any effort on the shitty artwork! My disappointment was great. I would a long time later come to realize that this was my official intro to very primitive, slow, repetitive black metal. I later would come to experience Beherit, Black Funeral, Benighted Leams and find artists in this style I did enjoy. Admittedly it is not my favorite style of black metal, but if an artist has a very special vision, it matters not what style they comes from. However, Velvet Cacoon still remains stale and uninteresting to this date. They do not and never had any grand vision whatsoever. At the time I did not know any of this about primitive black and eventually after 2 months just sold off the album.
Now I imagine many people are figuring I am lying through my teeth when I say this, but it is honest truth. I dropped this band before the bombshell was dropped. I heard them during the prime of their career and none of the hype which I believed at the time could save the fact that the music was nothing worth any artistic notoriety. And so ended my experience with this band.
Then it all happened. When I overheard the revelations about the lies Velvet Cacoon had constructed their whole image in, I was shocked and overcome with amusement. My instincts had been true. I may have believed their stories, but their music shinned through to me as the truth of what they really were. Mediocre. I laughed greatly at the irony of the whole situation.
As I discovered about all these revelations, I saw that the band was still in production of music. Supposedly, they were now recording some odd dream-pop, synth-rock stuff. I will say I am a big fan of bands who go through huge style changes and for that reason I was intrigued. However, their new material seemed completely unavailable and I still could not get over the fact that their old stuff on Genevieve was awful. So I went off in search of other things to spend my heard-earned money on.
And now we come to today. I have just discovered what had really happened to the band, how they tried to revive their cult status with another even greater web of deceivement, stealing everything from music to artwork to create their new image. All that dream pop direction was just complete lies as well. I can’t believe it! Who could ever be so depraved and self-centered to do such a thing? Often I have grappled with the actions of some black metal artists such as the embracing of Nazi values or the infamous murders of innocent people just to look more evil. Indeed some of these things are heinous acts of unhealthy human beings which I will not tolerate. But in the case of Velvet Cacoon, their crime is equally inexcusable, for to completely steal the artistic creations of another and pass them off as your own is a crime against music. Now my opinion of them has gone from amusement to contempt.
When you wrap all this together into one package of hardcore junkies, lies, theft, lack of effort, and an apparent burning desire for attention, the end result of shit is so high that any slightest bit of anything interesting their mediocre music THAT THEY DID WRITE is completely buried to the bottom of the earth. I am Absolutely stunned and sickened that people are still giving this artist such stunning reviews and attention to this date! Fact is fact, as I had to learn, no matter how much hype surrounds an artist it is the music in the end that counts. And whether or not you love Velvet Cacoon you will have to accept that bottomline, there is nothing new or brilliant about this album. It is minimal, mediocre, repetitive, and talentless. If this is how you like your black metal, go ahead, but if you disagree, you are simply deceiving yourself like the Christian deceives himself in thinking that the Bible is pure and uninterrupted. Listen to the band if you like them, but don’t put them up on such a pedestal as to say something as foolish as Elize103’s statement “Genevieve is perhaps one of the greatest extreme metal recordings ever.” What insolence! What ignorance!
Don’t buy into hype, demand quality, and laud innovation, talent and creativity. Drop Velvet Cacoon. Do not give this fucker’s ego any more satisfaction for his cowardly and deplorable acts.
Having given this infamous band some time to digest in my system, I have come back for another shot at reviewing the surreal world of Velvet Cacoon in the form of ‘Genevieve’, perhaps the single most important inclusion into the American scenes vast dictionary on black metal. We all know this band and we certainly all have an opinion on them. Its no secret what this band has done and I’m sure it will be continually condemned by those around them forever more. One thing this band are good at is putting on a show, adding spice to the aura of black metal mystery that was created when the second wave became public knowledge to the media and a global trend which saw hundreds, if not thousands of angry young impressionable people turn to its jagged shores, hoping to find solace in the unorthodox genre that is the epitome of all negative emotions - from hatred to disgust - black metal is home to the putrid souls that wander the Earth in the shadows, waiting for their turn to strike and show the world what is really going on, beneath the pretty surface with its “charming” popular music and boy bands aimed at air-headed girls. There is no denying that Velvet Cacoon are one of the most intriguing, mystifying and unusual bands in creation, and that isn’t just specific to black metal, or metal in general because this concept has taken the already unusual public opinion of metal, specifically black metal this time, and carved it into whatever shape they wanted it.
Before Velvet Cacoon’s arrival, people fiercely debated the impact of the death of Euronymous, the imprisonment of Varg and the Norwegian church burnings that led to a vicious campaign by the media to have black metal banished from our stores as it is “evil” and “the work of the devil himself”. In step Angela and Josh, the creators of this snowballing black metal band who’s actions have taken the scene one step on in the media circus from the early days of mere finger pointing that resulted in adults telling the youth of yesteryear where they were going wrong. There is also no denying that Velvet Cacoon, through being devious cheats and thieves, are one of the most fiercely contested issues surrounding not only American black metal, but black metal in general, on a world wide scope. I myself am a rather callous man. I don’t really care what it was that these two musicians did as long as they create music in the vein of ‘Genevieve’ each time they show up. There is no doubting that this creation is their own, drawn up by their playful minds that see stealing other musicians’ work as a favourite pass time. This iconic record, the follow-up to the lesser debut entitled ‘Dextronaut’ is one of the most inspirational American black metal records of ALL time.
There have been many bands since the creation of this piece that have tried to either emulate it, or make something in a similar vein that is there own - with bands like Wrath of the Weak trying to give this sound a home in this day-and-age (not that ‘Genevieve’ is that old - its only been half a decade since its impacting arrival), the influence of Velvet Cacoon has continuously been felt down the years, even though the band were driven to obscurity by their own petty acts. No one is sure as to whether this is a serious idea, but its most certainly an effective one, which I’m sure most people can agree on. This band may not mean what they say in their lyrical themes, they might be one with subliminal messages galore, fooling the majority of us into believing they’re some kind of godly spirit, floating in and out of the limelight with their records, but the main point is still the same regardless of all that - ‘Genevieve’ is a masterful record with some of the deepest feeling black metal music you’re ever likely to hear. Though bands like Wrath of the Weak, whom I do enjoy, and Procer Veneficus, whom I don’t particularly enjoy, might aim to emulate the style of this crazed band, there is only one true entity and this is it, shown aptly on ‘Genevieve’, one of the most emotive black metal records in the genres history.
Portland seems to be a haven for some of America’s best talents and Velvet Cacoon are right at home in the heart of Oregon, supporting my claim with their whirl wind style, with those choppy guitar leads that rely heavily on distortion and repetition to entrance the listener with some of the most astonishing leads you’re ever likely to hear within this genre of ours. To me, this completely knocks 'Dextronaut' out of the water in terms of musical capabilities, interpretation and production values - which are the best they’ve ever been for the Oregon outlaws. The mystical ambiance that is laying deep within this deathly distorted songs is typical of the capabilities of this band. Songs like the masterful ‘Fauna & Flora’, with its repetitious guitars, immense backing double bass and hissed vocals is amongst the most beautiful, yet overwhelming hateful black metal music, again, of all time. The distinctive Velvet Cacoon style vocals, provided by the ever present Josh, are some of the most infamous in the history of the genre. Not rasps as such but, as stated, disdainful hisses of pain and sorrow that spill over the atmospheres despite being low in comparison to the cold instrumentation which acts to entrance the listener with, as stated, repetition. Never before has the term “art” seemed to be as applicable as it is here.
This art is imitating the rawest of emotions through the most painful sounding instrumentation and ambiance as it ebbs and flows through our veins, coursing around our bodies like a drug in full flow. Any moment now we’re going to be taken over and we’re going to fulfill our destiny of exploring the mind through outer body experiences in the shape of being swept away by the monotonous guitars and story telling vocals. As previous reviewers have stated, this is somewhat of a conceptual record and is unusual because it does seem to flow like waves would do across a landscape clad in mist and murky waters. The entire record is somewhat enigmatic to me. Its strange and unusual ambience is glorious. The haunting vocals are like death chants, enticing its prey to come forward for the slaughter. Its relentless drum patterns stalk the listener and paralyses them with afflicting messages from a tortured soul long since forgotten in the murky dungeons of a ruined castle. This record, to me, plays out like a fairy tale with a bad ending. The way in which it sounds is like reading through some of the most distraught literature ever written, with lexical fields and connotations that make even the most hardened person shed a tear for the depiction is so convincing.
At times, Velvet Cacoon relinquish their firm grasp on our emotions by providing a seemingly upbeat section in instrumentation, as with the title track, by things are quickly rectified and restored to their previous state of the demonising leads that enchant us like a melodious love song that ends in heart break through betrayal and deceit. Instruments are clear and neatly arranged, though the bass is often neglected in pursuit of other ventures, but that is to be expected in this distorted light, the production is murky but that adds to the atmospheric nature of the record and the vocals were somewhat new to me when I first heard this record. They blew me away as I was expecting a typically rasped affair. Shrill shrieks like that of some sort of banshee, despite the fact that they are male vocals. Though they have a tendency to fade into the background, black metal was never about exceptional vocal displays, but exhibiting a feeling that sits well with the instrumentation and Josh does that with his muted hisses. The entrancing aspects are almost spiritual, which seems ironic. This is one fine piece of art that is bound to be loved by one half of the public and hated by the other. I’m interested to see where Velvet Cacoon go with ‘Atropine’, if it even exists … Highlights include: Fauna & Flora, Laudanum and Avalon Polo. I would like to give a special mention to ‘Beta Noir’, the epic 17 minute ambient track.
Velvet Cacoon are the creators of one of the best black metal albums ever made. They are also pathologically dishonest, and, by their own admission, 'bastards.' I will not regale readers with details of their transgressions. Suffice to say they have deliberately deceived other artists and even their own supporters. Far be it from me to deny that they are, indeed, a hoax band.
Perhaps there is a good reason. Perhaps black metal has become so peppered with derivative groups that even its truest appreciators have fallen prey to clichéd, barely-newsworthy antics and onstage gimmicks. In the case of the controversy surrounding Velvet Cacoon, what does it say about us, who lapped up their elaborate stories of diesel-powered guitar pickups?
But who could blame us...starved as we are for freshness and imagination? After listening to Genevieve, it is understandable that even the most inveterate fans of the sub-genre would trust tall tales of 'dieselharps' and Maasaic blood-drinking concert rituals.
Still, regardless of the artistic intentions behind them, the lies were many. Amidst this recent storm of debate, disenchanted metallers have turned their back on VC. Unfortunately, this is not likely to disrupt the lives of Josh and Angela much. If their intention was to deceive, they must have prepared themselves to be found out sooner or later. Even in the black metal community, nonexistent demos, blatant plagiarism, and madcap musical contraptions must certainly ring alarums to the tune of publicity ploy.
But to apply our justified irreverence to this record instead of to those that made it would also be an untruth. As much as it might be tough to stomach for the black metal loyalists out there, Genevieve is an astonishing album. Histrionics aside, this is one of the best metal release of the last decade.
Genevieve is a strange sort of concept album, if it can be called that. A couple of the song titles refer to the sea ('P.S. Nautical', 'Abalon Polo') and the entire album flows as effortlessly. Herein, Varg's vision of black metal as 'music for the night' is accomplished with the same emotion and intimacy as his own opus, Filosofem.
There are several parallels between these two great works. The opening track, '1', bears similarities at times to 'Jesus Dod' until it gives way to a more somber tone reminiscent of the latter half of Filosofem. Also, many songs begin with the rhythm line establishing itself first, with the explosive, repetitive drumming to follow. There are even similarities in the architecture of the album as a whole, with the compositions descending into the minimalism of the ending track 'Bete Noir', a drug-inspired tome.
The difference between these two albums and the uniqueness of Genevieve lies in its dismal solemnity, an overarching trait present in all of the album's compositions. It is a poignant feeling, not in the least inspired by idealism or depression, and in it there is an odd tranquility. It sounds like a soundtrack to the ocean; the riffs transitioning from bursts to silences and bursts again with the volatility of colliding waves. The titular track, 'Genevieve', conjures images of the sea's bombardment of a tiny vessel, leaving it destroyed in shards on the sand. Remaining awake through the sublimely hypnotic 'Bete Noir' becomes a chore. Falling asleep to this album is a mysterious and inevitable pleasure.
Genevieve is the one piece of Josh and Angela's discography that can be taken with complete sincerity. Say what one will about Velvet Cacoon, but this album was not approached with duplicity in heart.
When reviewing a band that is currently in the mid-underground spotlight, bias tends to run rampant in reviews, but this review will have nothing of the sort. I have had this album for a few weeks now, and it was certainly not neglected. As with any new album that is failing to impress, I gave it time to build, listened in different mindsets, at varying times, and in alternate environments, and I will strongly state that I do not “get” this album. Or, in another wording, I found nothing of mental value in Genevieve. Not many people will admit to not “getting” an album because most would consider that to be synonymous with stupidity, particularly an album that has been regarded as a thinking-man’s release by some. But, not comprehending an album hinges on personal taste, hardly intelligence. Clearly, LVG and SGL have more entwine with their music than nature themes, and although most will claim that they understand the band, the truth is that only the members of this enigmatic organization do (interviews have revealed that although the musical aspect is of two people, there are many others involved).
Getting to actual album itself, the music is well constructed. Anyone who enjoys repetitive structures that seep into the listener and tug them along in a most subtle manner will certainly enjoy the background noise of Genevieve’s songs. The vocals are understated, and do well to complement the style of the music. However, these elements are not enough to enjoy the album. In an attempt to interpret the album (there is no lyrical content), I read up on the band’s background and their views, and found that Velvet Cacoon’s music is very personal to them, their history, and their surroundings. Truly, this music was not made for the masses, and their former distribution to their circle of allies was more befitting of their art. And so, my given score is based on the music and nature themes of the album, the elements that made full sense to me, and I would rate them average. Despite all of the methods the band has said to use to record their music, I’ve heard very similar guitar styling from other bands, the vocals are nothing extraordinary, and neither is the drum machine use. The atmosphere is genuine, which is where my praise for this album would derive.
But then, one might wonder why there are so many raving reviews and chatter about this album. I would refer to the reasoning behind all of that as the Moonblood phenomena (although the band would roll their eyes at linking them to Moonblood, I would assure that this relation is not about the actual music). For anyone not familiar with Moonblood, they were a band that strived to stay underground, and succeeded for quite a while, but ultimately failed in the end, and ceased their existence. They were not a groundbreaking band, merely a talented black metal band that were adept in creating good music. But yet, copies of Moonblood’s official releases are constantly scoured for, and when sold on eBay, they catch a hefty price, and are more than likely the biggest music victims in the underground to bootlegging. The reason why a decent band is sought after as though they are now is due to people who thrive on anything strange to them. The oddity about Moonblood was that they never released anything on cd, and a majority of their releases were rehearsal tapes. This sparked a massive interest from the Internet community. Velvet Cacoon is now suffering the same musical affliction – the only blatant difference being that VC’s mistake was releasing a readily available album on a well-known, reputable label, whereas Moonblood mostly became known due to Kanwulf’s (Nargaroth) respect in the liner notes of the rather popular Black Metal ist Krieg album. Had this album been Velvet Cacoon’s first release, I highly doubt it would have drawn as much acclaim as it has. Once people learned of their unusual views and many limited releases, they began frothing at the mouth to attain more from this band; nearly every message board that has anything to do with metal seems to have threads along the subject of “Where can I get more Velvet Cacoon???” lately. Along with their views, people are clearly intrigued by the diselharp (I will not lie, I was as well, but I would never like a band for some crazy instrument they built), and that seems to play a factor as well. Furthermore, the fact that LVG is a female member has also drawn in many people on concept alone. These notions are outright awful reasons to enjoy a band’s work, and I assume this will be the only public release of VC’s, if they are truthful in their statements. And just like any overrated band, the loudmouthed fans are as pretentious as the Opeth followers, claiming that only elevated minds will understand them, and that they are better than the metal scene, and so forth, which only further solidifies the theory that people will cling to what is strange in different in the world of underground music.
For those that prefer a track-by-track review of albums, I apologize for the long-winded conjectures, but this is a release that has been praised for reasons other than the actual music, and they had to be addressed. To conclude on the album itself, the first two tracks are the high point, and are enjoyable. The last track is absurd, as it portrays nothing one couldn’t hear by stepping into certain wilderness for seventeen minutes, and is the low point of the album. For the low price that Red Stream is currently carrying it for, anyone with extra money may want to see what all the praise has been about, but for those who must choose what they purchase carefully, I suggest looking elsewhere – Velvet Cacoon is best saved for their own members.
Every so often comes along an album which manages to draw a deep divide between its listeners. Such is the case with Velvet Cacoon. This band certainly wins the "band you love to hate" award for 2004. The band has stirred up a lifetime worth of controversy with the release of "Genevieve", their first official public release. Great art always draws sharp reactions, this is a prime example.
"Genevieve" is perhaps one of the greatest extreme metal recordings ever. The album encompasses all that makes the dreary art of black metal so pure and authentic. Void of all cliches and image-based marketing, Velvet Cacoon defy all stereotypes on "Genevieve" and travel their own path, whether people love it or hate it.
The guitar sound alone must be one of the most narcotic to ever be recorded. There is a slow-motion haze to the entire album, like a slow smearing of blurry black metal that wipes itself into every nook and cranny of the music and allows itself to simmer and smoke. The drums take on a very heartbeat type of sound and switch between fast and midpaced sections - but even in the fastest moments of "Genevieve", the entire album appears to be occuring in slow motion. It is the first successful attempt at creating ambience through a black metal design. This is jet black metal.
The vocals are just as original as everything else here. From vicious underwater snarls to distanced gurgling, the vocals echo and drown in the music creating a very surreal and mysterious aura which no black metal group has achieved.
The songs are kept around the 6 to 7 minute mark, and most include interludes or outros which weave complex ambience and acoustics through the murky atmosphere, complimenting the album and crowning it completely.
The final track is nearly 18 minutes of some of the most deep and droning ambient that has ever been created. Sub-bass drones wobble and throb in slow motion underwater blurbs that slowly flange in and out, anchoring the brain down into the blackest of depth.
Taking it all into consideration, it's actually quite easy to see why this band arouses such strong hatred in black metallers. Velvet Cacoon have no interest in the traditions of black metal, and their open admission that Satanists are just as mindless as Christians was enough to fuel just about every black metaller to hate this band with a passion.
Velvet Cacoon are a band who stand miles above the rest, not concerned with scene politics or making the grade. From their home in Portland Oregon, drunk and drugged, LVG and SGL are blazing uncharted territories. You're either with them or against them, and they don't care which side you're on. Pure art, the definitive elitist black metal album. Full Moon Productions unveil yet another gem.
Yep, here it is… the album that if you believed the reviews is better than most Burzum. It’s not. It’s somewhat better than average black metal that has a cool guitar tone.
What sounds like two layers of guitars drones in ambient, hypnotizing waves of sound in a technique similar to Burzum’s “Filosofem” or Mutiilation’s “Remains of a Dead, Ruined, Cursed Soul”, with one that sounds like a bass (although I think that it’s just another layer of “dieselharp”) playing a basic droning rhythm riff and the other playing a slightly more complex melody part on top that’s based on the same rhythm. A drum machine plays a mid-paced, not dominating basic beat that anchors the whole song in a steady, unchanging, rhythm giving the proceedings a hypnotic nature. Vocals are an unintelligible, distorted whisper at about the same volume as the guitars, acting simply as an added ambient noise. While this sounds like the formula for success, it doesn’t quite go off as it could.
I have to give a positive word to the production here; the band really knows how to sound good. It’s got what is likely the best black metal guitar tone I’ve ever heard- not to “in your face” for something that tries to be hypnotizing but not feral; not clean enough to sound synthetic; and with a lot of reverb which really creates a lulling ambience, not unlike the sound of ocean waves. Drums, vocals, and the other layer of guitar that acts as bass are perfectly clear and audible. The production on this album alone is enough to make it seem stellar on a first listen; too bad that it doesn’t hold up on repeated listens.
The first major problem is with song structuring- every song on here, despite being instrumental, has verse-chorus structuring! Every single song does the same thing- intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, “middle- eight” (usually acoustic), verse, sometimes chorus, contemplative outro. This could have been acceptable had it been one song; maybe two; but, after the first two songs on the album, you’ll be able to exactly predict the next movement of every song. The simplicity and predictability doesn’t exactly endear this album.
The other major problem is that, while pleasantly hypnotizing, the whole thing has no spirit. Everything about the album, while very pleasing on a base level, seems listless and “grey”- it’s almost like the band was trying to capture the ambience of being bored and stuck inside your home on a rainy day where there’s no actual big storm. This is the biggest flaw of the album, and means that it won’t spend much time in your stereo after the novelty of having a new album wears off.
This years hot topic is an obscure black metal band known as Velvet Cacoon from the USA. Velvet Cacoon are well known in the underground for the many albums that came before this who were only released to friends and close contacts of the band. The idealogy behind the music of Velvet Cacoon is a personal thing between the band members and they don't go well with the idea that their music is in the hands of strangers. This opus, Genevieve is rumored to be the first, last, and only public release by Velvet Cacoon. Only time may tell.
Velvet Cacoon plays a style of ambient black metal with droning minimalism. Most of the music is very droning and hypnotic throughout accompanied by some of the strangest vocals even by black metal standards hidden in and out of the mix. The unique ambient guitar sounds by Velvet Cacoon is a creation with the aid of a metal gas powered guitar designed by the members itself. It gives a very dark droning feel to the guitar sound making the sound of Velvet Caccon's album very unique and memorable in comparison with other black metal US and abroad in our world.
That there is the very thing about Velvet Cacoon. Velvet Cacoon's form of black metal is meant to be another link in the evolution step throughout the future of black metal. The innovation of Velvet Cacoon's sound on this album is something that shouldn't be under estimated as the band pioneers into a new design of the black metal sound that has attracted many listeners in the genre.
Another innovative factor in the Velvet Cacoon sound is the underwater blurbs. One of the select ambient beauties of this album is the use of underwater sound that is occasionally heard throughout the album. It adds progression to the tracks and gives a breathing moment to stare into the infinity of thought and feel the dark, droning atmosphere that is Velvet Cacoon.
The guitar work on the Genevieve album while being miminal to the point where it sounds like noise in some cases brings forth mysterious auras throughout the progressions of this album as the listener becomes engulfed within the overall ambience in the VC sound. The unique gas powered guitar makes the album very noisy while the melodic composition of each VC song can easily be heard in the sound of this album. The very melodic composition that can be heard on this album is very dark and evil black metal played in a form that's very different from the typicaly sound.
Exclusively on this album you will hear many dark melodic interludes to guide you through the experience of this album. The combination of harsh noise/black metal and ambient to a melodic yet atmospheric interludes in tracks in nothing short of memorable and breath taking in the release. Adding much power and emotion to the album.
Emotionally this album is very well done. You can tell and respect that Velvet Cacoon really put their souls into the making of their music. There is nothing dry about the emotional content of this album as the music gives itself a soul. Something that most modern black metal seems to lack. The aesthetic addition of soul and emotion really makes this release stand out as something absolutely special that cannot be matched in any form.
The drumming on this album is also nothing short of amazing. Velvet Cacoon has directed the drumming on the tracks to resemble the heartbeat as you can feel and become a part of this album. The drums really put you into the album as they match the chaotic beating of your heart as you feel the dark aura of the music flowing through you yourself.
This album is definately one of the most innovative, emotional, and well put together releases in the current black metal spectrum. The entire soul of the band is defined through this album with many unique characteristics that cannot be found in any other black metal opus. This is truely a one of a kind album everybody should get!
Once in every long while there will come a very special black metal album, an instant classic, an album so powerful in its atmosphere and creativity that it can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end at the sheer thought of it. In a music scene where stagnation is praised, the cryptic and hypnotic ecofacists, Velvet Cacoon, unleash their masterpiece, the long awaited Genevieve, upon us. This is Velvet Cacoons first publicly available album, and with much hope, will not be their last.
Upon the first listen, the most notable part of the music is the guitar sound, a very muddy sound, much like that of some of Xasthur’s work, but still retains its own identity. The way this sound is achieved, however, is something mind bending. They use this contraption, called a diesel harp, which is a steel bodied guitar where the pickups run on diesel fuel flames, the sound is then transmitted through fiber-optic cables into a 70 gallon aquarium filled with ocean water, wine and blood. Such a method as this is what gives the guitar that distinct muffled and muddy sound. Within the sounds of the diesel harp is a brilliant layering job, putting such sounds as organs, synthesizers, string instruments and other indefinable sounds. When these two things are combined it creates the most hypnotic and desolate sound I have ever heard. It is truly something which words can not do justice, you must hear it for yourself.
The vocals are also something very special. Everything which is deemed cliché, as far as black metal goes vocally, is thrown right out the window. Chilling whispers, disgusting gurgles which sound as if the vocalist is vomiting and low, echoing rasps plague this albums tracks. Unlike in most black metal, the vocals are rather quiet, more like another one of the countless instruments which are drowned in the background by the dieselharp. Personally, I enjoy this approach with the vocals, it adds so much to the unsettling and hypnotic atmosphere, which I think louder and more consistent vocals would ruin.
The drum machine work is also fairly interesting, but not as much so as the other aspects. Like in most black metal, the drums are just treated as a means to keep the music grounded. However, the bass drum is more prominent than the snare and a little bit artificial sounding. I do not see this as a problem though, I have heard someone describe the bass drum as almost like a heartbeat which keeps pumping the music, which I think is a perfect description.
Velvet Cacoon are a very special and strange band. Even if they choose to distance themselves from black metal, this is a band which knows the true spirit of the genre. Innovative, artistic, cryptic, and desolate are the first few words which come to mind when thinking of this album. In short, consider this album a “must” for any fan of black metal or anything that is not really considered normal.
Let's take a look at the background of this band first of all. They released a bunch of demos, and some full-lengths, although everything before this album was virtually impossible to find outside of the internet. They are a bunch of individuals who broke away from the ELF (the Earth Liberation Front, a group of ecoterrorists who cause large amounts of damage to people and corporations who use the environment to capitalize on public market) to start something "more extreme."
I think they've done it, folks.
What we have here are churning layers of minimalistic black metal ; the likes hardly anyone foresaw coming from Portalnd, Oregon. The riffs are constant and omnipresent, yet so there that they don't feel there at all. Their tone is apparently gotten by running a guitar (powered by gas flames) through an aquarium, which causes reverbrating and resonating audial terror to unleash upon whoever hears it.
The tone is thick and bassy, yet full of vibrant hum. Imagine The Work Which Transforms God, only less string-bending weirdness and more straightforward attack. The songs are mostly midpaced, but sometimes break into very fast parts. The percussion is very well implemented. Drumming is accentual, and, although obviously there, it's mixed perfectly into the concretion of cascading chords and riffs.
The vocals are horrifying utterances in the far background of the songs, giving an almost shudderingly subtle accent to the mainly guitar-driven compositions.
Track one (appropriately titled '1') is basic black metal, but definitely original in its own sense. This band has stayed far, far removed from the public eye until recently, when they released this album upon the unsuspecting public. Their uncaring, nonchalant attitude towards other societies and the public in general is quite unsettling, to say the least, but, they seem like decent enough people. Needless to say, you'd never get that feeling from this droning mass of atonal and jarring riffing. The keyboard implementation in Laudanum is excellent, as well.
What is perhaps most interesting about this band is their open-endedness. They don't want to dictate what the listener should get from the music. They want you to hear it for what it is and make your own meanings.
They even implement a completely synth dark ambient track (which is a whopping 17 and a half minutes long) which symbiotically attaches itself to the listener over the span of its existence. Fans of the aforementioned Lustmord, L.E.A.K., Coph Nia, etc. will adore this track immensely.
You're probably wondering why I chose that as a review title. I mean exactly what I say. How does something this disturbingly lifeless yet organic and seemingly living actually make its way onto a CD? How does a band that seemingly cares nothing about anything else in the black metal scene transcend so many previously unattainable boundaries in said scene? The band does many hallucinogenic drugs to alter their perception of the world and distort their sick dreams and fantasies into recordable pieces of art.
What is sad about this album is that it is most likely going to be the last one officially released. Even so, this is pure cold black metal art for the elitist black metal fan. The pure originality present here is unbelievable. Definitely one of the best releases of this year, and one of the best in black metal for a long time.
i assumed their music would match its layouts, being that everything about this band is minimal at face, and it is, but velvet cacoon travels much deeper than a darkthrone record... we have a lot of ambience here... the vocals are much different than ive heard before - very quiet snarls, whispers, slithering throat sounds, gasps, all ebbing and flowing below and just to the surface of a large, black ocean. i hear blut aus nord (mystical beast, and the work) and others have mentioned manes, although, i haven't had the chance to really absorb the older manes material... this is where i see black metal moving. velvet cacoon seems to expose the contradictions of this genre (ideology/theory and practice) and the result is much more than black metal. bands like blut aus nord and velvet cacoon are taking us to stranger worlds with more intelligence and innovation than 90% of black metal phenomena. some of you will disagree, some of you will remain stuborn in your orthodox prisons... but i stand behind this. time will prove this evolving art...
Velvet Cacoon have officially mastered what so few can, the art of repetition. To take black metal and skillfully weave a tapestry of sullen ambience through every nook and cranny is a thing few people can succeed at. "Genevieve" doesn't just succeed at this, it perfects it. "Genevieve" is quite a paradox. On one hand the album is shamelessly minimalistic. At times, 2 riffs will slowly fade in and out of each other for minutes on end, and while this would be painful had it been any other band, Velvet Cacoon makes it blissfully addictive. You almost wish the overwhelming trancelike quality would continue on forever. The heavy drenching of multiple layers id so thick and deep that one could get lost in them for hours on end. To say this album has depth, staying power, and a timeless quality to it would be a criminal understatement.
Without a doubt, this is an album that will be copied and cloned by many other bands. One of the greatest albums in the history of this genre, if not the greatest. This band is no fluke. An instant classic.
Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger, Ildjarn – Forest Poetry… timeless albums such as these proved that minimalism was one of the strongest techniques a black metal band could utilize. Now, minimalism in black metal has become overused and cliché, the result of abuse by thousands of Darkthrone clones, with only brief flashes of ingenuity appearing from time to time (such as Demoncy – Joined In Darkness.)
Velvet Cacoon resurrects hypnotic minimalist black metal in a single step with Genevieve (probably earlier than that, but this is their only official release.) It’s a resurrection that comes not through tribute, not through derivation, but through purity.
Perhaps because of their secrecy and alleged utter isolation from the black metal scene were Velvet Cacoon able to create an album with such an uncompromising vision of purpose, such a strong artistic direction that seeps through with every progression. This is a band who simply couldn’t care less about internet scenesterism, socialization, or external validation. Not surprising then that their music (up until now) has been literally impossible to find outside of their own personal sphere of close friends.
Velvet Cacoon’s method of instrumentation, however, is no secret, as taken from the Blazing Productions website: “clandestine recording methods allow Velvet Cacoon to experiment with an array of unconventional techniques, most significantly in 2000, when the band developed a guitar which functions off of the collected pressure of gasses from the flames of diesel gasoline instead of traditional electric pickups. The sounds are then channeled through a fiber optic cord into a 40 gallon aquarium where vibrato sensors record the final outcome.”
Indeed, perhaps the greatest strength of Velvet Cacoon’s music is their tone. I’ve never heard anything like this. It’s a thick, damp, strikingly deep tone whose only comparison I can imagine would be Burzum – Filosofem. It’s a netherworldly tone that gives the impression of uncounted layers, and immediately raises the question, “are those layers real, recorded purposefully, or are they figments of my imagination?” Ghostly murmurings, echoed whispers, resonances that sound like keyboard lines, and other strange sounds are buried deep within Velvet Cacoon’s guitar tone, perhaps all directly resulting from their use of the “dieselharp.”
The songwriting itself is simply hypnotic yet unsettling. Minimalist droning passages build on eachother, and although the songs contain repetition, the chord choice is such that the progressions give a forward-moving illusion (Burzum – Filosofem again comes as a similar example.) I am also reminded a bit of Sort Vokter, although Genevieve is like if Folkloric Necrometal was recorded by Gollum himself deep in the bowels of his lightless cave. I’ll note that while intently listening to this album, even in my brightly lit apartment, any immediate happiness I had was sucked away, and I started to think about other things: not weekends, beer, and videogames, but rather, all the strong imagery of desolation that it seems Velvet Cacoon intended.
Velvet Cacoon have been touted as “ecofascist,” an ideological slant that I can only presume means the complete and objective preservation of nature; perhaps a return to nature, or unity. Thematically, I could deduce that the music on Genevieve was meant to portray the prehistoric, utterly feral, and cryptic spirit of nature, and the true nature of man as seen in parallel: void of conscience, unknowing of guilt, and survival being a sole motivation. A transcendent worldview.
Vocals are present, but not often. They’re some of the absolute creepiest black metal vocals I’ve heard, and are so unnatural that I thought at first that they were just another sound emanating from the dieselharp. The vocals are rasping, whispered, reptilian, and of course, wholly unintelligible.
Song one opens very typically with a familiar-sounding movement, and I wasn’t immediately grabbed by the music. However, Velvet Cacoon’s tendrils slowly creep up and around you as you keep listening, and soon you’re so enraptured that there can be no escape. A droning distorted interlude slowly morphs into an ominous keyboard line, and then the song unexpectedly returns to intensity. Velvet Cacoon’s interludes by no means take one “out” of the music, but rather act as an intense transition in atmosphere, actually drawing you further in; this technique seems to be a staple for the band.
Song two, “P.S. Nautical,” is my second favorite track on Genevieve. The progressions at first sound deeply sorrowful yet contemplative, like the feeling one gets from staring into the void and wondering what lies beyond it. This song is an example of how Velvet Cacoon can be perfectly hypnotic; it seems over too soon, despite being six minutes long. The outro is beyond eerie, with the faint sound of windchimes coming through all channels. Minimalist outros like this one also seem to be one of the band’s favorite techniques.
Song three, “Avalon Polo,” is the sample track provided on Blazing Productions’ website, so I was already familiar with it. Its aspirations are epic in the same manner as the previous song: epic not from the conquering of the outside world, as is the case with other bands like Immortal, but epic from the conquering of absolutes, the discovery of beauty from ugliness. The brief acoustic overlay at the three minute mark is a brilliant addition; that small 15-second interlude adds to the atmosphere of the music more than any keyboard line could. Once again, the song ends with a minimalist, reflective outro.
Song four, Laudanum, is my favorite track. The passages here are so darkly disconsolate and engulfing that they give “The Work Which Transforms God” a run for its money. The outro here starts at four minutes and continues for another one-and-a-half. It’s beautiful in its coffin-like isolation; images of a pristine, ash-covered landscape were brought to my attention.
Song five, “Fauna and Flora,” picks up the pace, and is probably the most minimalist track on the whole album. The changes in phrasing are more reserved overall than the other songs. This is the only song where I think the interlude, despite being very brief, was unnecessary, though it’s certainly not a hindrance.
The sixth track, the title track, simply explodes with harshly dissonant riffing, as if nature is finally taking its revenge on the cult of Christ. The song is the most foreboding and darkest—in an “evil” way, rather than a sorrowful way—on the album. I really like the change at 1:24; the segment here is drifting and wraithlike. This segment would be repeated again for a much longer period at around the four-minute mark, at which point it lulls you into a trance and refuses to let you go.
Track seven, “Beta Noir,” is simply amazing. It’s a hyperminimalist dark ambient synth track, with truly unearthly sounds and layers that creep in subtly, heightening the atmosphere intensely in a way that Lustmord would most certainly approve of.
This album is elitist. Anyone who enjoys Ildjarn and Burzum should go ahead and buy it from Fullmoon Productions (and go get a good pair of headphones too, if you don’t have one already.)