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Too well-behaved for ecoterrorist black metal - 63%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 11th, 2012

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.