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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.