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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.