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Songs of the Sea - 100%

DBettino, December 14th, 2006

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 clich├ęd, 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.