Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Velvet Cacoon - Genevieve (2004)

You wanna go into that foggy woodland alone? I didn't think so.
By utilizing an atmospheric production, Genevieve achieves its dark aesthetic with particularly sloppy instrumentation intertwined with hissed vocals. It creates a certain level of dissonance that's as scary as it is addictive, making this the perfect album to play on a dreary, overcast day. It laughs in the face of modern death metal and makes it look tame. It's hideous.

Since I'm stuck at home because I can't find my wallet, it's the perfect time for me to blabber on this infamous Velvet Cacoon album. I say infamous because, from what I can gather, Velvet Cacoon stirred up strong controversy within the metal community. As Genevieve was hitting shelves in 2004, many people criticized the band for being unoriginal and described them as hoax because a number of their releases were apparently stolen from another band or didn't exist. On top of that, the two-man project's history is probably fake and, if real, extremely fishy.

Of course, there's also the other side of the spectrum filled with fans passionate about the two piece and their minimalist ambient black metal. I fall somewhere in the middle because I don't know the whole story--and don't particularly care to know--because it might spoil the listening experience.

I should warn you that Genevieve is not for the lighthearted. The production is dry, gritty, raw, and very dirty. It aims for an exceedingly opaque atmosphere mixed with excessive ambiance that is repetitive, yet strangely addicting.

Protip: Don't play this in the car with your friends unless you want to get cussed out or be viewed as a freak.

I can't say that I enjoy overly repetitive music, but thanks to Genevieve's gloomy aesthetic, the tracks don't grow old. The first time I spun the record, I will admit I wasn't terribly impressed. In fact, it felt as if I was listening to a running shower with a faint beat in the background. But there's something about it that draws you in. Maybe it's the repetitive guitar riffs that give a listener something to latch on to? Maybe it's the overall attitude? I can't be certain.

The most interesting aspect of the album is how ambient passages are intertwined with traditional instrumental sections. By no means is it original because I can think of countless black metal bands that blend ambiance with harshness. But, for Velvet Cacoon, it works better than anything else in recent memory.

Let's use fellow band Chaos Moon, as an example. Their ambient sections are usually keyboard-based and supported by pleasant, generally inoffensive chord patterns. In contrast, Velvet Cacoon tend to create ambience with wind and low rumbles, not unlike that of an earthquake. This might, however, be characteristic of ambient black metal, but I'm no expert, so it seems relatively fresh. Heck, the last track "Bete Noir" is an epic 17-minute journey through the realms of what is essentially silence. Ambiance, indeed. Is it filler? You decide.
A thought that continues to cross my mind (and apparently many others) is if the two guys were tripping out of this world when they wrote and recorded the record. I definitely think it's possible because the music is fairly far out there, and most of it is very poorly performed. But like I said earlier, this type of incompetence achieves the atmosphere Velvet Cacoon aimed for with this record.

Let's be clear here. This record won't make any top-40 lists. It won't ever become mainstream, and it won't ever appeal to the run-of-the-mill metalhead. It isn't accessible. At all. If you're open minded and ready to search out music in something any normal music lover would call noise, put this on your list because it rewards dedicated listeners with little treats on every play. I've found something new hidden in Genevieve depths each time I've put it on. This isn't an album I will play daily, but will certainly keep in my stack of stuff to keep revisiting.


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