2004: Velvet Cacoon - Genevieve

Spreading hype and rumors about your own band is a ballsy move that can be viewed in one of two ways; either as a creative PR trick, Kaufman-esque in intent, or as a deceptive, dishonest way to amass a fan base. For years, bands like The Residents have lived in anonymous infamy, and in this age of bedroom projects, one-man bands, and home-recorded albums, it has become almost commonplace for artists to bolster their own sense of mystery and intrigue.

Velvet Cacoon have built their career on a foundation of mystery, hype, and rumors -- most, if not all, self-generated. Many of these tales can be sourced back to front man Josh (possibly the group’s only member) who initially set about creating a rich tapestry of stories to sucker/allure legions of metalloids into Dethklok-like levels of devotion. For those who haven’t heard the yarns, here are just a few regarding their 2004 cult classic Genevieve: the album was written and recorded under the influence of vast amounts of dextromethorphan (which, for the layman, is the active ingredient in some cough syrups); due to the band’s politics of “deep ecology,” an eco-fascist philosophy espousing the theory that nature is more important than humans, no electricity was used in the recording of the album; instead, front man Josh “invented” a diesel-powered guitar called a “dieselharp” that was “amplified and recorded underwater in various sized aquariums” (reminds me of an episode of Metalocalypse).

In addition to these claims, early interviews with Josh and band partner Angela (possibly a figment of his imagination?) tell stories of intensely violent live shows, including public bloodletting and mutilation, the death of their drummer from falling off a cliff while drunk, communication with the spirit world through electronic voice phenomenon, and many other bits of ballyhoo. Of course, the metal world is no stranger to fabricated tales. By now we all know the story of the bound and tortured midget from Abrubtum was a hoax, and the whole dead drummer thing was already done by Spinal Tap.

In the wake of these tales of mayhem surrounding Velvet Cacoon, metalloids have spent countless hours on internet message boards discussing and debunking rumors with the zeal of an especially neurotic conspiracy theorist poring over the Zapruder film. Now, many of the hoaxes have been admitted, including the diesel-powered guitar that never was. The supposed intensity of their live performance is also difficult to corroborate considering the lack of any real evidence of the group ever playing a show at all. In addition to all this, VC was exposed as having plagiarized large parts of their discography from the Black Metal sound, which only angered metal purists more.

The only aspect of their personal mythology that may be true is the band’s alleged drug use. Taking cues more from William Burroughs than DJ Screw, Josh and Angela claim to have snorted a pre-prepared powder of dextromethorphan rather than drinking it in a cough syrup or crushing pills of Mucinex DM, like a junior high school student would. They say their music is inextricably connected to the disassociation brought on by the drug and that to really “understand” VC’s music, one must at least be on the “fourth plateau” of a DXM trip, where communication with the spirit world begins. For me, boasting about drug use is about as juvenile as wearing corpse paint, but perhaps there are those out there impressed by the ability of pretentious USBM’ers to guzzle cough syrup.

Musically, Genevieve is nothing groundbreaking, but you’ll recognize aspects of your favorite black metal bands (Burzum, Darkthrone, Blut Aus Nord). A fairly standard back and forth sway of vacuum cleaner narcosis permeates the entirety of the album. The militaristic stomp of drum machines meshes well with Josh’s vocals, which, when pushed way back in the mix, sound like a spot on Smeagol/Gollum impersonation (precious). While some aspects of the album are derivative, others are more inventive; nearly every track ends in an almost resurrective ambience. For instance, "P.S. Nautical" culminates with what sounds like a drowning piano and a symphony of miniature bells, while "Avalon Polo" drawls on victoriously before trailing in the sweet strumming of an acoustic guitar. VC's strength lies in straddling the line between metal and ambience (like all good black metal should), which is no more evident than on "Bete Noir," a 17-minute dark ambient track that closes the album in the most ominous and Stygian of ways.

What we have in the end is a decent metal album overshadowed by the controversy and lies, which begs the question: was all the hype needed to sell an otherwise pedestrian album? I'll let you know when I get to the fourth plateau.

1. 1
2. P.S. Nautical
3. Avalon Polo
4. Laudanum
5. Fauna & Flora
6. Genevieve
7. Bete Noir

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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