While VELVET CACOON rival classic MAYHEM for the ‘Black Metal band with the most baggage award’, no one can deny the sheer power and mystique of 2004’s “Genevieve”. Without the success of the previously mentioned album, none of the bull-shit which surrounds this band would ever have existed. With such a stellar and prominent debut, it was a foregone conclusion that the plethora of previously recorded underground material which had been rumored to exist would receive the same accolades. The hype may be denser than the Amazon, but I urge you to leave it at the door and approach “Dextronaut” with merely an open mind; for it is no “Genevieve”.
This is the band’s initial recording, and first and foremost the lesson is that bands do occasionally change and evolve for the positive. “Dextronaut” consists of 8 tracks (9 if you possess the original recording) of raw Black Metal which could loosely be described as a distant blood relative of “Genevieve”. Sometimes blurring the lines between that which is ambient and that which is not, the band truly has a knack for creating riveting and spell-binding atmospheric compositions. This 2002 album is an indication of the origins of that creativity, still in its fledgling state attempting to forge its own identity. The familiar static and distortion surrounding the riffing is quite overt, forming the backbone of the multi-layered sound and offering a unique journey which begs for your participation. This journey is once again full of subtle variation, distant echoes, and mind-numbing emotional frenzy.
So it may seem, at once the band appears to have crafted a masterpiece-yet again. This statement, however much we’d like for it to be true, is far from reality. Much like a pole-vaulter clipping the beam at the last second and tumbling down to the mat after being only inches from victory, VELVET CACOON miss that level of brilliance by the smallest of margins. Quite simply, “Dextronaut” does not possess the same level of quality in riffs nor complexity in emotion of that of its cousin. The guitar-tone which we had previously known as the ‘diesel harp’ is simply not there and it seems as though an entire layer of the ensuing compositions was removed as a result. At times, you’ll find yourself searching for a greater meaning, scouring the buzz and static for the faint whispers of past genius or the micro-melodies of layered compositional sophistication. This record pleases upon first listen; however, it does not sustain multiple spins or exact scrutiny nearly as well. Occasionally it even sounds a bit amateurish in its development, such as the DARKTHRONE worship of “Infinite Plateau”. As a whole, it is not nearly as complete, refined, or deep as its measuring stick.
The bonus-disc accompanying this release consists of 3 ambient tracks totaling nearly an hour in length. The inherent quality is distinctly on par with that of “Bete Noir” as one can clearly see that this band possesses a penchant for all things ambient. The sheer emotion and brilliance encapsulated in such simplicity is mesmerizing. While the majority of “Dextronaut” may be somewhat bittersweet, the inclusion of such stellar bonus material certainly forces a bit of a double-take when one considers picking up this release.
Realistic expectations are mandatory when one approaches this album. I would certainly hesitate to call this mandatory, but it stands up relatively solid as VELVET CACOON’s take on a more straightforward and somewhat generic Black Metal style which bears hints of the greatness bubbling on the horizon. If nothing else, check out the 2nd disc to feed that nagging feeling of escapism tugging at the corners of your existence.
(Online July 4, 2007)