VELVET CACOON…it rolls off the tongue with such beauty and grace you can’t help but repeat it and let it sink into your mind. It is quite relevant then that only a band possessing such mystery as this could answer the age old question which has plagued man for years. Yes, how many times have you bought a goldfish only to come home and find it dead not even a week later (the damn things don’t even last as long as Nu-Metal bands)?! After flushing the slimy critter down the toilet you’re left with what? The immediate answer that comes to mind is a lack of a pet, but the broader conundrum is what do you do with that pesky 70 gallon aquarium?
The answer is not buy another goldfish. See, what knowledge VELVET CACOON has bestowed upon us is that you can turn that 70 gallon waste of space into a nifty Diesel harp. This “Diesel harp” is the main instrument used by this outfit and takes the place of the more normal but apparently overused guitar. It consists of a steel bodied guitar where the pickups run on diesel fuel flames. The sound is then transmitted through fiber-optic cable into the aforementioned 70 gallon tank which was rendered previously useless when Freddy died. Oh wait, it gets even more interesting; this aquarium is no ordinary fish tank by any means. It is filled to the brim with ocean water, wine and blood. The sound transmitted through this murky concoction is what gives VELVET CACOON their fascinating muddy sound. The idea is truly mind-boggling and proves worth its creation as the noise created is unremarkable. Acoustics produced consist of an equally interesting layering job which blends a number of eerie sounds (cello, violin, organ, etc). The best thing I can equate the guitar tone to is that of XASTHUR, only a much more vibrant and determined puzzle waiting to be dissected within the murky depths. One of the main challenges of this album is picking out all the little noises associated with the production of the diesel harp, which proves quite fun.
Compositionally, these guys (well, guy and girl rather) prove they have mastered the art which many have failed; producing truly riveting and spell-binding ambient tracks. These songs actually do transport the listener into a glazed over state where you can’t help but be sucked into VELVET CACOON’s strange world. Most of the songs feature endless notes gurgling from the trepid waters of the diesel harp overlaying a steady rhythm produced by repetitive (in a good way!) drumming. The most variety you’ll be greeted with is an unexpected change from the bass-snare-bass-snare pace to throwing in a bit of double-bass over the slow snare work. You really get a sense of being pulled under a dragging current and once you’re given a chance to breathe during one of the slow passages you can’t help but be taken by surprise as VELVET CACOON drag you back into the endless abyss by adding tempo-change or hitting you with an unexpected vocal pattern.
The vocals are the second best facet of VC (the diesel harp tone being the first). The job is more than handled by SGL, the demon responsible for such a hateful voice. His performance takes on a rather unique approach as the vocals are buried deep within the mix much like Malefic’s work on “Nocturnal Poisoning”. The fuzzy tone of the diesel harp acts as a set of bars caging in the man that is SGL and you can almost hear him calling for help with his raspy snarls. Right at the 2 minute mark of “Laudanum” he makes his presence known as if he is trying to whisper something important but you just can’t make it out within the bedlam of background noise. The vocals are neither of the deep guttural variant nor a high pitched screech. One minute they can be of the dark snarling type (“Laudanum”) and then somehow undergoes a metamorphosis into a creepy, mystifying chant (“Fauna And Flora”). They must truly be heard to understand the multitude of their breadth.
The album closes with the track “Bete Noir” which consists of of droning ambience with a slight and gentle hum in the background. This piece is not altogether different from BURZUM’s 25 minute “Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Säule Der Singularität.” Bete Noir however, manages to possess a little spark that Varg failed to capture until his last album. To reach full effect of course it must be after dark with all the lights turned out.
You can not afford to miss this album if you are a fan of Black Metal and are not afraid of something completely different which will turn you on your head. In addition to VELVET CACOON’s bleak atmospheric music, the background of the group is equally as dark and mysterious. I will spare you details here but the member’s hidden identities are aptly explained by the fact that they are eco-terrorists and members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). So throw away past misconceptions and actually give these tree-hugging Black Metallers a chance, you will not regret it. (Online March 22, 2005)