Sunday, November 1, 2009

Album Review: Velvet Cacoon - P aa opal Poere Pr. 33

Velvet Cacoon - P aa opal Poere Pr. 33

Artist: Velvet Cacoon (United States)
Album Title: P aa opal Poere Pr. 33
Record Label: Starlight Temple Society (United States)
Released: 2009

Velvet Cacoon doesn't fall under pagan metal by any means, but this is one of the few non-pagan black metal projects in which I still have any interest at all (the others would probably be Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice, and Blut Aus Nord). I'm admittedly drawn to the mysteries and scandals of music artists, and Velvet Cacoon has been a constant source of both over the years. If you haven't familiarized yourself with the VC saga, pop yourself some popcorn and spend a few hours online trying to make sense of it all. It's ridiculous. Velvet Cacoon is a sea of misinformation, pretension, nonexistent releases, and stolen releases. My conclusion after the four years or so that I've been listening to this project is that it started as a typical "bedroom" one-man black metal project, but the guy behind it ("Josh") decided that he wanted some notoriety while also exploiting the gullible nature of music fans and their hunger for mystery, so he surrounded the project with outlandish claims. Reading interviews with the guy makes me roll my eyes so much they actually start to hurt. If it weren't for the fact that Velvet Cacoon occasionally makes music that I find very interesting and enjoyable, I would have jumped ship a long time ago.

P aa opal Poere Pr. 33 was announced, I believe, in 2007, and artwork and a tracklisting were released for the album before anything had even been recorded. When the music-stealing scandal took place, it appeared as if the album would never see the light of day, and long-suffering label Full Moon Productions scrambled to pacify VC fans and released a CD version of old demo Dextronaut, along with a bonus CD of bland "dark ambient" music. This year FMP released a double-CD of similarly bland ambient music of Velvet Cacoon titled Atropine, and I just assumed that P aa opal Poere Pr. 33 had been swept under the carpet.

Velvet Cacoon's 2004 album Genevieve and 2005 follow-up/predecessor (depending on what you believe) Northsuite are two albums I really enjoy. They feature obscure, atmospheric black metal with vocals that take the form of sickly hisses, simple but effective melodies, and hints of piano and ambient music. Supposedly, the lyrics are inspired by both nature and drugs. I don't know if that's true at all, but it provides VC with an interesting backdrop that sets them apart from most black metal bands. When I saw P aa opal Poere Pr. 33 listed among the VC discography on Encyclopedia Metallum, I assumed it was a hoax. I was surprised to find out later that not only did it exist, but that it was a metal album. I was further surprised to see that it was released on artsy D.I.Y. label Starlight Temple Society rather than Full Moon Productions, but the positive to all this was that the album was very inexpensive to purchase and it is uniquely packaged. The disc is in a black paper sleeve similar to how some software discs come packaged. The paper sleeve slips inside what appears to be an oversized CD insert (I believe it's the size of what would come with a 7" vinyl release), so the great artwork is larger than what you'd usually get. This is then inserted into a black envelope with two lines of poetry embossed in silver on the front, and finally the whole package is put inside a resealable cellophane packet. Artsy, yes. Pretentious, perhaps. But pretty nice, though I can't fit it among my CD's, which is a bit of a pain.

The biggest surprise, however, is the music itself. It doesn't sound much at all like Genevieve or Northsuite, except that it's still atmospheric and somewhat mysterious. The music on P aa opal Poere Pr. 33 is what I would describe as very slow, doom-ish black metal. The pace is generally kept to a crawl, and the melody is largely driven by the bass and what sounds to my ears like a person humming along with the bass. Yeah, it's a little weird. It reminds me a bit of one of the Forest (the Blazebirth Hall band) CD's in that respect. The vocals, for the most part, are done by someone called "Cain" from a Canadian black metal band called Snowfall. I've never heard Snowfall, but they seem like they're about as pretentious as Velvet Cacoon, except with an emphasis on drinking heavy amounts of alcohol along with their drugs. Eh, whatever. They could have gotten just about anyone to do vocals and it couldn't have been much less interesting than Cain's performance on this CD, which is inoffensive but utterly unremarkable. Fortunately, "Josh" himself contributes vocals towards the end of the album, on "Oviamoire" and "Sovarine." That these two tracks are probably the strongest on the album may or may not be coincidental. The drums appear to be provided by a drum machine, but it sounds pretty solid and contains more complex patterns than the largely-blasting nature of the drum machine on Genevieve. According to the insert, the music is by SGL ("Josh") and LVG ("Angela"). "Angela" supposedly plays guitar. "She" also does some of the interviews. I don't believe that "Angela" actually exists at all, and nor do the other six or eight or however many other women who were allegedly members of Velvet Cacoon during the period when it was self-described as a collective of musicians.

Six of the eight tracks on the album are metal, while one is an instrumental, somewhat ambient piece, and the other consists of a man and a woman whispering to each other in French. They appear to be in a tent next to a crackling fire, but I don't know what's supposed to be going on. Like much of the mystery around Velvet Cacoon, it probably means nothing at all. Overall the album has a nautical theme. The poetry embossed on the envelope describe a crab crawling along the bottom of the sea, and Chesapeake Bay (in the Virginia and Maryland area of the United States' East coast) is mentioned by name in the insert.

This is a strange album. I would expect nothing less than a project as weird as Velvet Cacoon. However, it's also a unique and enjoyable album. There are some very nice, but dark, melodies, and an enveloping, cavernous atmosphere that would be especially interesting to listen to in the proper context (or, less likely, in the proper drug-altered state, according to the claims of "Josh").

The only thing I don't like about this album is the fact that it wasn't released by Full Moon Productions. With all that VC has put that label through over the years (FMP has had to act as a spokesperson for "Josh" and went into damage control mode after the music-stealing scandal of 2007), the least "Josh" could have done is allowed them to release what is actually a pretty fine follow-up to Genevieve and Northsuite. Instead, FMP gets stuck with Atropine, an ambient album that even they don't seem enthusiastic about putting forth the effort to release, and unknown artsy label Starlight Temple Society gets the privilege to present P aa opal Poere Pr. 33. I'm sure that the folks at STS are fine people, but it doesn't seem fair to deny FMP the chance to release this album on their label, being as how they've stuck with VC through years of lies.

Ah, whatever. A good album for black metal fans looking for something unique but highly listenable.

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