Admittedly, I do not have much experience with Green Carnation. When the title track to the band’s comeback album dropped and the buzz began, I actually had a moment where I sat at my computer and said out loud to no one, “what is this Green Carnation everyone keeps talking about?” After having taken a chance on Leaves of Yesteryear, I think I may have some, but not nearly all, of their sound figured out. But that’s always been Green Carnation’s brand: they always leave you guessing, and after fourteen years they still have more tricks up their sleeves.
Green Carnation’s history seems to be almost more inactivity than activity. Formed in the early 90’s by guitarist/songwriter/lyricist Tchort, the outfit disbanded without actually recording anything when Tchort joined Emperor briefly. It wasn’t until 2000 that the band released their first album, Journey to the End of the Night, and by 2007 they had split up again, despite releasing several acclaimed albums and garnering a huge following. The band reunited for a one-off show in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2016 that Green Carnation came back full-force, in time for the 15th anniversary of Journey. Despite their last album being released in 2006, Leaves of Yesteryear sees the band back at a strength they haven’t seen since Journey’s release. Despite Tchort being the only original member still in the band, the classic team of Tchort and singer/lyricist Kjetil Nordhaus remains intact, and even departed guitarist Bjørn Harstad came back as part of the recording lineup. The rest of Green Carnation is rounded out by longtime collaborators Stein Roger Sordal and Kenneth Silden on bass and keys, respectively, and new drummer Jonathan Alejandro Perez. Big lineup, but everyone plays their part really well, and the overall sound of Leaves is very full and slick. The band has undergone a lot of sound changes over the years, from folky doom to doomy folk to prog rock and straight-up folk, but Leaves of Yesteryear sees the band hearken back, as the name would imply, to a much more aggressive sound than their last few releases. This is a surprisingly heavy album, but pleasantly so. There are riffs aplenty and most of the tracks feature heavy drums and anthemic choruses, ready for headbanging and screaming along. It’s not quite as proggy in technique as I was expecting, but there are plenty of mood changes, tempo changes, subtle key work and depth added to give a very prog rock feel to the composition of the songs.
Leaves of Yesteryear opens with the title track and lead single, a super catchy affair that brims with memorable guitar hooks and a chorus that is bound to get stuck in your head for a good while after hearing it. There’s a lot of big riffs in this one, with plenty of chugging and wailing. It’s a great way to reintroduce the band to a new audience and bring old school diehards back into the fold. Speaking of old school, the centerpiece of the album is a reimagining of “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death,” originally featured on Journey to the End of Night. More than just a simple rerecord, the track obviously feels much more modern and slicker than its twenty-year-old counterpart, but it’s really interesting to see what touches everyone puts on the song, considering Tchort was the only person of the current lineup who was on the original version. Nordhaus’ vocals fit like a glove, and although I miss Vibeke Stene’s operatic soprano, this is a great way to circle back to the past while looking ahead to the future. However, as much as I enjoy the new material from the band, I almost feel cheated by how short this album ends up being. At five tracks and only 45 minutes, it’s Green Carnation’s shortest album, and of those five tracks, one is an old song reimagined and one is a Black Sabbath cover. That only leaves three new compositions, and while “Sentinels” is blissfully heavy and aggressive and “Hounds” is a prog rock tour-de-force, I have to wonder if this is enough to tide the masses over after fourteen years. Still, quantity isn’t everything, and Leaves packs the quality in spades. If these new songs are indications of the future of Green Carnation, color me very interested.
It’s been a long time coming, but the best things in life are worth waiting for. Hopefully Green Carnation will stick around for a while longer and we don’t have to wait another fourteen years before the follow up to Leaves of Yesteryear is here. This is really just a taste of what the future holds for Tchort and the boys, and the future looks pretty damn bright. Go whet your appetite with this one, it will definitely leave you wanting more in the best way possible.
Leaves of Yesteryear will be available May 8 on Season of Mist. For more information on Green Carnation, visit their Facebook page.
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