REVIEW: GREEN CARNATION – “Leaves Of Yesteryear”
So far 2020 has been an absolutely dreadful year. The world is descending into chaos, and the only ones benefiting from it are makers of toilet paper. And for bands and music fans, all tours and festivals are off. Despite this, there is still good news in the music world, with some long silent bands making a comeback and releasing new albums. And let’s face it, right now we can all use a little good news and pick me up. The early 2000s saw the rise of one of my favorite prog metal bands of the era; Norway’s Green Carnation, who broke the mold with the ultimate prog metal epic ‘Light of Day, Day of Darkness’ in 2001. The last time they released new material was 2006, so now for the first time in 14 years they are set to release ‘Leaves of Yesteryear’ and it was worth the wait.
The album kicks off with the 8-minute title track “Leaves of Yesteryear,” and the listener is welcomed by the band’s trademark sound. Heavy, yet melodic guitars, washes of keywork, and beefy drumming. And of course, none of this would have the right sound without Kjetil Nordhus on vocals; his distinct voice and vocal style have long been indispensable to the sound and approach of the band. Musically it is, of course, all led by the writing, and guitar work of bandleader and visionary Terje Vik Schei (aka Tchort), without whom the band wouldn’t exist. It’s a driving and exciting opening track, and partway through we’re treated to a few aggressive growls as well as the clear vocals.
As this is a fairly short album of only five songs, there is really nothing I can skip, so I’ll move onto the second track “Sentinels” which is musically a bit heavier and darker than the first track. The key work of Kenneth Silden really stands out on this song, as does the intricate bass and drum work of Stein Roger Sordal, and Jonathan Alejandro Perez. The guitars get heavier and more intense as the song builds, and Tchort and Bjørn Harstad do an exceptional job on it. This has truly become not only one of my favorite songs on the album but one of my favorites in their entire catalog.
We next come to the magnum opus of the album, the nearly 16 minutes “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death.” If the title sounds familiar to you it should, it’s one of the central pieces of the band’s debut ‘Journey to the End of Night’ and has been re-recorded for this release. The original version, while being prog metal, was heavier on gothic and doom metal than anything else. It was also a couple of minutes longer, with an extended intro. It’s a great album, dark and brooding, but probably the band’s least-known work. This new version is quite different (besides having a different vocalist) it’s more open, definitely heavier on the progressive side of things. The lyrics are rearranged as well. Truth be told I was halfway through my second listen before I realized it was the same song. But it’s been 20 years since that first album, only Tchort remains in the band, so it’s nice to see this old song brought back to life in such an exciting way.
The last original song on the album is “Hounds,” and is the second-longest on the album clocking in at just over 10 minutes. It starts off slowly, with acoustic guitar and vocals, before the metal kicks in and the riffs start. One of the best parts of this song is how clear and beefy the bass is on it. So many metal albums bury the bass, on this album, and song, in particular, you can hear and feel the bass the whole time. There are some fine guitar solos throughout the song as well, fitting as I’ve long felt that GC was what Pink Floyd would be if they had been a metal band.
The album closes with a Black Sabbath cover, “Solitude” off of their ‘Master of Reality’ album. It’s quite close to the original, very mellow and low key, with Nordhus’s vocals carrying the weight of the song. And it really is a fine way to close the album out, it’s very well done, and ends things on a softer note.
Its inclusion, however, does bring my lone criticism of the album. This album is for all intents and purposes an EP and should be marketed as such. There are only three original songs on it, taking up 24 of the 44 minutes running time. The others are a re-recording of an old song and a cover. After a 14 year wait, I would have hoped for a bit more original songs. But I must stress that the 20 minutes those two songs take up are not wasted, both are excellent and full of great moments. Still, from a fan’s perspective, it’s a bit of a let-down. Let us hope it is simply a holdover and a sign of great things to come.
After a long hiatus, Green Carnation has unexpectedly roared back to life and delivered one of the best prog metal albums I’ve heard so far this year. ‘Leaves of Yesteryear’ is a full-blown return to their prog metal roots, featuring great melodies, strong performances, and fully demonstrating that no other band sounds quite like them. For fans of the band who have been waiting for new music, getting this album is a no brainer. For new fans, the earlier albums may be a better starting point, but you’re likely to get hooked on this one as well. Highly recommended.