May 4, 2020 Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear (Album Review)
The country of Norway has been known for some of the heaviest and most Extreme Metal bands this side of a burning church. Out of that movement, however, has emerged some truly progressive and unpredictable strains of music. Embodying this creative boldness, Green Carnation is a band that right around the turn of the millennium was becoming an admired and productive example of experimental, Rock-infused ingenuity.
Unfortunately, for a host of reasons, not all bands can keep it going, and following an intensely prolific period, they all but vanished. Fourteen years later, Green Carnation has returned to the recording studio, and the result is Leaves of Yesteryear, a full-length studio album which will be released on Friday, May 8th, 2020 via Season of Mist. After so long away, what can we expect from Green Carnation in 2020?
One thing is for certain. Bands rarely come back from this long away for anything other than the magical reappearance of their creative fire; that indefinable muse which is often the prime catalyst for why they got together in the first place. This latest opus begins with the album’s title track. Instantly, the driving, mid-paced beat and lovely keyboard overtone sweeps away the listener. Kjetil Nordhus, the robust vocalist and familiar set of pipes for those familiar with Green Carnation’s second album onward, sounds as clear and awesome as he has always done. “Leaves of Yesteryear” sets the tone with its stunning guitar leads, sonic meatiness, and a catchy gravitas that makes for a vastly rewarding listen.
As the powerful “Sentinels” develops in the listener’s ears, the hints offered within the title track become clearer. On Leaves of Yesteryear, there is a notable similarity to the Operation Mindcrime/Empire era of Queensrÿche. “Sentinels” features memorable melody lines and a chorus of pure power. The way keyboards are interwoven into the mix, courtesy of Kenneth Silden, only adds to the anthem feeling going on in this hard-driving rocker. This is unabashed Metal music, great for any era, the riffs of Tchort and Bjørn Harstad married to the grooving undertones of Stein Roger Sordal on bass guitar and Jonathan Perez on the drum kit.
The middle of the album, namely the 15:36 long “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death,” is actually a reworking of a song by the same title from Green Carnation’s debut album, 2000’s Journey To The End of the Night. Back then, the band consisted of Tchort and members of In The Woods… and here, the song is given a massive makeover courtesy of Nordhus’ peerless vocal performance and superior production values. This is a sprawling journey of melancholy, with that thundering floor tom and countering keys providing an effervescent overtone. The band keeps the listener on their toes, somehow making a more deliberately paced song grab hold and never let go.
It may seem like an odd choice to make an older song the centerpiece of a new album, but the compositional consistency going on in Green Carnation makes its inclusion seamless. “Hounds” captivates next, a lilting and ballad-like intro giving over to dark-toned guitars, distorted yet harmonious. Building up, it provides a stomp with excellent dualling guitars. Fans of Deris-era Helloween will find a sonic equivalence to some of that German band’s power-balladry at the same time that it channels the aforementioned Queensrÿche spirit. Though these bands may be referenced, Green Carnation is in no way copying them or even resting on its own past laurels. Vibrancy is the word here, an effortless passion sweeping through the music that cannot be denied. Each guitar solo belongs right where it is placed, as does every swell of the keys and the lovely register of Nordhus’ voice.
The album concludes on the fifth track, with an ethereal cover of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude.” School is in session, and Nordhus’ voice takes center stage over some gorgeous piano and ambient soundscapes. Yearning and sadness prevail, allowing the album to conclude in a passionate manner evocative of the mood Green Carnation has always been able to convey. Most definitely a triumph, Leaves of Yesteryear deserves to be among the top selections of the best-of lists in this topsy-turvy 2020, for all that it is only coming out in the Spring. Cryptic Rock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.