It was a sad day back in 2007 when Norwegian Metal band Green Carnation decided to call it a day. No-one before or since has ever truly captured their progressive avant-garde dark metal style in the same way, yet bowing out with a stunning live DVD, this truly unique Metal band was suddenly no more. So, when the band reunited for some live dates in 2016 there was much hope from their fans that some recorded content would soon follow. Never ones to do anything that is expected of them, Green Carnation took their time, looked at their career as a whole and finally released this – a 43-minute album that consists of 5 tracks, one a cover and one a new version of a track from their debut. Unexpected yes, but this is of course the band whose 2nd release was one-hour long song!
The line-up here is almost the same one that was in place back in 2007, the only change being Jonathan Alejandro Perez climbing onto the drum-stool this time around. Green Carnation have always been particularly the brainchild of guitarist Tchort, but they really nailed their sound down from 2001 onwards and many different flavours from 2001 to 2007 are all evident on “Leaves Of Yesteryear”. The title track opens proceedings and over 8 minutes it melts the melancholy into the Metal once more like the band have never been away. The keys dance around Tchort and Harstad’s guitar lines as the bass drives it all around thoughtful, complementary drum patterns – Green Carnation are instantly back in the room.
‘Sentinel’ takes the reigns and echoes so wonderfully the best moments from “Quiet Offspring” with great riffs, intricate arrangement and memorable vocal lines – surely this is left over from those 2005 sessions? Or maybe it’s just so easy for this talented band to carry on from where they left off without it sounding forced or contrived. Curve-ball time now though as the band re-work one of the best tracks from their quirky, more experimental debut, ‘My Dark Reflections Of Life and Death’. Tchort is of course the only member of this line-up to have appeared on the original, and it is absolutely fantastic to hear what these guys can do with the song. All the elements you hear were actually already there on the original, but now the keyboards suddenly lift the more dynamic, mature guitar delivery, the bass and drums are more up-front, the arrangement is a little shorter and punchier (weighing in at 15 and a half minutes that just seem to flash by!), with Kjetil Nordhus’ vocals bringing the whole song easily into the more recent Green Carnation model.
Next up is ‘Hounds’, possibly the album’s doomiest offering. With its gorgeously sombre acoustic-with-vocal intro, it’s a little unexpected that a riff Tony Iommi himself would be proud of crashes in with an almost Candlemass rhythm…and then effortlessly drifts back into prime Green Carnation once more, skipping moods and trading vocal/guitar lines with absolute ease throughout – a sublime 10 minutes speeds past in an instant once more – fabulous. Speaking of Mr. Iommi, if ever there was a Black Sabbath song written with a future band like Green Carnation in mind, it must be ‘Solitude’. Of course, Green Carnation put their personal stamp on it, incorporating beautiful piano/keys alongside Nordhus’ poignant trade-mark smooth vocals whilst keeping true to the essence of the original with the familiar bass lines and excellent guitar refrains – an excellent re-imagining.
And as the album seems like it’s barely begun, it’s all over. Packed with emotion, power, diversity and innovation, this is once more Green Carnation at their best. They are a band that I have played regularly during their hiatus and it always strikes me how they only ever sound like Green Carnation, so it comes as no surprise that this release stands on its own, defying labels and genres to be simply a great Metal album. Finally, I can only echo the thoughts of so many of this fantastic bands followers, when I say – Welcome back Green Carnation, we’ve really missed you!
(9/10 Andy Barker)