This is it. This is the album I’ve waited nearly a decade and a half to hear, and an album I never thought would actually get made. Bidding us farewell after an infamously disastrous US tour in support of the incredible “Acoustic Verses,” Norway’s Green Carnation surprisingly announced their reformation in 2014 to close the Nåvatn-3 dam, where they’d recorded the absolutely stunning “A Night Under the Dam” DVD just months before the split. Some minor personnel changes and a string of concerts commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” followed, and it was soon announced that Green Carnation, one of my absolute favorite bands of all time, would create music again. Four years later we arrive at the moment I’ve been waiting for since my high school junior was in pre-k and I had a full head of hair: the release of the long-awaited comeback record.
It’s an EP.
It’s an EP with a cover song.
It’s an EP with a cover song and a re-recording of an old song.
Setting my disappointment aside for the sake of fairness, I press play… and am immediately won back over. The title track greets us, bearing the hallmarks of damn near everything that made Green Carnation the powerhouse it was: emotive in its doom, engaging in its prog-rock, and absolutely overflowing with the sense that this is the human experience interpreted as song. The anguish of Tchort’s melodies belie his black metal legacy, vocalist Kjetil Nordhus proves yet again that the onetime Emperor bassist made a solid gamble in hiring him without ever having heard him sing, and somehow, Kenneth Silden manages to incorporate 80s-sounding keyboards into the mix without it sounding contrived. Fucking hell, I think to myself, this is excellent.
That was just track 1.
“Sentinels” is a more driven, hooky, and pummeling affair than its predecessor, taking a cue from “The Quiet Offspring” and heavying it up enough to let drummer Jonathan Perez take the wheel for a bit in his studio debut with the band. A track laden with aggressive riffs, arabesque melodies, a slew of vocal techniques that sometimes border on death growls, and Silden just losing his damned mind, Sentinels is a cut that I strongly suspect will be a crowd-pleaser.
Up next is the unquestioned centerpiece of the album, a reinterpretation of “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death”. This fifteen-minute beast of a song originally featured legendary soprano Vibeke Stene (then with Tristania) and one Geir “Rx Draumtanzer” Solli on vocals, was the seed for “Light of Day, Day of Darkness,” and is here reworked just enough to make it clear the weakness of the debut album was certainly not Tchort’s songwriting abilities. The current incarnation of this stellar band has finally done justice to a remarkable piece of work that previously only sounded ambitious.
“Hounds” is yet another journey unto itself, guiding the listener again through nearly every facet of Green Carnation’s many identities over the course of a tense ten-minute track. The album closes with a dreamy cover of the Black Sabbath cut “Solitude” that sees Silden and guitarist Bjørn Harstad gently recreating the mood Geezer Butler managed to convey with only a four-string. The cut is deceptively layered densely, replete with multiple guitars, keyboards, and a choir of Kjetils, none of which even think of stealing sonic space that isn’t theirs. It’s a fitting, psychedelic tribute to a band that itself arose from psychedelia only to forge an entire culture.
It’s only five songs, and only three of them are truly originals. But those heightened expectations were pretty damn close to the mark. Welcome back, guys.
Released by: Season of Mist
Release date: May 8th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Kjetil Nordhus / Vocals
- Terje Vik “Tchort” Schei / Guitars
- Bjørn Harstad / Guitars
- Kenneth Silden / Keyboards
- Stein Roger Sordal / Bass
- Jonathan Perez / Drums
“Leaves of Yesteryear” track-listing
- Leaves of Yesteryear
- My Dark Reflections of Life and Death
Fourteen years after their last release, Green Carnation has conclusively announced that not only are they back, they're even more solid than they were before. I suspect we'd be wise to view this five-tracker as the first course of a very satisfying meal