Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear Review

If you don’t know Green Carnation,1 you’re doing yourself a disservice. Since their inception following the demise of In the Woods… in the ’90s,2 I’ve been there. They’re my single greatest inspiration in my own music writing. I still consider the one-hour-long song/album, Light of Day, Day of Darkness, to be my favorite of all time. After I heard that album back in 2001, it changed my entire way of thinking about writing music. Slow, long builds; dissonant chords and conflicting riff changes; and drawing out emotions to the breaking point. I even remember having an email conversation with guitarist/mastermind Tchort in 2005 about sending him my music for his Sublife Productions label. Though he had an interest, I never quite had the balls to do it. So, as you can see, I have a soft spot for Green Carnation. And I’ve been waiting impatiently these last fourteen years for Leaves of Yesteryear.

That’s right, Carnation hasn’t released a new album since 2006’s Acoustic Verses. Before that, the band dropped an interesting collection of albums during some seven years. Carnation evolved from dark, atmospheric, progressive metal to gothic-like rock to an outlying acoustic record. While the dark, atmospheric, and progressive debut is disjointed at times—changing paces and vocal duties every few minutes—it’s a dark, powerful record. Not quite as good as Light of Day, Day of Darkness, 3 it’s home to one of my other all-time favorite pieces: “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death.” After these two records, the band shed much of its dark side for grooving licks and melodies. A place where vocalist Kjetil Nordhus shows his true potential. Though not similar in sound, the sudden transition reminds me a lot of Paradise Lost. After that, Acoustic Verses—their weakest effort to date—was released. Then came the news of the band’s dissolution. After what seems like an eternity, Tchort, Nordhus, and Sordal are back to try to suck me in once more.

Though I’ve known these guys for damn-near twenty years, Leaves of Yesteryear is not what I expected. I guess I don’t know what I expected, but this isn’t it. Gone is the rocking character of A Blessing in Disguise and The Quiet Offspring. Gone is the absolute darkness of Journey and Light. This five-track masterpiece is still Green Carnation, but with a new twist on an already twisted catalog. The opening title track is calm, yet powerful. It has a fun, gentle progginess—akin to something like Spock’s Beard—but in the way only Carnation can do. It builds before slipping into a short dip in the middle, only to build once more, charging through some Carpathian Forest-like licks that Tchort made famous as it approaches the final plunge. A plunge into a beautiful chorus, ending in soft piano strokes.

“Hounds” and “Sentinels” are a touch heavier than the opener. Yet, their individual approaches to the heavier side of the record are like holding an apple in one hand and an orange in the other, trying to convince the audience that they’re both peaches. The former is a ten-minute trek through the calm after a storm to the hookiness reminiscent of the band’s rock era. The over-the-top bass presence of the debut album is here, as well as the repeated ascensions to the best chorus of them all. “Sentinels,” though, is a galloping stallion. Toying with vocal arrangements that remind me of Iced Earth, the band charges down a path unlike the others traversed on the record. It’s a simple song that does a lot to break up the album.

But the masterpiece for me is the middle track, “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death.” That’s right, they released a re-recorded track from Journey to the End of Night that, to a longtime fan like myself, is better than the original. A bold statement, I know, but we finally get to hear Nordhus’ take on it. This version is also sleeker and more tuned, while still delivering the passion that drew me to the band so many years ago.

As a nod to their acoustic character, the album ends with a piano-led, folky rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude.” Another calm moment following the storm, if you will. But, be it this softer song, the punch of “Sentinels,” or the billowing plume that is “My Dark Reflections of Life and Death,” the lack of compression in the mix makes every voice and every instrument come to life. Nordhus sounds great, Tchort’s writing feels fresh and unforced, and the bass guitar—which was such a staple in the early days—is beefier than ever. Leaves of Yesteryear won’t pull on my heartstrings like Light of Day, Day of Darkness did. But the journey was worth the wait.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: greencarnation.bandcamp.com4 | |
Releases Worldwide: May 8th, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Or are put off by the gentle name.
  2. Yes, they’ve been back for some time. But, believe it or not, Green Carnation had notes on paper before those same members ever wrote a note for In the Woods…
  3. Which borrows heavily from the debut.
  4. Here’s a link for some of the older material: Not all of their albums are on Bandcamp, unfortunately.
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