Review Summary: Green Carnation's fourth album proves that contrary to popular belief, making your sound more accessible to the outside crowd while remaining true to yourself is indeed possible.
Norway is almost always associated with black metal when it comes to metal; often they're referred to as the "scary" metal country. Mostly this is because of their lyrics and image that often utilizes corpse paint and fake blood of some kind. Norwegian progressive metal isn't often spoken of, at least not in the naive crowd that's used to hearing stories about Norwegian metal musicians burning churches and killing each other. So most will not have heard of Green Carnation. Green Carnation is not exactly the kind of name you'd expect to hear from a Metal band, and the imagery in their artwork and their sound would naturally seem laughable when held up against more recent metal musicians from Europe. And this is what makes Green Carnation so unique as a band; their sound often changes and seems more restrained than other metal bands, let alone progressive bands.
What's really interesting about them is their evolution in sound that's happened through the years; their 2000 debut "Journey to the End if the Night" had a more doom metal influenced sound, and as the years went on, they evolved into something more than what they were on the previous album. Their epic song-only album Light of Day, Day of Darkness
can only be described as 60 minutes of pure prog bliss. What's really amazing about it is that never once feels boring, and goes by fast, despite being amazingly consistent. They did sort of falter a bit with 2003's A Blessing in Disguise
, however; their attempt at a more stadium rock type sound was creatively tepid and only a few songs stood out, but in their defense, a 60 minute song is going to be hard to top, no matter what.
And it's at this point where their latest album finally comes into the picture. As expected, they've changed their style, but this time far more drastically than the previous albums. For once, they've gone a bit less "metal" on this record and even less prog, but a few songs still have a classic progressive rock feel. For instance, the opening eponymous track, which is a rather mid-tempo tune but still has the progressive elements you've heard from their earlier works. Off the bat, Kjetil Nordhus' distinctive vocals are stellar and his delivery of the lines is top notch. Drone there on, however, the album has more of a straightforward rock sound, and perhaps on another band's part, it would sound silly, but since Green Carnation usually approach everything they do with an air of class and intelligence, it works incredibly well.
There's a lot of moments where the album is just downright beautiful. "Child's Play Part 1" is an absolutely gorgeous ballad that is mostly acoustic based, but incorporates synth and strings very nicely into the picture. The intro alone immediately has you excited to hear the rest of the track, and the echoey percussion adds tons of atmosphere to the overall sound. The lyrics as well create lots of stunning imagery and put you inside the mind of someone who has to accept the fact that people don't stay young forever. The power-rocker "Purple Door, Pitch Black" is catchy as hell and has a particularly notable chorus that definitely is one people can sing along to; it sounds a bit like a more upbeat Katatonia track and the nice guitar solo that appears near the end adds a nice touch. Most will also note "Pile of Doubt" that has a gorgeous synth fade-in mixed with a very organic guitar riff before some doomy chords kick in, and from there in a very catchy and upbeat metal track unfolds. It has a very old school prog feel to it and the balance between soft and heavy is very well done. Sure the "I am over/I'm gathered, strong, unstoppable!
" is cheesy, but the crushingly heavy middle section more than makes up for it. Oh, and particular attention needs to be paid to "The Everlasting Moment". This is probably the closest to their earliest work they get on this album (the more doomy sound) and it still feels very organic- the main riff is ever so simple yet ever so effective, and the chorus alone is one of the most epic things in their career. The added touch of thunderous piano in the chorus adds a spooky air that cannot be replicated.
While Tchort, the band's leader and rhythm guitarist, has some great works on here (particularly on the catchy "Between the Gentle Tall and Standing Small") the album really belongs to Michael Krumins. The solos on "Dead but Dreaming" and "Just When You Think it's Safe" are always the parts that have me most excited to listen to them in the songs. His work on the aforementioned "Pile of Doubt" adds a truly subversive atmosphere to the track, and is bound to get some rocking out for sure. As for keyboardist Kenneth Silden, well, what can I say? His added keyboard touches compliment the tracks in the best possible way. The intro to "Just When You Think It's Safe" wouldn't be as impactful and effective if not for the added keyboard, and his piano playing on "A Place For Me" shows how diverse the band really can be. And lastly, Kjetil Nordhus has an incredible voice. Sure he doesn't have a voice that compares to Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie Dio, but his voice is raw, honest and expressive. It only makes the tracks more impressive and it blends together well with the music. A more operatic vocalist wouldn't have been suitable, if this album is any indication.
Overall, it's a shame that the band has split up, but big ups to Tchort for trying to carry on the band, hopefully soon. The Quiet Offspring
is evidence of the fact that you can radically change and make your sound more accessible, while still staying true to yourself. The best thing about the album is that it's entirely satisfying; not one moment of it feels like it could "use improvement" or "be trimmed". Another thing that really impresses is how RESTRAINED it is- most prog albums nowadays are filled to the brim with 14 minute epics full of masturbation, and it's a rarity that a prog artist who keeps it short and sweet and keeps control of the songs so that they don't veer onto wanking territory comes along, but these guys know how to do such a thing, and it makes this album better. So by all means, pick this album up!
Download these tracks:
Childs Play Part 1
Purple Door, Pitch Black
The Everlasting Moment
Pile of Doubt