Review Summary: Leaves that bloom with passion.
I've always thought of Green Carnation as a band who managed to traverse the fine line between progressive rock and progressive metal. You see, there was a time in the 21st Century when a band would either favour the more lilting, charming atmosphere of progressive rock or go full-throttle with technical precision and dub themselves the next big thing in progressive metal. With that said, Green Carnation have always been fairly hard to categorise, and that's even taking into account the band's humble beginnings. Of course, if Green Carnation are ever going to be remembered for one thing and one thing only, it's the mammoth one-song epic in 2001's Light of Day, Day of Darkness
, an album which has over the last few decades resonated with fanbases from multiple sub-genres and often been hailed as the go-to opus for those patient with such lengthy epics. Alas, here we are in 2020, looking at the first bit of fresh material from Green Carnation in 14 years.
To be fair, it's not like there's been any apparent growing demand from the masses for new Green Carnation music. I myself only came across Light of Day...
in 2012, and that was already over a decade since it had been released. In hindsight, Leaves of Yesteryear
will require as much patience as any other Green Carnation album, except for those who have dissected their discography and settled well with every single release. Opening with a title track that is arguably one of the most alluring progressive-minded songs of the year, it's pretty obvious the band have given full effort here. Beautiful vocal deliveries are at the forefront, softening any blow from the rhythm section with a neutral, passionate performance, and yet they are never overdone. On the contrary, there are times in the title track where you're left wanting Nordhus to sing even more, particularly after his lilting ululation of “I hope you remember my name” towards the end. It's not very complex, nor does it raise awareness of the band stepping out of their comfort zone. Really, it's just right
. This continues throughout the album, and the apparent charm of “Sentinels” is maintained in spite of obviously heavier guitar work and perhaps a reminder of modern Amorphis at their most magical. Though a shorter song, "Sentinels" feels like a yin to its predecessor's yang, in which the shorter song builds on heavier tones and embraces the band's pacier moments.
Leaves of Yesteryear
may be considerably shorter than its predecessors, but it's also very compact and ensures no song overstays its welcome. The reworking of an original song in “My Dark Reflections of Light and Death” may make some have second thoughts when seeing that it lasts almost 16 minutes, but it feels more like a journey through the band's career and how they've adapted to an ever-changing musical direction, not so much like a chore. Of course, the song takes time to settle the listener with its atmospheric introduction, but opens up in ways which consistently command the listener's attention. It's arguably the most progressive-minded song of the whole album (as you'd expect regarding the length), yet isn't one of those songs that feels as if it's a hodge-podge of multiple parts. Rather, each transition is fluent and provides delicate changes in pace, performance and tone to emphasise each aspect of the band's musical palette. The vocal delivery is at its most soulful, the almost tear-jerking cries of “What I was, forgive me” and “This cold embrace of temptation” backed by a rhythm section growing and expanding with atmospheric vigour. No, it's not a new song, but what it does prove is that Green Carnation can rework a song and make it just as compelling 20 years after its initial placement.
With only five songs on Leaves of Yesteryear
, three of which being wholly original material (the reworking of “My Dark Reflections...” and the cover of Black Sabbath's “Solitude” aside), there's a sense that those looking at the tracklist will be left wanting more. You could call it an EP, but then you'd be underestimating how important the new songs may turn out to be in the near future. “Hounds” may seem overshadowed by “My Dark Reflections...” due to a shorter length but it actually stands out with its calming acoustics and later on technical precision which showcases the band's instrumental talents. In fact, “Hounds” seems even darker and lyrically takes on a more isolated tone, the almost echoed grief of “Darkness beats upon my soul” resonating with those who have stumbled on hard times and are seeking hope. The hard-hitting thrum of the rhythm section strongly resonates with those who prefer the more metallic side of the band, but as with the previous three songs on the album, “Hounds” develops a je ne sais quoi
to make it stand out. It's slow-burning energy may leave some wanting a bit more pace, but to say it's the last bit of new material on the album is to say that Leaves of Yesteryear
is theoretically warmer as it reaches its end, with a suitably calming closer in “Solitude” to close the experience.
A 14 year gap in between albums isn't exactly easy for any band to accept and move on from, but perhaps that's what was needed for Green Carnation, a refreshing look back at how they developed a strong and consistent musical direction between 1990 and 2007. Yet it doesn't seem as if the band have forgotten what made their previous albums resonate so well with their fans, and it's an ultimately passionate performance that drives Leaves of Yesteryear
to a subtle, satisfying conclusion. It's great to hear new material from the band, but even better to know they've essentially picked up where they left off effortlessly.