New music from Green Carnation has long been awaited by many. It’s been twenty years since their debut, and almost fifteen since their most recent release. Leaves of Yesteryear is an absolutely outstanding return to form, and a major statement of intent – but is it an album, or an EP? By its length alone, it would be hard to argue it is an EP, but by its content it conforms far more to what one might expect from that shorter form of release. There are only three new original songs, one reworking of a song from their debut, and a Black Sabbath cover. That’s not to say they are not good, for they most definitely are – but, despite the length, this release never feels more than an EP. Unlike some, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I have seen many complaints about the release on social media, but as much as I might have been expecting something different, I am more than happy with this release.
For me, Leaves of Yesteryear works like an EP released ahead of a magnificent album, and based on the material from this release, the forthcoming album (and I’m sure there will be one) will be magnificent. The title track is one of the most enjoyable Green Carnation songs yet. It brings together both the Green Carnation sound I love (their first two albums), and the Green Carnation sound I like, but which am not so fond of (their next two albums). I think a lot of people were wondering just what new Green Carnation might sound like. I’ve made a point of not reading any reviews (as I never like to read others’ reviews before writing my own), but from what I’ve seen on social media, most people (myself included) have been very happy with the blend of the dark, gloomy and doomy with the more alternative and melodic that the band have created.
Sentinels is another great new song, but it has quite a different sound from the title track. More direct, and with driving heaviness and intensity, it reminds me a little of Queen’s Innuendo put in a blender with Amorphis. I didn’t find it as immediately engaging as Leaves of Yesteryear, as it wasn’t really what I was expecting, at all. It is so different from anything else on the release, that it (for me) only heightens the sense of this being more of an EP than an album. As much as I enjoy Sentinels now, it still feels out of place, particularly when the preceding track is such an amazing reference to their past sound, with a distinctly modern and novel twist, and the following is a reworking of one of their most beloved songs.
And that reworking? Well, I was initially highly sceptical when the track listing was announced and My Dark Reflections was there. The longest track of the newest release is a song from twenty years ago. But, wow! On hearing it, I am taken aback. Familiarity initially meant this was my favourite track here, and it still is right up there (even if I would probably now give the title track that honour), but this track works only because Leaves of Yesteryear feels like an EP. It would stick out like a sore thumb on an album. It’s a tremendous reworking (which I think I may even prefer over the original – and that is not something I expected at all!), but it’s too rooted in the band’s past to be part of their future. Then again, one line from the song strikes hard: “Light of Day, Day of Darkness”. That is one part of the band’s past, that many fans long to be part of their future. A long-awaited sequel to their one song epic album has never been forthcoming. Could the choice of song to rework for this release be a sign that maybe…? No, best not to dwell on that.
Onto Hounds instead – the final new original song. It’s quite impressive, and has more chances within its length than anything else on the release but My Dark Reflections. It’s a particularly strong song, which I suspect will be a favourite for many listeners. It is definitely the only song that could have followed My Dark Reflections, and still held it’s own. What Hounds does particularly well is to take the directness of Sentinels and better fit it to the sound and strengths of Green Carnation. It would be too simplistic to suggest that Hounds is the confluence of the other two new songs, but it would not be entirely inaccurate either.
We are left with the Black Sabbath cover to end the album, and wow (again!). This is an incredibly beautiful cover of Solitude, which Green Carnation have made entirely their own. It’s a beautifully subdued and subtle cover and it is one more string in the bow of Kjetil Nordhus, whose exceptional vocals are the greatest addition to the Green Carnation sound of all the many changes the band has seen over the years. Nordhus conveys a great range of emotions with his performances, and while musically Green Carnation are still led by the writing and guitar of Tchort (without whom, of course, there would be no Green Carnation), Nordhus is proving to be indispensable to the sound and approach of the band.
So, after many years, Green Carnation has returned, and with quite possibly the best prog metal release I’ve heard so far this year. This release is, in my opinion, despite its album length, an EP. There are only three original songs on it, taking up 24 of the 44 minutes running time. The others are a re-recording of an old song and a cover. But that’s no reason for complaint, and I’m not sure why I have seen so much negativity. It is a surprise, but not a let-down. The only way this release could become a let-down is if nothing else follows it, because Leaves of Yesteryear leaves me hungry for more, and with an expectation I never thought could eventuate – that the next Green Carnation album might be their greatest yet. As an album, this is not a great one – but as an EP, foreshadowing greatness to come, this is unbeaten. There is not a minute wasted, and not a dud track. As an EP, dare I say it, this is perfect. Thus, while I highly recommend Leaves of Yesteryear, it is with that one proviso. Come at it as an album, and you are likely to be disappointed, as so many seem to have been. Approach it as an EP, and you should be fine.
[And you can read Nick’s interview with Green Carnation vocalist Kjetil Nordus HERE.]
01. Leaves of Yesteryear (8:03)
02. Sentinels (5:42)
03. My Dark Reflections of Life and Death (15:36)
04. Hounds (10:09)
05. Solitude (5:05)
Total Time – 44:36
Kjetil Nordhus – Vocals
Terje Vik Schei ‘Tchort’ – Guitars
Bjørn Harstad – Guitars
Stein Roger Sordal – Bass
Kenneth Silden – Keyboards
Jonathan Alejandro Perez – Drums
Record Label – Season of Mist
Country of Origin – Norway
Date of Release – 8th May 2020