Published on 3rd July 2020
Kjetil Nordus – Green Carnation
From my Facebook feed, I noticed a strange phenomenon when it came to discussion about Green Carnation’s latest release, Leaves of Yesteryear. I make it a point not to read other reviews before writing my own, so all I had to go on was the comments I saw about the album in FB posts and groups. I found it extremely odd that so much discussion seemed to revolve not around the first new music the group had released (other than live) in many long years, but rather the length of the release. Time after time I saw people complaining that they had been waiting for a new album, and yet had been given only an EP, others moaning that much of the length of the album was taken up by the reworking of an old song. I couldn’t understand any of this, and in my review, attempted to address these concerns – because for me the length of the album is irrelevant, and whether or not is is an EP or an album is equally so. It’s new music from Green Carnation, and it’s bloody marvellous (quite possibly my favourite Green Carnation release yet!)
Even more strangely, after submitting my review I started reading the reviews of others, and Leaves of Yesteryear seems to have drawn almost unanimous praise. So it would seem, from a reviewer’s point of view, the concerns of those individuals whose criticism I saw on Facebook didn’t register. It made me wonder just how much disparity there might be between the fickle nature of fans, compared with those who review (who are more inclined to care about the quality of what is presented, rather than how much of it there is, of what it is made up of). I wondered if the band had even seen any of the criticism, and though I felt a little guilty about doing so, I decided to press ahead with what I hoped would not be a too offensive line of questioning, when presented with the opportunity to interview Kjetil Nordus, the band’s vocalist.
One of the things I noticed from much of the discussion and conversation around the latest Green Carnation release, is whether it is an album or an EP. I think in this day and age, the idea of attempting to differentiate between the two is problematic and quite possibly redundant, and I myself don’t care. In a way, they are probably labels that need to be consigned to history. Bandcamp, for example, considers any release comprising of more than one track (even if it is only two) to be an album. This is possibly the way forward, and in many genres would be meaningless regardless. Most music consumed these days by the majority of listeners is song based. Very few people these days listen to albums. However, when it comes to progressive music, the album is still very much a thing. How do you feel about the discussion about whether Leaves… is an EP or an album? Does it matter to you?
I think it is totally irrelevant. We are presenting almost 45 minutes of music that we have put together in order to make the album we wanted to make. I haven’t seen so much negativity about this. And people focusing first and foremost about this have sadly misunderstood what we wanted to do this time around. If people label it an album or an EP, or even single (even if it is not), I hope people will put it on from the start, and listen to what we have put together. This time around, and since it was our first album for so many years, we discussed a lot about what we wanted to do before even deciding that we wanted to do the album. There were a few important aspects that we wanted to achieve, and maybe the most important one was that we wanted to not compromise on what was going to be on the album.
We wanted the album to “decide” what was going to be on it, meaning there wouldn’t be any personal pride (for example wanting this or that new song on the album) or anything else deciding how the album was going to turn out. There are way too many releases up through the years that we have thought would be better with fewer songs, and we really didn’t want to go into that trap. It was a difficult task, because we did have three or four new songs (all of really good quality, we think), but they just weren’t perfect for the album. I think most creative artists will feel at home in these questions and challenges, but this time we decided early not to do any compromises. Personally, I think we succeeded, because all of the songs have such an important role for the total experience, and there are no fillers or nothing that doesn’t belong there.
This is the first new studio material from Green Carnation in something like 15 years. I’m definitely not complaining! And for me, it works incredibly well as an album, or as an EP, so it really doesn’t matter. I like the idea of it being an EP, only in the sense that EPs are very often released ahead of an album, signposting the direction that a band is taking. Leaves… is a tremendous statement of intent! For me, it foreshadows what is going to be a magnificent album. It shows a band getting back together, and proving to themselves, as much as to their audience, that they are back and have something worth saying. It must have taken some time and thinking to decide whether or not the band did actually have something to say, after reforming for live performances. Many bands reform to perform live, but realise they have nothing new to say, and so continue to perform live, with no intention of releasing new music. How much of Leaves… was for you, rather than for us?
Luckily, most people understand, and take this as a piece of new sounds from a band that has been away for many, many years. As you touch on, we didn’t plan to do a new album before maybe early 2019. Having made the successful comeback in 2016, we needed to be completely sure that we still had it in us. So we continued playing live after 2016 and started making new music too, while discussing what we wanted with the next release.
During our first period, we did five albums that were very different from each other, but all of them contained lots of “typical” Green Carnation moments. We talked a lot about the band’s musical identity – what makes us stand out from other bands, and stuff like that. And we wanted to try to gather the most “typical” Green Carnation elements into one album. Therefore you can say there is a certain level of retrospect on the album, but it was also extremely important for us to give all of this new colours. After all, we are all 15 years more experienced as human beings and musicians since our last album together.
One of the things I absolutely love about Leaves…, and strangely (to me) another thing I’ve noticed a lot of people have criticised, is the inclusion of a reworking of My Dark Reflections. I get that people are complaining that a great deal of the release is taken up by an “old” song, but for me it’s a cornerstone of the new album. I don’t think this release would feel at all complete without it. And, apart from having always been one of my favourite GC songs, it is possibly one of the most important ever for the band. How important do you feel that song is to Green Carnation as a whole, and how important was it to include it on Leaves of Yesteryear?
First, I have to say I am curious where you have actually found all the criticism, because generally the feedback and reviews have been nothing but amazing. Although we have been blessed with fantastic reviews before, I actually think it has never been so over the top as with Leaves of Yesteryear! [Laughs]
The criticism stood out to me, because I didn’t agree with any of it. It’s not something I’ve seen in any review subsequently, and I’ve seen it only in the comments of individuals on Facebook. Leaves of Yesteryear absolutely deserves over the top reviews. So often a comeback album, especially after so long, can be disappointing. The fact that people are not finding it disappointing, but rather moaning about the length or the inclusion of an “old” song, speaks volumes to me. And, as I said, My Dark Reflections is a cornerstone of the album. I can’t imagine the album working without it. It doesn’t just fit, it fits perfectly. But it was still an interesting – and perhaps surprising for many – decision to make.
We knew that doing a remade version of one of our own songs was not a very typical thing to do. But then again, we have never been a band afraid of following our ambitions, and some of our ambition for this album was to knit together all of Green Carnation’s recording career. With the entire band (except for Tchort [guitars]) having been changed from our first to our second album, it made great sense for us that the current line-up made a version of My Dark Reflections, in a way that we would have written it today.
Another aspect in that decision is that this song is probably the most important song in the band’s history. The entire Light of Day, Day of Darkness is built on My Dark Reflections, and if it hadn’t been for that song on the first album, who knows what Green Carnation would have become. And, being 20 years since the release, we also thought it would be a good idea to tribute the very first chapter of the band’s recording history.
And not least, getting back to us wanting the album to “decide” which songs which was going to be on it, I think nobody can really disagree that this is a very important song for how the album turned out. For me it is the perfect centrepiece of this, all the time the rest of it is like it is.
Absolutely! Nobody could argue the importance of My Dark Reflections! The lyrics reveal the first mention of “Light of Day, Day of Darkness”, and indeed that epic has always seemed to me to stem from My Dark Reflections, so it’s nice to get confirmation from you that that is the case. Which, I guess, brings up the burning question on every GC fan’s lips – is a sequel to Light of Day forthcoming?
I know when I first read the track-listing for Leaves… (released long before any of the music was available to hear), I had quite ambivalent feelings. On one hand, I was a little sceptical, but on the other, I was terribly excited to see My Dark Reflections in there. For me, that implied that as much as you are looking forward to new things (or you’d not have bothered releasing any new studio material at all), you were still looking back. I could totally understand if Light of Day never sees its sequel(s), of course. The burden of expectation is truly great, and no matter how good it might be, there will always be those who tear it down, just because it has taken so long to come to fruition, and they personally did not find it lived up to their expectations. How much does a sequel weigh on your shoulders? Is it something you are considering?
A good question, that I could have answered in many ways. I think the truth is that the trilogy idea wasn’t really well enough thought through when it was first launched, and people have followed up with lots of questions. And we have let the speculations run without really ever having any concrete answers to what is going to happen. What I can say now, is that we have some stupidly ambitious plans for the next few years, that will answer most of those questions. But I cannot be more specific at this time…
Well, that’s really exciting! Which makes me feel bad for asking this next question, but another criticism I have read (and I’m guessing you have not), is the inclusion of a cover song. Again, I must let you know that I find the criticism completely unwarranted, and related more to how people conceive an album should be constructed. I absolutely love what you’ve done with Solitude – and you’ve made it sound like a Green Carnation original. Honestly, if I didn’t know it was a Sabbath song, I’d never have realised it is a cover, so much have you made it your own. And lyrically, it just fits. I really can’t conceive of a better closing statement. Solitude finishes Leaves… perfectly. It feels like it was deliberate and planned. In fact everything about Leaves…, and its sequencing, seems very deliberate and very planned. The flow of the release is perfect. How late in the process did you decide to close it with Solitude?
Again, it is a matter of choosing the right song for the right “role” in an album. And I think we succeeded this time in getting it exactly right. I had actually been trying to put on two or three of the other new songs we have written after Hounds, and it really made the whole experience different. In a way I am so happy we ended up again taking a bold decision, to include a cover song. Solitude contains the exact mood we needed, and the lyrics make you wonder if that song was actually made for this album.
Solitude was the last song that we decided. We knew that we needed a song to close the album, and tried out one or two more options before discovering that this one would be the one. I agree with you, I don’t think we could have had a better song to close the album.
Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you answering my questions and I very much look forward to the next chapter in the Green Carnation story.
Thank you for interesting and well thought out questions. All the best!
[You can read Nick’s review of Leaves of Yesteryear HERE. Photos used in this article by Lisa Marie Bynes and used with her kind permission.]