When Green Carnation, the progressive Norwegian sextet that gave birth to avant-Black pioneers In The Woods, split for the second time in 2007, no-one gave it a cat in hell’s chance of reformation. Yet the green (ahem) shots of recovery spawned with 2018’s live album Last Day of Darkness (Prophecy Productions), and here we are with the band’s sixth album Leaves of Yesteryear (Season of Mist), in what is the 30th anniversary of its formation.
The album begins with the title track, signature chimes and organ tinkles decorating the pensive verses and histrionic choruses that come across as some kind of dark Magnum, with the euphoric parps of Europe assisting muscular riffs and cascading leadwork. The track’s quieter moments are thoughtful, haunting passages suddenly enlivened by Kjetil Nordhus‘ powerful harmonies and dramatic switches in movement and tempo, its swollen coda both meaningful and triumphant.
Though undeniably overblown it’s a very enjoyable and effective way to announce such a return. The ensuing ‘Sentinels’ possesses an Eastern influence and marries this with a harder edge in the bridges and choruses: Kenneth Silden‘s keyboard wizardry adorning wonderful dictation from Stein Roger Sordal‘s crunching bass and Jonathan Perez‘s precision stickwork. ‘My Dark Reflections of Life and Death’ is an epic that begins in suitable fashion, its solitary chords setting a melancholy scene before atmospheric wails and tribal drums herald the arrival of a true Prog masterpiece. NWOBHM-style riffs and leads blend with symphonic musings, often undercut with blastbeat rhythms. At times it’s hugely moving and is reminiscent of King Goat‘s most powerful, stirring moments: tragic storytelling; wondrous arrangement; and an almost organic songcraft that belies the complexity of the track itself. The equally grandiose ‘Hounds’ commences in a similar style to that of its predecessor, Nordhus’ subtly plaintive voice rising above delicate keys before the crushing riffs kick in, and while this doesn’t display the presence or intensity of ‘…Reflections…’ it remains musically involving and is fired by more of those startling solos.
Closer ‘Solitude’ is wrapped in a fragile beauty, with Silden’s delicious Rhodes keys a major feature accompanying wonderfully layered acoustic guitars. The stringwork of Bjørn Halstad and sole founder member Tchort is too easily overshadowed by the huge rhythms and atmospheres swirling around this great comeback yet is arguably the core ingredient, creating the lush musicality and power alongside Silden’s spectral airs, and highlights the skill and creativity Green Carnation still exudes after all these years. Leaves of Yesteryear is totally Prog; unashamedly Scandinavian; and a wonderful return.
8 / 10