Green Carnation – A Blessing in Disguise (2003) – 5/5
This is a band I seriously considered getting someone else to review, for fear of sounding like an annoying fapping fan, but as you may have guessed, I re considered. This is a band I thought I had already reviewed (so imagine my dismay when I realised they were missing), and is quite possibly my favourite prog/rock band. And yes, I considered mammoths such as ayreon and king crimson in that statement, just to give you an idea of the level of quality to be expected here. Whilst not a poorly known band in the right circles, outside of these circles they aren’t mentioned nearly enough, and certainly deserve more attention, at least in my eyes.
This album, quite frankly, does absolutely nothing wrong. The guitars display addictive riff after riff, adding melodic solo’s where needed, displaying their prowess time and time again whilst at no point feeling the remotest bit ‘showy.’ Everything fits to the atmosphere of the track perfectly. The bass whilst a bit quiet, also clearly plays a prominent role in the sound created, the drums adding further variety to this in order to create a creative playground not dissimilar to the manner in which agalloch succeed in this, in how they subtly create an atmosphere, a playground within which they can explore at their leisure.
And then the vocals are superb. What they lack perhaps in a unique tone, they more than make up for in the manner in which they are done. The range in his voice, the deeper and depressive tones, the emotion in every note, from the catchy chorus lines to the more aggressive side of their sound, everything is done with a certain finesse that places him on a pedestal above many others.
But all this, for all its splendour is not enough to promote it to that ‘perfect’ status required; whilst everything is done well, nothing thus far discussed has been done too differently, or indeed better than others. Where they excel most is not in their individual talents, but rather the songs composition. They have taken a very literal meaning of what it means to be a progressive artist, each song physically progresses, the manner in which it ends may be vastly different from how it ends. Frequently there are interchanges between styles, progressing from perhaps a softer note into a more aggressive tone, and it is these gradual transitions that lend a sense of change, a passage of time. It feels as though it fully explores the subject matter in a number of its aspects, unrestricted from a single point of view the song meanders through depression, anger, despair, understanding and a number of other tones, retaining a sense of familiarity whilst being diverse enough to demand your attention.
I must apologise if all this sounds like I’m praising them too highly, but this most certainly fits my description of perfection. Each track presents something new in a diverse, catchy and addictive bundle, filled with emotional twists and catchy chorus lines this simply must be heard by every fan of the genre.
Highlights: Lullaby in Winter, Two Seconds in Life, As Life Flows By.
Green Carnation – Light of Day, Day of Darkness (2001) – 4/5
So how does one improve on their last effort? Well, I suppose improve isn’t the right term, but consisting of one track over an hour in length it’s certainly different. Is it an album? Is it a single? The answer to this question is rather pointless, as in either case, its awesome.
Taking everything that was great about their album that would follow, this exemplifies everything that makes them great in a single track. This is the very definition of epic, as it tells a story with a distinct start, middle and end, comparing this to any other album is like comparing ‘The hobbit’ to ‘Lord of the Rings’. Debateable which is the better, but unquestionably the latter excels in its depth, its detail, as every conceivable plot diversifies, converges and explodes to produce a legendary tale.
But unfortunately its format, whilst its major strength, is also it main weakness. Without a break this rarely gets played in full, a requirement in order to fully appreciate everything that is done here. This is an album in a single track, aggressive, depressive and emotional providing catchy sequences, great solo passages and displays every member at their best.
This single track is possibly the most carefully constructed and thought out track I can think of. Once again progressing in the more literal sense, it tells a story capable of completely immersing you in their fiction world. If you have the time, close your eyes and listen as this monolithic piece performs its magic, and transports you into their world, if only for an hour. If you simply don’t have the time to do this, your best bet would to reach for something else.
Green Carnation – Acoustic Verses (2006) – 4.5/5
So they’ve done their more conventional style, they went epic on us, here they present us with, yet again, a piece that is if anything more different from anything previous. As the name suggests, this an album constructed using acoustic guitars over electric, but they don’t use this as an excuse to overuse chords. Instead, were left with just as addictive chorus lines as before, creativity oozing as they perform. There can be no question that this is a far more slower paced and emotional album, but this suits me quite nicely. The addition of violin’s at the right time, keyboards cleverly crafted into the background, the faint echo of the drums, everything is done in a manner to create a subtle atmosphere that can easily creep up on you.
All this, if anything, just furthers the effect the vocals have, in his ability to twist and snarl in ‘high tide waves,’ the solemn approach in ‘the burden is mine…alone,’ and the number of different tones he adopts as the album progresses. In fact there is only one real criticism that can be made, and that is that as a consequence of the softer and more melodic tone, the diversity is not quite as prevalent as before. Whilst the tracks still progress and change in tone, it isn’t as distinct and forthright as in ‘A Blessing in Disguise.’ This results in a sound that at times, begins to stagnate. Some of the tracks are not short in length, and there are times I wonder if its length was necessary, whether it couldn’t have done without a verse, or something else to try and vary the sound. Though they perform on this front far better than most, it simply doesn’t live up to what I know them to be capable of.
Rarely does an acoustic album reach me that matches up to their best. This album proves me further the wealth of talent at this bands disposal, the instrument being used as a creative match for the electric guitar, rather than as a gimmick or easy way to produce an original sound. This is welcome addition to their already impressive back catalogue, and is ample justification for my faith in their abilities.
Highlights: Sweet Leaf, Alone, High Tide Waves
By T. Bawden