Green Carnation - 'The Acoustic Verses'2006
Rating - 8/B
The first time I heard this Norwegian band, they'd released a 60-minute epic song called Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness. Like any Jethro Tull fan, I'm inclined to view such excursions with a sort of pathetic hope, like a kicked puppy believing that his drunken master won't kick him this time. Fortunately, this particular album/song project amply delivered pats on the back and scratches under the chin. Essentially dark metal, the album included forays into more symphonic and acoustic terrain as well. So it's not a big surprise that, 6 years and two albums later, they'd choose to release a largely acoustic album. It's not all acoustic, but it is stripped down and without a single power-chord riff or double-bass beat in sight.
It isn't the sort of back-to-basics excursion these acoustic wanderings usually are, but a pretty well-realised album with a few moments of the prog-friendly ambition you'd expect from the band responsible for the longest song in metal history (not guaranteed to be an actual fact). It also has moments where prettiness overwhelms depth, which is why I'm giving it a relatively low rating of 8, when my first instinct was to go with 9 or even 10. I'd go a bit lower, but I just love Sweet Leaf, and several other songs are just growing on me, and I expect will do the same for otehrs. I still think Green Carnation could well have made every song equally good without sacrificing diversity, considering that they once created a 60 minute song that managed to sustain interest throughout.
The album is full of great atmospheres and melodies - even the weaker songs happen to be very melodically strong. Sweet Leaf opens the album with a truly brilliant mood, warm yet longing, with a great mix of high and low vocals and a neat fleshing out of the sound with horns, strings and electric keyboard. The song Maybe seems fairly normal, but it has a section at the end which evokes shades of psychedelia, with odd chorus vocals and theremin in such a cool manner that you have to love it. At least, I did. Alone is essentially a musical adaptation of a poem of the same name by Edgar Alan Poe and is distinguished by the presence of some very folksy violin playing - seems more Irish folk than Scandinavian, though. 9-29-045, which has three distinct parts in it, is the most proggish song here. The three sections segue together very well and the moderately dark atmosphere is pretty captivating too. Great melodies and chordal content all over the place. The instrumental Child's Play 3 is another weak spot, however - it could have served as a more light refreshment between the two full-course servings on this album, but the piano melodies are just a little too saccharine for my taste, a little too easy-listening to hold up to the overall level of ambition here. Similarly, the second song on the album, The Burden Is Mine Alone is a little too close to smething nearly any mopey modern rock band could have written to really excite me. It's actually rather good in its own way, but it feels too common for this album, especially after the stellar Sweet Leaf. The last song, High Tide Waves, is again a longer, more ambitious piece with slightly heavier arrangements and some great guitar playing.
The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline: From the churning depths of Scandinavian black/dark metal emerges...an acoustic-dominated album of real depth and melodicity.