Green Carnation – The Acoustic Verses

Green Carnation
The Acoustic Verses

Despite enjoying a fairly wide variety of music styles, I have to admit I’m a sucker for three things: melody, harmony, and a great singing voice. When Norwegian band Green Carnation’s latest, The Acoustic Verses, came my way, I recall thinking this would be another throw-away disc in a long line of so-so European prog-metal. The album title was intriguing though, and I wondered if a progressive rock/metal outfit could pull off an all-acoustic effort.

This is all before I knew anything about Green Carnation, which seems nearly impossible for a band that has had a career spanning nearly two decades. Although the group has apparently had a number of line-up changes in that time, the one constant has been founding member and lead guitarist Tchort. On The Acoustic Verses, he is joined by singer Kjetil Nordhus, bassist Stein Roger Sordal, drummer Tommy Jackson, guitarist Michael Krumins, pianist Kenneth Silden (who also provides strings, mellotron, and organ), and Bjorn Harstad on tremolo and slide guitars. It’s an impressive line-up that is further enhanced by three guest musicians who provide the album’s mighty string presence.

Although Green Carnation is perhaps best know for harder material, each of the band’s albums has had an entirely different approach, and The Acoustic Verses is no exception. The disc begins with “Sweet Leaf,” a beautiful, organic piece that is completely unrelated to the Black Sabbath song of the same name. With so many musicians taking part, the soundscape is as lush as one would imagine, and Nordhus’ attractive tenor is expertly paired with Silden’s deeper voice. The smooth but carefully laid textures of this track set the overall tone for the entire album. Every song flourishes with slight, somewhat understated ambiances that approach the ear softly but lay like a heavy blanket of snow.

All of the tracks on The Acoustic Verses flow in a similar vein – soft and melancholy, but powerful. “Maybe?” includes a theramin, perhaps the only instrument on the album that doesn’t count as purely acoustic, but it lends an interesting vibe as the song leads into the disc’s most notable appearance of drums. Elsewhere, like “Alone,” the percussion takes a back seat to the strings and guitar. The epic 15-and-a-half-minute “9-29-045” includes three movements – “My Greater Cause, Part I,” the instrumental “Home Coming, Part II,” and “House of Cards, Part III.” Green Carnation shows its progressive tendencies the most on this piece, and while many bands would use such an ambitious work to go overboard, this group has the right combination of ebbs and flows to keep the listener engrossed.

The Acoustic Verses is an album that should appeal to a variety of folks, but especially those who are generally drawn to hard rock and metal and are looking for something out of the ordinary. I imagine fans of Green Carnation’s earlier works – those that truly “get” what this group is about – will be thrilled with this release. Green Carnation has created a near masterpiece of stunning music with The Acoustic Verses, and this is one album you shouldn’t miss out on this year.