Honest Review: Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear

Green Carnation – Leaves of Yesteryear
Season of Mist

Forget Tool’s length between albums. From the ashes rise Green Carnation and their newest album in fourteen years, Leaves of Yesteryear. The modest progressive metal pioneers, well-established because of their 2001 opus, Light of Day, Day of Darkness, come forward with another album with their unique twist on the genre.

Mixing elements from black, doom, and progressive metal, Leaves of Yesteryear is yet another gem from these Norwegian musicians featuring four new songs and a re-recording of a song off of their debut album, My Dark Reflections of Life and Death.

The real beauty within the album derives from the subtle intricacies sprawled throughout. The chorus of title track, for example features a plain sounding trumpet effect from the keyboard. Mixed with the instruments, it becomes epic. As the chorus replays throughout the song, the trumpeting builds with orchestral brilliance.

On Sentinels, the transition from bridge to the final chorus features two measures in 4/4 timing. Traditional songs would use one measure to transition – but Green Carnation’s brilliance extends it to two: the first featuring the music ringing out from the bridge and the second coming in with sustained vocals and a beautifully simplistic drum fill – resetting the tempo of the song. These little bits in the songs seem minor but absolutely add much needed vigor and strength into what some may feel as an overtly virtuoso and stale genre.

The rerecording of My Reflections breathes new life into the song. Despite its twenty year age, it fits well within the album and still feels new. Not many bands can say they’ve accomplished such a feat.

While progressive metal seems to showcase flashy solos and technical unisons, Hounds shows how progressive metal can have both groove and heart. The chorus demands the listener to sing along. The thumping bass keeps a steady groove and features refreshing R&B variations that are not often referenced in the genre.

The album concludes with Solitude – a cover off of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. Arguably the weakest song on the album due to its solemn nature, Solitude is haunting, beautiful, and sad – a different kind of feel from most of the album. While the track sorting of the album lets Solitude work best as the last song, it feels strange the album wasn’t bookended with another bolder song as a pick-me-up.

After a long hiatus, Green Carnation returns to form with Leaves of Yesteryear. It’s something familiar of fans who have stuck with the band over the years, while still presenting something different. It’s a complicated album masking itself as simplicity. The Leaves of Yesteryear has depth, courage, and teeth to it. It is definitely one of the best progressive metal albums I’ve heard in the past decade.

Welcome back, Green Carnation. You were sorely missed.

Uncanny Metal Score: 9/10

Green Carnation on Season of Mist

The Best Video Game Songs

Video games have been permanently ingrained into culture. I’m sure everyone can recite the first seven notes from Nintendo’s 1985 Super Mario Bros. or can remember the creepy yet hastily descending “doots” from Space Invaders.

While those songs are certainly memorable, I personally do not consider them to be “great.” What defines great? That’s a matter of personal preference. Do not let me tell you what to enjoy. However, this is my personal list of the Best Video Game Songs – NOT soundtracks – that I could come up with. In no particular order:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Hyrule Field Main Theme (Nintendo 64 – 1998)

There’s two games that “blew me away” when it came to their open world. One game was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when you leave the prison (you folks know what I’m talking about). But the first game that really impressed me was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. One reason was because I had never played a video game like it before. The other reason was because of the incredible theme that accompanied the first appearance of this “open world.” The field of Hyrule was my playground, filled with places to explore and had danger afoot. The music manages to encapsulate the feelings of wonder and excitement of exploring.

Mega Man 4 – Dive Man (NES – 1991)

With such a wide arrangement of Mega Man games to choose from, why Dive Man’s stage? Dive Man’s underwater level hits a few points home: the low bass tones emphasize the deep water within the level. The lead MIDI has a bit of a strange ring to it when it peaks, suggesting to me the villainy behind the level. The song also builds up and builds down both flawlessly and seamlessly. I could hear the song play for hours and not expect an “ending” per se, from it. It’s one of the few Mega Man songs that will pop into my head from time to time and really make me want to hop back onto my NES and lose an hour in the game.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert – Hell March (PC – 1996)

Some people may say Metallica was their first encounter with heavy metal music. But if you lived in a shell like I did, you either first heard it from Doom or Command & Conquer: Red Alert. The Hell March is a literal staple in video gaming. The sluggish, hefty bass riff leads the charge (or march) with a steady 4/4 drum beat and distorted guitars. Verses, while mostly simple chugging riffs, evoke thoughts of the battles between a Mammoth Tank vs. a Tesla Coil, or attack dogs mauling down an enemy spy. The theme was updated in both sequels of the game, but there’s a simplistic nostalgia from the original theme that cannot be replicated.

Homeworld – The Beginning and the End (PC – 1999)

Homeworld is widely regarded as having one of the greatest soundtracks for a video game. As one of the first songs in the game, The Beginning and the End, brings me sheer bliss. This real-time space strategy game introduced a full X, Y, and Z axis to gaming – a feat for its time. Composer Paul Ruskay managed to create a brilliant track to get the user familiar with the gameplay mechanics. The peaceful song not only keeps the player cool during the tutorial, but also establishes the true vastness the game brought – you’re in space after all! This song has been on repeat at my home for years as its calming effects are trance-like. It is hands-down one of my favourite songs ever.

Stardew Valley – A Flicker in the Deep (PC, Switch, PS4, Android – 2016)

It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s my favourite song the soundtrack has to offer. In its wide variety of moods, from seasonal themes, to battles, A Flicker in the Deep brings a sort of joy which I feel isn’t captured in any other song in the game. While it may be one of the shortest songs on my list, it’s certainly one of the most impactful ones.

Pokemon Red/Blue – Viridian City (Game Boy – 1998 US)

If there’s one song that always stood out for me, it’s the Viridian City theme from the original Pokemon games. Why? It kind of has a double meaning: at first, you enter Viridian City to get started on your journey. It’s the first major place you visit and get a feel for the game. It’s your established “base” until you make your way to the next city. However, Viridian City is also your LAST city in the game. You beat Team Rocket there and you make your way to the Pokemon League. The music, somehow, is nostalgic even while you’re in the game for the first time. It’s the first song to see you off, and the last song to see you go. With it’s peaks and relatively calming presence, it’s always cheering for you.

Terminal Velocity – Ymir Theme (PC – 1995)

3D Realms, folks. The original Duke Nukem, Blake Stone, Wacky Wheels, and more came from this company. Yet most people haven’t heard of the 3D flight simulation shooter, Terminal Velocity – which is okay! Let me bring you up to speed: you’re a ship and you shoot things. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, Ymir’s Theme, from level one, somehow made the gameplay feel a lot more epic than it actually was. With the heavy synth rising and falling over the industrial beats, you ended up listening to the loop multiple times in the level as you struggled to find where to go. To this day, the synths will make their appearance into my mind and I’ll just want to drop everything and shoot some tanks.

FTL: Faster Than Light – Milky Way (PC – 2012)

Whether you’re battling the rebels or making your next jump through space, FTL’s music is all something to awe over. However, Milky Way has a very calming, yet action-packed feel to it. The revving arpeggios from the beginning of the song continue throughout and end up becoming the background as lead instruments take over. The song is eerily simplistic, but rich with depth and lots of layers. A beautiful song.

Left 4 Dead – Tank Theme (PC, Xbox 360 – 2008)

I’ve spent many hours (days, even) playing L4D (Hi, Cherish and Andrew!) While it’s a short theme, you don’t even need to see the Tank coming to feel a sense of dread. The music does it for you. Operatic and booming, the Tank theme from Left 4 Dead, a “zombie” shooting game, absolutely strikes fear into the players. The main reason being: no one knows where the Tank, a super-strong Hulk-like “zombie,” is coming from. Valve built L4D as a game with no real “script,” meaning things don’t happen in an order – everything is randomized. A Tank can appear wherever. As such, it’s the music which really triggers the anxiety in the player – beginning you let the player fear what they cannot see.

Silent Hill – Silent Hill Theme (PlayStation – 1999)

Can anyone name me a song that’s both creepier and beautiful at the same time? I don’t think I need to say much about this one. It’s a classic. With traditional instrumentation and 90s synth, it’s an absolute wonder.

Resident Evil 4 – Echo in the Night (GameCube – 2005)

I may be biased, but Resident Evil 4 my favourite game in the series (I know, right? Please don’t fight me on it). As the game got drearier and darker, this theme played and wow. What a treat. The eerie, echoing howl right off the bat. The moody, dark tones in the background. Is that talking in the background or are my ears playing tricks on me? It’s an incredibly sinister song that is riddled with atmosphere.

Kirby’s Dream Land – Green Greens (Game Boy – 1992)

Kirby, man. What a guy (thing?) The song, Green Greens from the first stage is somehow playful, yet action-packed. It features a memorable lead that has an interesting twinge with it – enough to make it unique and stand out from other songs in the game.

Doom – At Doom’s Gate (PC – 1993)

Doom. Level One. You already know the song. Forget the Metallica influence. What can be said about At Doom’s Gate that hasn’t already been said? It perfectly captures the intensity, violence, gore, and speed which Doom is known for. A great heavy metal thrill ride, the loop of the song doesn’t feel exhausting nor does it begin to sound boring. As long as there’s bad guys to shoot, give me hell.

Portal – Still Alive (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 – 2007)

The end theme to Portal, the triumphant and hilarious song both wraps up the game and teases a future. It’s a painfully simplistic song, but it’s the lyrics and singing which certainly makes it standout – and original.

Katamari Damacy – Katamari on the Rocks (PS2 – 2004)

If someone were to ask me “What’s Katamari about?” I’d tell them, “You roll stuff up” and then play this track and walk away. That’s because I feel this song perfectly summarizes the enjoyment and amazement of the game. A joyful theme, it has enough strange in it to intrigue the listener to want to play. Great instrumentation, percussion, and singing, the song – and the soundtrack – puts a smile on my face. “La la la la la Katamari Damacy.”

Gunstar Heroes – Opening Theme (SEGA – 1993)

A triumphant opening to an arcade classic. Gunstar Heroes’ opening theme quickly fades into a grandiose anthem. With the spinning logo, the amount of sheer excitement one feels before pressing “start” cannot be ignored. The rest of the game’s music is great too, but the intro certainly takes the cake.

X-Men 2: Clone Wars – Sentinel Complex (SEGA – 1995)

The crushing bass groove, technological babble in the background, and screeching metal throughout makes this song both original and powerful. When matched with the hefty bass sounds from the attacks in the game, it almost feels as if it’s part of the action. While this beast of a game was memorable for being a challenge for a lot of kids, I’m certain this song is memorable for the riffs within it.

Honorable mentions:

Sable Theme (PC – TBD)

There’s not much to be said yet about Sable. It’s an adventure game which is heavily influenced by the artist Mœbius. The song, Glider, is an original song written by Japanese Breakfast for the trailer. While there’s still no release date for the game, the song seems to at least capture the feeling of it.

Fallout 3 – Bob Crosby and the Bobcats – Way Back Home (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 – 2008, Bob Crosby – 1951)

While technically not a song from a game, the folks at Bethesda wanted to really make this post-apocalyptic world feel apocalyptic. How so? Digital music didn’t survive the nuclear fallout, only vinyl did. Crosby’s song somehow, ironically, manages to summarize the Fallout game perfectly.

Chrono Cross – Time’s Scar (PlayStation – 2000 US)

I asked my brother what he felt were some of the best songs. He gave me this from Chrono Cross. Holy smokes, it’s great. The peaceful and calming music picks up after a minute and absolutely rocks. Taking advantage of the PlayStation’s higher audio capability, composer Yasunori Mitsuda knocks it out of the park. What a treat.

And that’s it!

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Did I miss a game? Is there something I should reconsider? Let me know in the comments below, or follow me on social media.

Top 20 Albums of the Decade (2010-2019)

As 2019 comes to a close, I decided to go back and think about what really impressed me over the last ten years. There was so much new music this decade, one may think it was difficult to come up with a list.

You know what? It was!

On average, I listen to about 50 new albums every year. Times that by a decade and holy smokes – that’s a lot of music!

Initially I had started this list with thirty albums that really impressed me. However, I felt that was a bit too long. Cutting down to twenty was surprisingly easy. It was the painstaking task of sorting the top twenty which really took time.

I only put one album from 2019 in my list as I felt most of the albums released this year are still too “fresh” for me to make a decent judgement call on. You’ll notice what I mean when you see songs that were #1 from 20XX suddenly not holding their own – or even on the list at all!

Albums that are labelled “DNR” means they “Did Not Rank.” This may mean they were in my Honorable Mentions from that year, or maybe missed getting recognized entirely!

Starting off at number twenty. . .

20. Ozric Tentacles – Technicians of the Sacred (2015 – #3)
Fav. song: Changa Masala

This all instrumental double album from these psychedelic English prog rockers is some of their best work in their over thirty year career. Grooving, atmospheric, and just downright fun – it’s definitely their most accessible album for all listeners.

19. Gridlink – Longhena (2014 – #5)
Fav. song: Island Sun

It’s still something I like to call “beautiful grindcore” – there’s something very angelic to Gridlink’s Longhena. Intense as it may be, there’s a sense of beauty and poetry behind all of the chaos.

18. Riverside – Love, Fear, and the Time Machine (2015 – #1)
Fav. song: Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)

While not all #1 albums can make it to #1 again, in 2015, Riverside’s LF&tTM hit me in the right spot at the right time. Still melancholic, this prog rock album is most peaceful when listened to in the right mood.

17. Spaceslug – Eye the Tide (2018 – #4)
Fav. song: Spaced by One

This is one heck of a dirty album. Sludge/doom/stoner – whatever the genre you wish to call it, Spaceslug’s Eye the Tide delivers. A couple of years later, I still have a bit of the spaceslug in me.

16. Barenaked Ladies – Fake Nudes (2017 – DNR)
Fav. song: The Township of King

Not everything needs to be metal, y’know. The first album on this list which eluded getting ranked before. When one removes the obvious pop-fueled “singles” from the album, what is left is an incredible mix of musicianship and production. Fake Nudes is a relaxing joy to listen to.

15. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (2017 – #5)
Fav. song: Mirror Reaper

One of the bleakest albums on the list, Bell Witch’s funeral doom album stretches over an hour and twenty minutes. Foreboding and crushing in darkness, Mirror Reaper is something I play for introspection rather than entertainment.

14. Cannibal Corpse – Torture (2012 – DNR)
Fav. song: Scourge of Iron

One of a few albums that originally had not ranked before, Torture turned around on me. Impacting, aggressive, intense, great production – all these things and more is why I’ve listened to Torture more than any other Cannibal Corpse album this decade.

13. Khôrada – Salt (2018 – #2)
Fav. song: Seasons Of Salt

Salt is still an album that weirds me out – I still haven’t heard anything like it before. With the strangest of production, composition, and sounds, I feel Khôrada will keep me interested for years to come.

12. Marillion – Fuck Everyone and Run (FEAR) (2016 – #10)
Fav. song: Living in F E A R

FEAR has grown on me a lot over the few years it has been out. I spin it regularly and each time I feel something truly historic and beautiful about it. Marillion created an album which continues to give. It’s a wonderful album.

11. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2017 – #2)
Fav. song: So Falls the World

The production on this album won me over, as did the enchanting journey it provided. It’s a producers delight and brilliant fun with headphones on.

10. Aborted – Retrogore (2016 – #7)
Fav. song: Retrogore

In your face and direct, Retrogore ranks high for being self aware and ridiculously good death metal. It’s fast, brutal, and something I spin regularly for having a good time. It has easily became my favourite album of theirs.

9. YOB – Our Raw Heart (2018 – #1)
Fav. song: Beauty in Falling Leaves

An emotional thrill ride, Our Raw Heart delivers with the slow burns of intensity. It’s still one of the most beautiful doom metal albums I’ve ever heard, and most certainly their best sounding release this decade.

8. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016 – #3)
Fav. song: Pleiades’ Dust

A modern-day epic, Pleiades’ Dust is a monument to songwriting. As the song/album ebbs and flows, one can really pick out the instrumentation and true “orchestral” beauty that Gorguts puts into their music.

7. Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016 – #1)
Fav. song: Recharging the Void

Bringing me chills by the end of it, Terminal Redux may be one of the best thrash albums I’ve ever heard. With a great story to boot, Vektor knocked it out of the park with such an impactful piece of art.

6. Devin Townsend – Empath (2019 – #1)
Fav. song: Singularity

The only album from 2019 on my list, Empath ranks so high because it certainly deserves it. Much like Khôrada’s Salt, Empath brings something new to the table. For that, it must be recognized.

5. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (2014 – #1)
Fav. song: Tree of Suffocating Souls

Where would I be without Triptykon? Some of the most extreme and honest music on the list; this album sings right from the depth of the soul. Melana Chasmata something I spin regularly.

4. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015 – #2)
Fav. song: Happy Returns

Initially getting beat out by Rivierside in 2015, Steven Wilson now jumps ahead of the pack. The metaphorical lyrics, the subtle musical moments and technical prowess – Hand. Cannot. Erase. is truly one of the best concept albums of the decade.

3. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (2010 – DNR)
Fav. song: Black Lake Nidstang

This Agalloch album is VERY closely contended with my #1 and 2. I’ve been going back and forth for a couple of weeks debating and choosing one over the other. Alas, I had to decide. But first: Marrow of the Spirit, I believe is the best Agalloch album. Not The Mantle and not Pale Folklore. Don’t @ me. Marrow of the Spirit has something rustic, intense, and intrinsically beautiful lingering among all of the chaos.

2. Anathema – Weather Systems (2012 – #1)
Fav. song: Untouchable, Part 1 & 2

Anathema’s Weather Systems may be one of the most beautiful, yet surprisingly sad albums to have ever graced this planet. Musically, it’s genius. Lyrically, it’s poetic and sincere. Weather Systems is a triumph for both the mind and ears.

1. Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (2010 – DNR)
Fav. song: The Prolonging

From the incredible album cover created by the late and great H.R. Giger, Eparistera Daimones encapsulates all I love in the heavy metal genre. From start to finish, this album absolutely dominates the listener and refuses to let them breathe. Its lyrical content is brutally honest and the music properly reflects that. Songs like Abyss Within My Soul are heavy in both sound and content. My Pain is hypnotically ethereal yet devastating at the same time. It being the segue into the nineteen minute epic, The Prolonging, is absolute genius.

I debated putting both Triptykon albums in my list. It may seem like both albums in my list here are the same: but they’re most certainly not. Eparistera Daimones, coming out of the ashes of Celtic Frost, has a unique quality and sincerity about it. There’s purposeful cracks in the armor. There’s noticeable pain, bleakness, anger, and darkness. I really cannot stress the honesty of this album enough. It’s a masterpiece and work of art wrapped around in doom, aggression, terror, atmosphere, and chaos. The album is non-apologetic for what it is and proudly wears its wounds.

For those reasons and a ton more, is why Eparistera Daimones is truly one of the greatest albums of the decade.

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Questions, concerns, thoughts? Did I miss something? Let me know! And let’s see what the next decade will bring us! If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!