So it seems that Norway's Borknagar, cosmic black metallers of some renown, have an acoustic album in the works. Sounds like a good idea to me, and I'm looking forward to hearing their swirling compositions presented in a less bombastic format. Besides, their last couple releases, Empiricism and Epic, were quite samey, and giving their sound an experimental overhaul could be exactly what they need.
Going acoustic sometimes seems like a desperate gambit for a creatively spent band, but I'm sure Borknagar aren't aiming to simply remake some "hits," giving them a radio-friendly sheen for the 18-to-35 drivetime audience. The few one-off "major departure" releases from their heavy metal peers have been credible. I thought Opeth's toned-down prog move, Damnation, was a spectacular success, while Green Carnation's The Acoustic Verses from earlier this year was a very enjoyable release.
Green Carnation are probably best known for their 60-minute concept song/album, Light of Day, Day of Darkness, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production that hit a number of a moods while never losing its flow or sounding anything less than grandiose. After that album, they retreated to shorter, more rocking material on Blessing In Disguise and The Quiet Offspring, before unplugging for their latest album, a project to celebrate Green Carnation's 15th year of existence. I talked to guitarist Tchort (who's been involved with Emperor, Carpathian Forest, and the ultra-heavy Blood Red Throne over the years) for Unrestrained! #30. Here's some stuff I had to whittle out of the finished article.
Do you think you'll perform any of these songs from The Acoustic Verses in electric versions? Do you think they'll change in the coming years?
I think Kjetil [Nordhus, vocals] mentioned that his song "Maybe?" was a song he originally wrote that for the full band, but then he made a different version for this album. So that one maybe will be presented later on as a full band version. But I can easily see us doing these songs during a full band live set, maybe in the middle of the set, take everything down and play some acoustic songs before continuing. We’ve been thinking a lot about how to do this in the future because we started doing a lot of acoustic shows as well. We did a couple acoustic shows in Finland with really, really good response as well. A lot of the other material like Blessing in Disguise and also stuff from The Quiet Offspring works really well in acoustic form. So it’s possible to do both separate, but it’s also possible for us to do it combined. You never know.
Do you still think about The Quiet Offspring? Will you be still going on the road to promote it?
We do play a lot from The Quiet Offspring, and we never played as many shows as we do right now. We never set up a tour for The Quiet Offspring. We did a European tour for Blessing in Disguise and that was the first tour we ever did. We were supposed to do a European tour in January and early February, but it seems our keyboard player has double booked himself with another band. I think it’s going to be split up to do long weekend shows in different countries. We do promote both The Quiet Offspring and the EP [The Burden is Mine...Alone]and the new album in every forthcoming show. We have four albums and a back catalogue that we need to promote. For example, Light of Day, Day of Darkness, people don’t want to hear a small portion of it, they want to hear the whole thing and then you end up having a three-hour setlist. That’s not always easy to work out either, so...
That's almost a special event kind of thing, isn't it?
It is. It requires a lot of equipment and so on and it’s always a big problem to bring on flights. The keyboard for this Canadian trip [to Toronto's Day of the Equinox Festival last October, where they played the entire Light of Day...] weighed 60 kilos that was 70% more than the maximum weight that Air Canada would allow, and that was just for one piece. So it was a big problem fighting at the airport just to bring it into Canada or get it out of Norway and bring it back again.
This is the first album you’ve done with your new production company, Sublife Productions. Why did you form Sublife?
Because I think that I will have different goals within the next few years. In previous years it’s been touring especially with Carpathian Forest, whom I also play with, and then there’s Blood Red Throne, whom I also tour with, and then there’s Green Carnation, whom I also tour with. I have a son at home and it’s not that easy anymore to go on the road and have 200 travel days a year, so basically I’m trying to see a little ahead, and I see myself cutting down on touring. I need to do something at home that still can be possible to combine with touring, and having a regular job doesn’t let you combine that. So I decided to form this company together with Kjetil our vocalist and basically do what I’ve been doing for the last five years, and that’s working as a booking agent/management/recording label for my other bands. Kjetil's also in Trail of Tears and another band called Chain Collector. So it’s basically doing the same thing we’ve been doing these past years but now under a specific name and just making it an official company.
Is it a way of controlling your career instead of leaving it in other people's hands?
Not really, because I don’t have problems…I have been working with a lot of great labels like The End Records, so I don’t have any problems leaving some of that responsibility with others. But it’s basically just having something to go back to when you don’t go on the road as much as you used to.
What other kinds of acts are you interested in working with and possibly signing?
We decided to go with a very local aim, meaning that we feel that bands from our area [Kristiansand] have great quality and a lot of potential, but it’s usually bands from Bergen or Oslo that people abroad know about. All the bands that you hear about in foreign magazines are Oslo bands or sometimes Bergen-located bands, but we feel that the bands where we come from have just as much potential and maybe even a greater quality to them, and we decided to focus on our own bands and tried to push some of the local bands. So you’ll be hearing from some local bands in the future and I think they have a great potential to get somewhere, of course depending a lot on the work that we do.