Interview: Belgium’s Carnation Putting the Petal to the Metal

Carnation vocalist Simon Duson may be Belgian, but he doesnt waffle when asked tough questions about his old-school death-metal band. Not even the most pressing query on the minds of devoted Carnation fans: Why, after a decade of devotion to harsh vocals, did Duson controversially decide to employ clean vocals for the first time—the OSDM equivalent of Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965?

We started (making our third studio album) with clean guitars, and clean vocals followed,” Duson responds logically during a recent video interview. It felt very refreshing for us to incorporate (new sounds). We definitely want to keep that metal heart of our sound, but we wanted to go a little more out of the box.”

Sounds simple enough. But conversations with metalheads about bands changing their sound, style, or persona often reveal their intransigence—which, in all fairness, is a major contributing factor to the genres staying power.

But, having banked enough tenure of their own, Carnation darlingly flex some new muscles on Cursed Mortality, the recently released record by the same label that put out the quintets first two: Season of Mist. Carnation properly introduced themselves in 2018 with Chapel of Abhorrence, then chased it two years later with Where Death Lies.

The first two albums that we released, we were very happy with,” the clean-cut Duson qualifies. But we didn’t want to create the third album in a similar vein to the first two. Jonathan (Verstrepen), (one of) our guitar player(s),writes most of our music. He came with ideas to the rehearsal room, and we heard something different compared to before.”

In an age when bands are all but solely responsible for marketing themselves and establishing a brand,” Carnation is a breath of fresh we-dont-give-a-fuck. During our conversation, Duson never lashes out against the haters. While mild-mannered and polite, the vocalist nonetheless exudes confidence in Carnations decision-making.

Diverging from our original sound has drawn us positive reactions but also very negative ones,” the vocalist comments casually.

Its no wonder why the vocalist considers divisive opinions about Cursed Mortality to be nothing more than interesting”: The new record is a death-metal masterpiece, irrefutably impressive in its technical prowess and songwriting acumen.

Not to be overlooked is another critical asset working in Carnations favor: The band still feature four of their original members. Duson, guitarists Verstrepen and Bert Vervoort, and bassist Yarne Heylen are still in Carnations ranks. Moreover, drummer Vincent Verstrepens seven-year stretch with the band aint nothinto sneeze at neither.

You can still clearly hear our identity in every single song on the new album,” Duson adds. However, he also admits that, “The third album has so many (non-OSDM) elements that labeling has become quite challenging. We were having a hard time (doing so). Like, What do we label this?So, with marketing and Spotify, we just call it metal.’”

Duson goes on to say that Carnation plans to keep pushing the envelope—for the true fans who expect as such from the boundary-smashing group. He rests assured that a little prog here, a little atmospheric metal there, and even some extra acoustic guitars dont dismantle Carnation as weve come to know the band.

Doing stuff that we didn’t really do in the previous two albums felt new and sometimes a bit scary,” Duson reflects. I would sometimes say, Im not quite sure how to do this,or, This doesn’t feel familiar.But it was fun and refreshing. And that’s how we ended up with this really cool album.”

The bands renewed efforts to expand and experiment with its sound even prompted Carnation to change its logo—arguably an even bolder move than altering the bands sound. The five guys recruited Christophe Szpajdel, a.k.a. The Lord of the Logos” for metal bands, to do the honors. The end result is a more visually appealing logo that looks more like calligraphy than OSDM chicken scrawl. 

The times, they are a changin. And Carnation are, too.

Cursed Mortality is available now from Season of Mist. Follow Carnation on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Season of Mist

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