Review Summary: The Cartographer is the perfect counterpart to this band’s debut album, retaining its most likable traits and injecting it with more hooks and melodic qualities.
For those of you that have done everything in your power to forget seventh grade social studies, let this be a brief mini-lesson: a cartographer
is someone who produces maps, including the construction of projections, design, compilation, drafting, and reproduction (dictionary.com). The impact of cartography is far-reaching, influencing the discovery of nations, mediaeval trade routes, and our current society’s vast knowledge of the globe. It is truly one of the most underappreciated art forms in our world’s history.
The Republic of Wolves’ 2011 EP is slightly
less impressive…but The Cartographer
is still appropriately titled. The Republic of Wolves are in the process of establishing a signature sound, experimenting with new styles, and in essence, mapping out
where they are and where they want to go as artists in the twenty-first century music scene. The Cartographer
is the band’s way of reaching out beyond what they already know, and exploring the boundaries within themselves and within a genre. Varuna
was an outstanding debut, but there were still a few obvious shortcomings. The Cartographer
rectifies many of those issues, while staying true to the approach that fans of His Old Branches
found so alluring.
The Republic of Wolves appear to be letting loose a little bit, stepping outside of the rigidly dark alt-rock atmospheres of their earlier works and incorporating more melodic qualities. “Widow’s Walk”, for instance, features a huge sing along chorus, the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else in the band’s discography, save “The Oarsman.” There is a lighter tone throughout the EP that suggests that the band isn’t taking themselves so seriously this time around; and the fact that their efforts still result in something completely unique and this dynamic just make the evolution even more beautiful. “Home” follows up a peculiar but compelling instrumental introduction (“The Pilot and the Pilot’s Boy”) with twangy electric guitars and a surprisingly unrestrained vocal performance by Gregg Andrew, who belts out So I’ll stay with you in my mind, and I won’t let myself believe you’re mine!
in a balls-out, nearly Led Zeppelin like fashion. Then there are refreshingly forward moments like “Calm Down”, which, after the tremendously energetic and upbeat “Home”, does just that
to the listener. With slow acoustic strumming, dreamy sound effects, and echoing vocals, the song lulls you back into a sense of safety.
Another thing that avid fans will notice on The Cartographer
is the increased focus on percussion, as many of the songs benefit from the added “pop” of a well-timed drum fill or the intensity of a song driven from the start by drumming. The best instance of this can be found in the nine minute closer, “The Dead Men Stood Together”, which kicks off with some fast-paced and impressively diverse drumming techniques before shifting in rhythm to more of a ballad-style tempo. The band’s improvement in this area serves the EPs lively sound quite well, giving it an untamed sense of brazenness and fulfillment from a technical/musical standpoint.
Regardless of whether the Republic of Wolves amp it up or take a more mild approach, the one consistent theme throughout The Cartographer
is growth. The music is more melodic and accessible, and as a result, it flows better. It may not be as overtly dark
as the band’s preceding works, but it still maintains a level of mystique and a shadowy element that appears to be a permanent aspect of their personality. In the meanwhile, other areas of their music have become an open window, with endless possibilities for experimentation. There are undeniable traces of something absolutely remarkable occurring…something startlingly good
. It is bubbling under the surface, waiting to be unleashed… The Republic of Wolves are just getting started, and there is no doubt that they have an absolute monster
of an album hidden inside of them. It’s not a matter of if
, it is simply a matter of when
. Until that time, they leave us with a thoroughly enjoyable and technically sound extended play in The Cartographer
, along with these inspirational lyrics that serve as metaphor for the band’s discovery and rise to stardom:
All the people I thought I could trust just let me down
So don’t waste your life at home
Go and get heard on your own