Cartel – Chroma (CD)

With vocals like “One For The Kids”-era Yellowcard, Will’s vocals match well with the supersonic instrumentation laid down by Nic and Joseph (guitars), Kevin (drums) and Ryan (bass). Tracks mesh well with each other; there is nary even a breathe between “Say Anything” and “Honestly”. While there might not be the sizzling guitar solos and outright technical prowess of the technical emocore bands (those influenced by bands like Converge), the dynamic in which the band works allows for a cohesive sound to assault all listeners throughout. With a bass line that is easily the equivalent to that in Don Henley’s “New York Minute”, Ryan’s bass line in “Runaway” challenges (and succeeds at more than one time) the vocal dominance previously held sacrosanct.

The slender tendrils of Will’s vocals during “Matter of Time” are just at the perfect level of emotive content and melodramatic, subjugating listeners’ hearts to whatever whims ey might have. The sweet groove present on “Burn This City” pushes past even Motion City Soundtrack and Boys Night Out for the position at the top of the emo hill; throwing in a guitar solo that looks back to Santana doesn’t hurt the track in the least. What is impressive about Cartel is that harmony is everywhere on the disc; layers upon layers dominate the sound of “Chroma” in that Will will create eir own harmony as the backing beat will do something related but ultimately different. It may just be the height of the disc when Cartel get into their “Settle Down”; the drum/vocal dynamic that is such a large part of the track really adds to the intensity of the track while scaling down the composition to only the essentials.

“If I Fall” is the perfect example of a track by The Starting Line; it is only too bad that The Starting Line has only a fraction of the talent or raw energy that Cartel comes up with on the track and the disc in toto. The dynamic between the acoustic and the drumline-sounding drumbeat during “The Minstrel’s Prayer” is as taut as get out; so many things are happening throughout this track that it will take even the most serious listener a number of times before ey truly “gets it”. Cartel comes out with one of the best “emo” albums of the last few years; there is no limit to what they can accomplish as soon as their fanbase increases.

Top Tracks: The Ministrel’s Prayer, Say Anything Else

Rating: 7.8/10

[JMcQ]

Cartel – Chroma / 2005 The Militia Group / 12 Tracks / http://www.carteldc.com / http://www.themilitiagroup.com / Reviewed 23 October 2005

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