Cartographs - Wilt & Blossom (Cover Artwork)


Wilt & Blossom (2019)

Prime Collective

A friend of mine brought this record to me recently. “This is amazing. Really atmospheric.” is how they pitched it to me. Which is by no means a bad place to start. Atmospheric is a word that has appeared frequently when describing some of the more progressively-minded heavy bands in recent years and I for one am pretty much on board with it. I started looking into Cartographs a little more and found out they’re a Danish 4-piece, have been around since only 2014 and the record was produced by Chris Kreutzfeldt, who has worked previously with (among others) fellow Danes and blackgaze heroes Mol. At this point my interest was piqued.

So I dove right in. On pressing play, it’s almost immediately apparent that the overriding production technique employed is done so to portray something a little different. Where some of the post-black/blackgaze scene eschew the muddier production techniques of their forefathers, Cartographs are happy for things to sound a little less distinct, but in what I would describe as a cavernous fashion. There are parallels that one can draw with Mol and co. on this record, but the blackened aspect is certainly toned down a lot. That in of itself is not an issue and indeed, Cartographs started out life as a melodic hardcore band as opposed to anything post or black metal-associated. That being said, you can still draw the dotted line to certain black metal influences, but it may simply be that those hardcore roots have led naturally to a sound somewhat less dramatic than that of bands who are more steeped in the lineage of everyone’s favourite Nordic musical genre.

The vocal approach is pretty much equidistant between a hardcore scream and the more ‘white noise’ style of most black metal vocalists, the lead guitar lines are reverb-laden and contemplative in true post-rock/metal style and the song structures are certainly not conventional, so one thing you can say about the record is that it’s interesting. Unfortunately the atmosphere that is conjured throughout Wilt & Bloom simply isn’t as exciting or alluring as has been displayed by other bands of a similar ilk.

One of the results of the production/artistic choice is that rarely (if ever) do any of the individual members or instruments feel particularly prominent. I say artistic choice specifically, as this was clearly just that. It’s not happened by accident and evidently the band and producer were in agreement over the intention and result. I think the problem is that I personally don’t agree that it was a good choice in terms of presenting the songs in their best possible light. As is often the case with this genre, many of the songs are quite long (2 are around the 10-minute mark) and wherein the case of some records, this affords the songs time to develop and breathe, here it feels more like they meander and that’s something that really made my attention wander.

In the interest of balance, I will say that even in those longer songs where I sometimes struggle to stay fully engaged with the music, the musicianship is not in question. In actual fact, I suspect with a different production job, the use of dynamics might be something really exciting in and of itself, but the edges have been sanded down to such an extent, that it all feels a little bit middling, sadly.

Some of my favourite records of the last few years have, in many ways, been built to a similar template to Wilt & Bloom. The difference I think is 2 main things: the production on this record and even more crucially, the songs themselves. The compositions can at times be really interesting, but rarely do I feel invested in them any more than that, which is a real shame. And I still think I’d struggle to discern one song from the next, even after a number of committed listens. I suspect this record alone doesn’t give a complete picture of the band and what they’re capable of, but I can’t see myself coming back to this record altogether that much, though there are occasional hints at what could, with a bit of focus, be something very good indeed.