Cartel - Chroma (Cover Artwork)


Chroma (2005)

The Militia Group

Normally before hearing an album like this, I am automatically predisposed to the assumption that it will be another generic rock record. Not that most melodic rock is supposed to challenge the mind and body with its intelligent lyrics, and groundbreaking music, but there has to be something about it that sticks out a little bit. Cartel find themselves trying to break into an extremely overcrowded genre of music. I don't blame them honestly; their brand of sentimental, polished rock is what seems to suit everybody's fancy at the moment. As most of you know, The Militia Group have been making a name for themselves over the years signing extremely sappy pop acts, that definitely appeal to a younger generation of music listeners. While I find myself hard pressed to be able to relate to any of the lyrical content on Cartel's new disc Chroma, The Militia Group have finally released an album that has the musical competence to make up for its lyrical shortcomings.

Chroma is nothing but a straight up/no frills pop disc. There is something about the overall vibe this record gives off, that I am really into. If you read this band's bio on The Militia Group webpage, they don't use any goofy hyperbole, and there are no lines written about the band "taking over the world." Cartel miraculously have no shtick either, which I find to be quite refreshing. They appear to be five guys who have decided to let their music do the talking, and I can get behind that. Chroma maintains a pretty jovial vibe for its entirety, but the most interesting part about this record involves the song arrangements. Most of the songs, instead of ending abruptly, have little interludes that offer seamless leads into the next song. Each song seems to be connected to the next in some way shape or form, which makes Chroma flow from start to finish very smoothly.

The combination of vocalist Will Pugh's voice and plenty of infectious guitar licks are the primary reason this disc is so damn catchy. Will probably has one of the smoothest voices I have heard on a pop-punk record in a long time, but the band doesn't rely on his vocal harmonies to carry the entire record. The guitar harmonies are offered up in equal servings, which make the disc seem balanced in all the right places. Cartel even throws in a few heaping servings of Southern rock and soft piano at times too, which help keep it distinguished from the rest of the pack. The whole disc seems to build up to the last two songs on the album, simply entitled "Q" and "A," respectively. Those two songs make up about 12 minutes of the disc, and quite frankly they are two of the most beautifully crafted rock songs I have heard in a long time. They are very reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World's penchant for ending on a very epic and downright somber note.

Chroma is a rock album that make its presence felt, without being overzealous. I hate using this term, but this is simply a great feel good album. You can't possibly feel bad about anything while this disc is playing, and that is a hard goal to accomplish. The Militia Group and Cartel should be pretty proud of Chroma because I do feel it maintains a strong amount of credibility. If you are a pop fan, do give this record a shot, you will not be disappointed.

[originally written for]