The Republic of Wolves - The Cartographer (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Republic of Wolves

The Cartographer (2011)


Part of the Republic of Wolves' lure is their prolificness, but within that is serious internal pressure just to be that way. The band's newest effort, The Cartographer EP, was planned for several months and plotted to be released this past New Year's Day, just a month and change after their first full-length, Varuna. But come December 31, 2010, the Long Island natives were still putting the finishing touches on The Cartographer, barely making their self-imposed deadline in the process. From listening to the EP in question, it's clear these guys work best under pressure–even if it's placed upon themselves.

While this EP was recorded practically in succession with Varuna, it works completely as its own stand-alone project–it's a concept album about a mapmaker's son in search of his father he believes is lost at sea–and has certain stylistic deviations from that album. Sure, Brand New probably remains a handy comparison–the guitar-picking and drum fill of "Home" seems to allude to that of "The Archers' Bows Have Broken"'s, albeit more minor key, and the habit of breaking seething tension after fussy, bustling buildups is a commonality. But one can hear the band continue to grow into their own skin as they concoct a dynamic, melodic and brooding alternative/indie rock broth with astoundingly lush, beautiful and haunting production values they've honed themselves.

The three-minute "Home" is concise considering the band's usual approach, but it's outright jaunty and loaded with surprising changes, from its half-time build early to the waltzy chorus and suddenly sparse, banjo-accompanied finish. "India" harkens to the vicious crescendo of Varuna's "Greek Fire" a bit heavily at points, but mostly carries its own mesmerizing build with a bridge that comes across as brilliantly anxious on every listen. Closer "The Dead Men Stood Together" opens with an aggressive fit that sounds like a completely different band–maybe Thrice circa Fire–but they make the stop-start work, and the song itself culminates in an engaging, group-shouted emphasis of the EP's central theme ("We are all lost").

Vocally, guitarist Gregg Andrew Dellarocca takes the reigns on most tracks, where in the past fellow guitarist Mason Maggio had essentially led the band. The two complement each other well; it's easiest to call Dellarocca the Andy Hull to Maggio's Jesse Lacey. Meanwhile, the scathing scream wielded by keyboardist/auxiliary percussionist Billy Duprey is also used more effectively; it's quality over quantity in "India" and the creaky "Widow's Walk".

It might be by a short margin, but this is the finest work of the Republic of Wolves' rapidly growing catalogue. It's clear the band is working hard to find their own voice, and only growing more ambitious in the process. The burdens they bear might be their own doing, but it's clearly for their own–and listeners'–own good.

The Cartographer EP