Ben Ludford-Brooks aka The Cartographer recently released his debut EP entitled The Nebula Chapters. Brooks has a background in classical guitar but not much of that shows up on this release. The Nebula Chapters combines heavy guitar riffs with atmosphere that is reminiscent of a band like Deafheaven. There are elements of metal, post-rock and some other sub genres but it isn’t too far off from the hybrid that a myriad of other bands are barking up.
The EP opens with “Expanse I: Origin.” You are presented with a steady, straightforward drumbeat and atmospheric guitars that lie somewhere between early Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky. When the song gets heavy it’s not all that surprising and touts distorted guitars and more crash cymbal. The song’s best moments are towards the end where it gets sludgy and mimics System of a Down.
The second track “Expanse II: Awakening” sounds almost identical to the first track in a number of ways. In fact it could have easily just been one track. The atmospheric picking and hard- hitting riffs are interchangeable.
“Void I: What We Left Behind” shows a bit more deviation but still follows the predictable soft/loud formula. Some of the soft sections were a little too soft and when the loud sections came in it was almost startling. Better use of compression or volume automation would have helped this out. He closes with “Void II: The Final Star” which is more less an extension of “Void I: What We Left Behind.”
After ingesting the four-song EP a couple of times I think Brooks could have easily just made this one track. There really isn’t enough distinction between the tracks to justify the separation.
Brooks is a technically proficient guitarist but hasn’t quite figured out how to explore the areas between loud and soft with this style of music. There are a lot of bands out there doing something similar right now and unless Brooks get himself a human drummer and other players to explore dynamics with he is going to have a tough road ahead with steep competition. As I mentioned previously Brooks is a classical guitarist and releasing another EP featuring acoustic guitar. I enjoyed The Nebula Chapters but I am looking forward to an EP that builds upon his strengths as a classical guitarist.
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