Cartel – Chroma [1st & 2nd (Band) Press]

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Vinyl
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It wouldn’t be an Enjoy The Ride Records (ETR) release without some sort of controversy, real or contrived. In the case of Chroma it was a mixture of both that lead to unnecessary ranting and raving by people in the internet realm, as usual. Although the band started another ‘is licensing wrong’ debate by calling out ETR for never contacting them about pressing Chroma, people on various message boards and “news” sites also took shots at ETR. The long and short of it is; ETR contacted the band and their management before getting the ball rolling on the Chroma pressing, about a year passes while ETR hammers out all the details of the pressing and gets the records in hand, ETR puts the records up for sale without any sort of notice or advertising and once the band catches wind they call out ETR for not contacting them about releasing their material, a message board pissing contest ensues about the rights and wrongs of the licensing out previously released material for vinyl re-releases where the usual suspects slam ETR for being unethical and shady, ETR publicly explains what transpired during the course of releasing Chroma on vinyl where he explicitly states he contacted the band but the band eventually stopped communicating back, the band sticks to their guns and continues their hissy fit by publicly denouncing the ETR Chroma pressing, eventually a few days pass and the band changes their tune (no pun intended) and admits everything was a big misunderstanding.

With all that drama out-of-the-way here are the fine points of this record. There were 1,000 total copies pressed spread evenly across two colors at 500 copies each. A clear with red splatter variant was offered exclusively through ETR’s webstore while a red variants was exclusively offered through Hot Topic. The record comes housed in a gatefold jacket, which is an “old school” style jacket, which simply amounts to it being thicker and slightly larger than normal. The lyrics are printed inside the gatefold jacket. In the audio department, the record was sourced from the CD master, as it was apparently the only thing made available from Epic Records (the major label rights holders of Chroma). This release was also on the pricey side, $25 before shipping for a single LP. Take into account shipping and the price tag jumps up to $30.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Chroma Cartel released what they described as their own pressing of the album in 2015. This pressing is known as the “band pressing” due to the fact that another label, Enjoy The Ride Records (ETR), already released Chroma on vinyl, which you’ve already read about above. To go into a bit more detail, at the time of ETR’s release, controversy swirled around it because they didn’t get the band’s permission to release it. Something ETR has been known for since basically day one.

You see, ETR was called out for licensing out Chroma for a vinyl pressing without asking the band’s permission, even though legally you don’t need the artists’ permission for such an endeavor. Even though most people object to licensing albums without the band’s permission there is nothing wrong with it legally speaking. Just like what happened with ETR’s pressing of RX Bandits’ album Progress, the band (Cartel) called out ETR for, to sum things up; being scum bags. There have been rumors swirling around that there is more to the beef between Cartel and ETR that has not been made public. It wouldn’t surprise me that ETR is shadier than already known to be, but so many people have come out of the wood work over the past year or so to beat the dead horse that is ‘hating on Enjoy The Ride,’ the people repeatedly stirring up those rumors may just be trying to add fuel to the fire. Personally I think the biggest problem Cartel had with ETR pressing Chroma was that ETR released their pressing first, and well before Cartel even announced their own “band pressing” let alone release it, and as a result stole some sales away from the band. Considering they’re selling a 7″ for $15 before shipping, that lends some credence to my opinion.

First off, it should be pointed that the “band pressing” is not self released, so it’s not a band pressing in the truest sense. This latest pressing was released by Field Day Records, which I believe is run by a friend of Cartel. Field Day Records has no website, Facebook page, email or any releases prior to this vinyl release of Chroma. Their lone other release is a 7″ for Cartel’s song “Honestly,” which came out a few weeks ago to commemorate the single going Gold. Cartel refers to Field Day Records as “their label” but I can’t find anything actually pointing to any of the band members having a hand in the label or being otherwise associated with it. During the pre-order phase people were told to contact the band’s manager, not the label apparently releasing the record.

Pre-orders for the “band approved official pressing,” a phrase splashed all over the place with this release, went up in early February 2015 with a scheduled release date of mid April 2015. The release date was timed for the band’s Chroma 10th Anniversary Tour and the pre-orders were launched even though the records weren’t pressed yet. The band set aside half of the pressing to sell online and the other half to sell on tour/sell through ticket bundles. Even though they had over two months to ship pre-orders on time, there were delays. So everyone who ordered a copy with a ticket bundle so they could pick it up at one of the 10th Anniversary shows left empty handed. The records did not start shipping until mid June 2015, two months late. In late July 2015 the leftover copies were put up for sale, which numbered between 25-to-30 copies, which is when I bought one. I decided not to pre-order a copy based on the price (read below) and the fact that Paypal was not accepted by an unknown, apparent upstart “label.” Two red flags in my book.

The “band pressing” of Chroma was pressed as a double LP on white vinyl, limited to 1,000 copies. The record comes housed in a gatefold jacket, which comes in a die-cut slip case. Printed dust sleeves are included rather than an insert or anything of substance on the gatefold jacket. The dust sleeves have the lyrics for each of the songs found on that particular record (Side A/B or C/D) along with liner notes on the reverse side of each sleeve. The jacket itself is rather bland, with whispy designs and colors inspired by the album’s artwork. If you own the CD version of Chroma what is printed on the cover and gatefold of the jacket is taken from the cover art, inlay and insert. All copies are also hand numbered, which is done on the back of the die-cut slip case. It’s also important to note that this pressing was not sourced from the CD like the ETR pressing was.

The cost of this band approved official pressing was $30 before shipping. Tack on the shipping, which was $10, and you have an insanely overpriced release. To make matters worse, some people were receiving damaged records in the mail after paying too much for shipping. In the end though, the shipping situation could have been worse, as they shipped the records via FedEx or in my case, 2-Day USPS Priority Mail. They could have charged $10 for medial mail. And before anyone jumps down my throat or calls me a hypocrite for buying this after complaining it cost too much, know that my out of pocket expense was $0 after selling off some records I no longer listen to or got for free at some point over the years of collecting.

The “band pressing” sounds leaps and bounds better than the first pressing done by ETR. That’s not to say the ETR pressing is complete garbage. I have worse sounding records in my collection than the ETR pressing of Chroma, it just pales in comparison to the “band pressing” The dynamic range is there on the “band pressing.” There is also little to no surface noise. The mastering of the “band pressing,” and the fact that it was stretched out onto two LP’s instead of cramming the album onto one LP, are the key factors to it sounding better. If you’re going to splurge on this record, since every pressing is now OOP, I would splurge on the second pressing, the “band pressing.” But if you’re hard up for cash and are desperate for this album on vinyl, the band pressing could suffice.

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