THERE’S nothing to suggest that Sheffield’s In Fictions’ debut was produced on a microscopic budget. Their album – Maps of Revenge and Forgiveness – is an epic, storming masterpiece whose 11 tracks have been interpreted by various visual artists to decorate the album’s additional inlay.
Few of the major labels even produce material that’s this slick and ambitious in presentation. And in the world of 79p iTunes, it’s a welcome surprise – particularly as this was achieved on a microscopic budget alongside full-time jobs and other musical commitments.
But it wasn’t an easy album to produce.
The progressive album has been three years in the making – it’s gone through five studios, eight musicians and a host of musicians and arrangers.
The scope of the album is vast, as Ed Cartledge, the brains behind it all, explains.
“It’s quite epic and pretty serious music. In Fictions is quite a grand band in its scale and self-importance,” he laughs.
On Maps of Revenge and Forgiveness, songs are microcosms of human emotions and experiences – whether imagined or based on real events. Frozen River is based on the story of a woman who survived under icy water for an hour and was – by clinical standards – dead, but was successfully resuscitated.
“I read a story in a newspaper a while back about this person who had a skiing accident and fell into icy water. She survived but what fascinated me was what she was going through mentally when she confronted with her mortality.”
The track is complemented by a piece of art by local artist Andrew Nesbitt which shows a polar bear screaming with defiance and rage.
The album explores other universal themes.
“It looks at the way people choose between revenge and forgiveness.
We make lots of extreme decisions as humans but this isn’t a morally preachy album, it’s just about how fragile we can feel and how that can erupt in people at any moment. It’s a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde thing – we can react to things extremely or apply logic.”
The album is thought-provoking musically and lyrically. Guitar parts and strings are densely layered and the dynamics – as with the human mind as described by Cartledge – sway from calm to furious explosions.
“A lot has gone into this album. There’s a great deal of allusion and metaphor inn there that’s pretty deeply buried.”
There’s another important human trait that Cartledge overlooks in describing the album – his own persistence and determination to complete it. Completely self-funded, Maps of Revenge and Forgiveness has dominated Cartledge’s creative mind for three years. “I stuck to it – it’s not perfect and there is a lot of stuff that I could do better on there. But this is the best album I’ve done.”
Music is a hobby for Cartledge, not a profession. “I’m not classically trained so I couldn’t teach anyone music and couldn’t work in the music industry; this is just a continuation of a hobby that I can’t ever see stopping.”
In Fictions has allowed Ed – along with long-standing members Gareth Hughes and Tom Chaffer – to push himself musically.
“In Fictions really tests me to my limits but I think the three of us – me, Tom and Gareth – are pleased with it. But it is hard to justify, we’re all working full time, I’m in the Cartographers, which is the ‘fun’ band and Tom’s working full time and plays in his other band, Dionysis.”
The album is thoroughly entrenched in progressive rock values – long, building openings and classical cadences, a parallel, perhaps, with the music of Ed’s upbringing: “My parents always listened to classical music so maybe that’s played a part in this.”
But the dramatic shifts in mood pose a problem to the listener, as Cartledge jokes. “The only problem with this album is that if you want to chill out it’s no good and if you want to rock out it’s no good because each song has so many changes in it.”
The album is out now and available on iTunes as a digital download.