Some general impressions
Some Songs available for a listen on the bands purevolume-site:
This is the second full lenghth album by Sparta, and I must confess the first I really hear. I don't know the first, "Wiretap Scars", so I can not really say if this one is better or worse. Still, I can give a rather unbiased opinion on it through that. ;)
When I read about them, and then listened to them on their Purevolume Page, I was suprised. I rather think of songs like "One Armed Scissor" when a band is persumed to sound like ATDI. But I rather found myself remidned of songs like 'Invalid Litter Dpt.'. Which in fact is not bad, as I love that song. Plus, the overall feeling of this album is quite melancholic. I don't want to use the 'e'-word with the three letters, but on some song I quite got the e**-feeling.
This is more a straight rock album IMO. Even songs that seem to start to a more post-core soundscape, like 'From now to never' get into a rock track fast. And though they do nothing spectacular new here, the record does not seem bland and boring. Many melodic and harmonic arrangements, nice guitar structures with accent setting lead guitar, and great supporting second guitar. The rythm section does the best of supporting the whole song. And that in an excellent way. Overall you can notice how much thought, ideas and feeling went into these songs. Songs like "Hiss the Villain" show, how mature modern Alternative/Post-Hardcore songs can be, while songs like "While Oceana sleeps", "Lines in Sand" grow to big melancholic beatuy. Songs like "From now to never" also use piano to emphasize the feelings of the song. Really big cinema.
The vocals are done good, though I got the feeling on some songs, that there was the failed attempt to copy Cedrics singing style from ATDI-days. I had the feeling it should go into the direction of ATDI, but somehow, on the half way he got stuck. Jim Ward does a good job on the songs, no questions. But he should stay to his own style, as it fits the songs better.
What I really like about the album:
The best about this record are the great arrangements of the songs. Sparta does not present new progressive stuff (like Mars Volta does, and kinda creates some new boundaries for music) but takes the music they make to a almost perfect level. It does not happen often that I listen to music, and find almost nothing of what I think "That would have been better, if guitar or bass played something like...". That really impresses me. The music still has a touch of ATDI, but Sparta come to find their own style of music. This is less a record of insane powerfull songs like "One Armed Scissor" for example, but of mature modern rock. Good stuff
What was not so good:
Like I mentioned above, the vocals are a bit out of place for me. It seems like he wants to copy Cedric, but maybe that's just my imagination. What the record kinda lacks though is a real kicker. This is absolute great music, well done. But for me that is rather something I listen to to chill out. Or just sit by my window to the garden and ponder about various things. Or to have it on the car stereo while driving down the freeway. Great rock for the more 'silent moments', but nothing you would go party to. At least for me.
You liked the 'more mellow' songs of At the Drive-In, you probably gonna love this one. This is the style of 'Invalid Litter Dept' in perfection. Great arrangements, very harmonic and melodic rock, with a slight touch of post-core here and there. With about an hour of playtime, you also get a good share of music for your buck. The melancholic aspect clearly dominates for me on this one. And as I'm into stuff like that, I really like this album.
Still, the real kicker is missing. Though this is great stuff, it an go by unnoticed in the background while doing something. Like, for instance, 'Bleed American' by Jimmy eat World. If you do not pay attention to the music, it will go unnoticed somehow, and an hour later you will ask yourself "What, already over?". Which is kinda sad, as the music is really Grade A. Some minus points for that. But if you concentrate on it, real great stuff.
So, with the minus points in calculation, I would give this one
4/5 (very close to the 4.5 stars though :thumb: )