Some general impressions:
In my search for bands that venture roughly into the same direction as Sparta does, I came across Cave In, and their so far latest output 'Antenna'. And this record needed a while to grow on me, and even seemed quite weak at first, with little exceptions. The start is strong with 'Stained Silver' (a song that can remember one of "And you will know us by the Trail of Dead...') as well as the great 'Joy Opposites' which is my personal favorite from this album. Unfortunately there are songs like 'Inspire' between such songs, that seem like generous rock songs. It's not really bad, but lowers the overall good feeling and impression.
Which sucks a bit, as the musical work is really good. The vocals do not seem weak or misplaced at all at any place on this album (at least I can not remember a bad vocal spot). The guitar lines are good, nothing to mock about. The bass is interesting. Not that it is absolute upper class stuff like Wooten etc, but adds quite a lot to the mood and feeling of the songs. "Seafrost" has to be the best example for that. The bass with slight distortion/overdrive is ace.
Good and Bad:
Like I already said, there are absolute killer songs on here, but also quite some that can not live to the songs before/after them. "Inspire" or Rubber and Glue" are good examples for that. They seem to generous and average so to say compared to the other songs. Ok, I have to admit, next to the 9 minute long and slightly spacy "Seafrost" it's hard to come to par, as it is one of the strongest songs on the album. Still, it could be better.
On the other hand there are absolute ace tracks like "Joy Opposites", "Woodwork" or "Stained Silver". Plus, the songs feature a good bunch of variations in style. Like mentioned above, "Seafrost" has a spacy touch, where "Anchor" is pretty straight forward rocking. "Joy Opposites" has somewhat of a hymn-like touch (can't find a better word to describe it) and comes pretty close to Sparta songs like 'Tensioning' or 'End Moraine'. With 'Beutiful son' there is also a ballad like song present. Though these style changes are a bit irritating during the first few listens, I think one appreciates them more and more as the album grows on you.
The summary is hard here. Overall this is a good album. But the hand full of weaker songs spoils the overall good impression a bit. The good songs leave the better "taste in your mouth", that stays longer, so the picture is positive. But as the second half of the album is IMO considerably weaker compared to the first half, that keeps me from giving a clear 4/5.
If you search for a new band/album to check out from the Alternative rock corner, that is slightly into the direction of Sparta (roughly) you should definately check this one out. Songs like 'Joy Opposites' and 'Seafrost' should really be checked out.
Final rating: 3.5/5
(Very very near to the 4 though)
Joy Opposites, Woodwork, Seafrost