El Paso, Texas’ Sparta caught some by surprise with their 2002 debut, Wiretap Scars. A solid record from front to back, it toed the fine line of not too poppy and not too dark with excellent results. The band furthered themselves by putting on outstanding shows in the time since the album was released. Sparta had successfully carved a niche in the cluttered music scene and curiosity arose about how much they could continue their success with another album. Porcelain arrives and answers any doubts in a big way.
Fans of Sparta will definitely not be disappointed. Although on first listen it seems to have a different pace than Wiretap Scars, Porcelain shows a fine progression that the band has made. The songs don’t appear to be as dark and slow as their previous offering, and at first that may turn some fans off, as that was one of the aspects of Sparta that made the band unique. Porcelain quickly grows on the listener, however, as multiple listens reveal the quality songwriting that the band possesses. The flow of the album is exceptional and the overall listening experience is enhanced greatly by that. From the opening of “Guns of Memorial Park” to the end of “Splinters” Porcelain is a great ride, best experienced as a whole.
Every song on the album is a strong one, no single track can be labeled superior to the rest. They use each other to construct a terrific full album, the way a great album should be judged. Most of all, the songs are driven by lead singer Jim Ward’s stellar vocals. Ward’s melodic voice is probably the greatest single asset that the band has to set itself apart from the rest of the field. His delivery is consistent, and his screams never seem forced or unnecessary, a common fault of singers these days. The rest of the band’s performance as a whole is a more mature one from the last release, as well. They continue to supply great rhythms to compliment the vocals. Sparta has taken their talents to the next level, which should be expected, and haven’t done anything at all to leave their existing fans behind.
The pros of the record have already been talked about a great deal, so what are the cons? After a thorough listening to many times over, I can say barely any. After my first few listens, I had it at a 6 or a 7. After a few more, an 8, but still not on the same level as their first album. Now, I see the two as separate but equal offerings that have different strengths and few weaknesses.
Honestly, if you are a fan of the genre, this record will prove original and creative enough to warrant a purchase, theoretically at a price much greater than this week’s advertised price. If you are already a fan, then this is an absolute must-buy. After two quality albums, Sparta is quickly cementing themselves as one of the best bands around, one more album like this will put them amongst the elite.