Any offshoot of a successful band knows that, no matter what, they're going to have to live up to the expectations of their previous audience. Sparta does a pretty good job of filling the shoes of their predecessor At the Drive-In, all the while maintaining their own sound.
But since a comparison is inevitable, let's just get it out of the way: If the band consists of three-fifths of At the Drive-In, then they should sound like it, right? Well, diehard ATDI fans may be disappointed, but Ward, Hajjar and Hijonos have taken Sparta in a different direction. Since ATDI, these guys have seemed to mature musically, creating a thicker, more thorough sound, without ATDI's tendency to rely on effects. Sparta stands on its own as a rock band. Sure, you can hear some similarities, but these songs are entirely new.
Lead Spartan Jim Ward's singing is a bit more abrasive than ATDI's Cedric Bixler, but it fits with the music: crawling, hypnotic rhythms that jump into spastic, loud choruses. Wiretap Scars will be just as appreciated for its throaty vocals as it will for its mellow, hypnotic ambience.
Wiretap Scars contains three songs that were previously released on a four-song EP, and three demo tracks that astute cyber-pirates can find.
The songs follow a typical pattern of whisper-whisper-SCREAM, a common pattern these days. Of those bands who followed this formula, though, only a select few did it well. Jimmy Eat World did it, ATDI did it, and Ward puts Sparta's name on that list as well.
It's not breaking any new ground, but Wiretap Scars is an album that will stay on the shelf for months.
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