Aggro-Rockers Have Recovered Nicely
We all know that breaking up is hard to do, but how difficult would it be to dismantle an “it” experimental aggro-indie rock force in the middle of its own revolutionary tornado? Members and fans of Texas innovators At The Drive In found out in 2001 when a chasm of creative differences split the band into two new projects. Vocalists Omar Rodriguez and Cedric Zavala dove into prog-rock/punk mixture The Mars Volta, while guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Paul Hinojos, and drummer Tony Hajjar aimed for an organized chaos of great musicianship with Sparta. Sparta’s second full-length Porcelain is just that, as Ward (now on vocals) and Co. take an ambitious step up from 2002’s Wiretap Scars. With a well-received debut under their belts, Porcelain is Sparta’s opportunity to explore their own sound. The opening “Guns of Memorial Park” and “Hiss the Villain” are very Drive In-esque, featuring frantic angular guitar, breakneck speed, and hoarse, screaming vocals while the relaxed “While Oceana Sleeps” and “Lines in Sand” show the band can slow it down but still remain powerful. Standout tracks “End Moraine” and “Splinters” showcase an amazing combination of orchestration, constant tempo changes, driving bass lines and slicing guitar that few bands could duplicate. Also commanding are Ward’s vocals, which easily handle the albums’ different textures while successfully delivering the impact of the gutsy lyrics. On “La Cerca,” Ward transitions from a shouted chorus to a soft “Grew up on a man made line / That’s left me empty.”
Porcelain is an excellent sophomore effort and a forceful display of potential that proves Sparta is ready to step out of ATDI’s shadow and help lead the way for experimental rock.