almost jettisoning entirely the more esoteric predilections under At The Drive-In, Sparta's Porclean affirms that essaying for a more mainstream flavor doesn't have to come at the price of originality or heft. really, 2002's Wiretap Scars was Porcelain's more turbid predecessor, still wrought with all the quirks found on ATDI's works even though Relationship of Command had offered plenty of mainstream success. Sparta was initially considered ATDI-lite and though this was a crude, reductive, and dismissive judgment, it was also somewhat correct. but their latest effort, contrary to the path of mediocrity delineated for the group, is sharp and, though simpler, never stupidly feral Punk/alt-Metal.
though much of their sound was kept from Wiretap Scars, it was given a significant melodic overhaul. the more variant song lengths are indicative of a band plunging themselves into the music, refusing to be bound by Punk truculence. as such, more attention has been paid to giving the songs weight through melody as opposed to weight through just blatant aggression. 'While Oceana Sleeps,' 'Lines In The Sand,' and 'Tensioning' are perhaps the best examples as all contain orchestral quirks, whether it be Jim Ward's greater singing confidence and prowess or the use of an orchestra to further tension the songs.
but to call their latest effort a glorious mainstream album that manages to abscond the trappings of mainstream success is still a bit unfair. in fact, in certain respects Porcelain is more experimental than Wiretap Scars. putting short but interesting pieces such as 'P.O.M.E.' (Tony Hajjar's drum solo) or 'Syncope' in the latter would have offered greater overall coherence that was missing at times. the inclusion of breaks and more melodic changes in Porcelain show more growth and greater things than just a 'mainstream' future. it's really the simple, subtle layers the band adds to the album's success with both ATDI fans and any newcomers. such subtlety and simplicity is also seen with Ward's lyrics which, for being far more digestible than anything on Relationship of Command, are still pretty meaty.
Sparta's creative pursuits have thus far found them flirting with a mainstream audience and, perhaps through a tour with Incubus and a noticeable marketing blitz, the mainstream may show interest in them. this isn't to detract from Porcelain, which is a solid, potent, and awesome return from one of the more reputable bands in the Punk and Metal genres. mainstream music should really be privileged to have Sparta in their house.
Release date: July 13, 2004
Rating: 9.0 / 10
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