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Record Review

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They like 'em big in Texas. So it's no surprise that Sparta -- one of the two bands to form out of the splintering of El Paso, Texas' intensely hyped At the Drive-In -- keeps things sizable, from its angular hooks to its raw husked hollers. Named after the brutal military state, Sparta has constructed a 12-track call-to-arms with its full-length debut, Wiretap Scars.

Where At the Drive-In was a bundle of nervous energy, its shaking hands resulting in riveting seizures, Sparta vocalist/guitarist Jim Ward, guitarist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar (joined here by bassist Matt Miller) hold a firmer grip on their frantic vitriol, cleanly constricting their searing, snarling and pulverizing with a less schizophrenic delivery. Their ongoing refinement process can be heard in the re-recorded versions of previously released EP cuts "Mye" and "Echodyne Harmonic."

Through a mist of emphatically spat anthemics and powder-keg pounding, you can almost hear the group's neck veins straining through "Cut the Ribbon" and "Sans Cosm." And while loud-soft dynamics box the ears, Sparta is equally capable of ethereal moments, the most crystalline of which emerge in "Collapse," "Light Burns Clear" and "Glasshouse Tarot."

Though not as raw and prone to explosion as At the Drive-In, Sparta's passion could generate comparable Texas-sized enthusiasm.



Sparta play the Tabernacle Thurs., Sept 19.

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