Wednesday, January 08, 2014

N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday: Sparta-Welcome To Hell

High Roller Records

Prior to High Roller Records releasing Sparta's career-spanning (1979-1990) compilation, "Use Your Weapons Well", in 2011 (with the double LP version collecting a whopping 25 songs!) the closest I had been to hearing this obscure New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band in all it's glory was when a (now-defunct I believe) blog-site assembled their own Sparta career-spanning collection. Before scanning over said collection, which I never downloaded as I had heard (and thus been turned off by) that the band's (at least early) material was more in line with early Def Leppard, I had never realized that this (initially) Nottinghamshire-based band had released anything more then an odd single or two. Quite obviously they had although "Welcome To Hell" marks the first "official" fell-length studio recording from this band that was formed in late 1979 by lead guitarist Tony Foster and bass guitarist Tony "Sapper" Warren (the two Tonys having previously played together in the band Xerox). While the band was only active from 1979 until 1990 it's still somewhat striking that it is only now (after 35 years) that this heavy metal five-piece is releasing their "debut" album! With that said the question must be asked. Is this an example of how all good things come to those who wait? Well, before we get to that let's see who's who (or at least who handles what) on the nine-track "Welcome To Hell" (And no, the title cut is not a cover of the Venom classic although that would have been cool!). Besides Tony Foster and Tony Warren we have three, yes, count them three(!), brothers in Sparta in the form of lead vocalist Karl Reders and his siblings Steve (guitarist who is nicknamed "Snake" ) and Paul (drummer who is nicknamed "Radge"). It was only after the well-received "Use Your Weapons Well" was released that the band (in it's original line-up no less!) decided to give it another go with "Welcome To Hell" being the result. Other than an updated version of the group's 1981 single "Angel Of Death", which stacks up rather nicely to to the original, and "Arrow" (an original Sparta composition from the eighties that was never laid to tape) all of the material on "Welcome To Hell"* looks as if it was written after the release of Sparta's 2011 compilation. According to the promos notes it was actually the title cut that was written first (serving as the first Sparta track to be written since 1985!) with the rest of the tracks then falling neatly into place. Of the nine tracks there is never really a dull moment to be found although some tracks ("Angel of Death (2013)", "Soldier of Fortune", "Wild Night", "Dreaming of Evil" and "Rock'n'roll Rebel") are better then others and a track like "Time" comes off as if Sparta was trying to reinvent itself as a modern metal act! Sparta itself lists influences like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Motörhead (along with "a little splash of AC/DC") and for the uninitiated that would seem to be as good a place to start as anywhere. Had this been my first taste of Sparta ever I would have been impressed, but knowing how long it's taken to get from their humble beginnings to this point gives me an even greater appreciation of "Welcome To Hell". If you've never heard this lot before then I would actually start with this new album and then work your way backwards towards the 2011 compilation "Use Your Weapons Well" (which was also released as a 2CD set although I don't recall that version having 25 total tracks). All of which brings me back to the original question that I posed. Is this album an example of how all good things come to those who wait? I'd confidently say yes and let me just add this-Great job Sparta and welcome back!!!!

*The very cool  "Soldier Of Fortune" is based on an original song that was first written in 1984, but it has been completely re-worked.

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