Sparta is a band that was founded in Mansfield, United Kingdom as early as 1979. At its earliest stages, the band had been known as Xerox. The five young men were part of the popular new wave of British heavy metal movement and released two promising singles back in 1980 and 1981 as well as a split record in 1981. That’s when the story of the band went slowly downhill. The band recorded a couple of demo tracks and toured in their home country but weren’t able to catch up with the genre’s most popular outputs such as Diamond Head, Girlschool, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Samson, Saxon, Tank, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Witchfinder General and so on. When the genre became less prominent towards the end of the eighties, the band decided to call it quits as well around 1990 without having released one single full length record.
Now, in early 2014, the time has finally come for the reunited band. After the release of two great compilations with Sparta in 2006 and especially Use Your Weapons Well in 2011 that are basically a collection of old classics recorded somewhere between 1979 and 1990, the band comes now around with a record featuring nine brand new genre anthems. Welcome To Hell features all authentic trademarks that made the genre so popular over three decades ago. A raw and energizing garage production meets mid to up tempo heavy metal tracks somewhere between four and seven minutes including gripping riffs, melodic twin guitar solos and grounded vocals singing about death, hell, war but also about freedom, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and women. The band sounds as if it was 1981 again. This is a charming approach but also a little bit predictable and old-fashioned.
I’m especially enjoying the more courageous songs on the record. The atmospheric concept track “Soldier Of Fortune” brings the horrors of war to life while the diversified album closer “Kingdom Of The Sky” convinces with almost occult acoustic guitar sounds and longing vocals but also a few sped up passages with energizing hooks. Any heavy metal fan should feel perfectly at home in these tracks. The record also features a few dirtier and meaner songs such as the opening title song “Welcome To Hell” that cites the famous 300 movie and proves us that the band has at least somehow landed in the twenty-first century or the faster “Arrow” that could also come from Motörhead if the vocals were a little bit more dis-harmonic.
The more I listen to that song, the more I like it. Many riffs and hooks got quickly stuck on my mind and the band don’t lose any of their juvenile energy. It’s a shame that this record only sees the light of day as an underground release in 2014. If the band had released this record 23 years earlier it would surely be called a genre classic today. But a late release is better than no release at all. The band surely doesn’t reinvent the genre but those who still care for pure heavy metal and are sad to see the old genre dying these days must give this release a few well deserved spins.