Spartan - The Fall of Olympus - (7/10)
Published on January 18, 2016
Spartan’s focus on Greek Mythology doesn’t lend itself particularly forcefully to the melodeath format, but at least it gives them some semblance of an identity, something certainly at a dire premium in this overstuffed field. The Fall of Olympus does exhibit some idiosyncrasies worth dwelling over, at times sounding more like a heavier epithet of melodic power metal, so there are obviously some stylistic lines being crossed here, and certainly to Spartan’s benefit. Their name doesn’t hold much referential meaning on a musical level, as the band runs the typical melodic gamut, be it the skyrocketing chorus of “Breaking the Chains of Olympus” or the hook-leaden “Elysium,” which sounds super-upbeat and appreciably powerful at the same time, inaugurated with that simple, striking lead interval.
Certainly not an exercise in frugality, The Fall of Olympus thickly weaves deft lead progressions throughout a bouncy, effervescent Gothenburg rhythm section, expanding their palette further with the guest vocal contributions of Henning Basse on the aforementioned “Breaking the Chains of Olympus.” To be candid, I think that the band could have gone much further with a proper singer like this, as their style of melodeath is invigorated enough to buoy clean vocal acrobatics instead of Jeff’s rather featureless exhaled sneering. Nor are Spartan inherently resistant to typical melodeath maladies, like the roundabout, empty percussive chugging “At the Dawn of War.” Great leads as always, but the band comes off as somewhat unsure of themselves and that insecurity carries onto the listener. Like we need another song with space-filler sound clips from Gladiator and Braveheart?
Musicianship is certainly no stranger to Spartan, and they play in a safe, almost truncated and clinical manner that comes off as somewhat insincere at times; but its difficult to do anything but split hairs when the musicianship and modus operandi are this functional. The Fall of Olympus is a sticky briar patch of competent, snappy leads and athletic, knee-jerk Gothenthrash rhythms that quickly vacate the cerebrum in favor of the band’s truer strengths. Spartan generally blitz through the verses quick enough to avoid stagnation on any level, and only “At the Dawn of War” suffers from a truly protracted running time. At times, the rhythm section sounds redolent of earlier As I Lay Dying. There is just a similar focus on post-Colony In Flames rhythm worship, metalcore tendencies of the former aside.
The Fall of Olympus boasts an authentic modern crunch, sleek and streamlined. The alternating frequencies of the awesome “Breaking the Chains of Olympus” sadly aren’t indicative of the whole product, but a fair bit of quality material resides within. I’m not sure if the band planned on finding a voice of their own outside of the lyrics and ephemeral presentation of the Greek history aesthetic, but they have done a fair job here, which again is a very difficult proposition in the modern melodic death scene. Tight and focused, Spartan might be able to go somewhere with this style.