Here's the sound of passionate rockers turning into professional musicians. The playing is competent and skillful, but the Sparta sound is becoming bland and unmemorable. It has definitely been difficult for Sparta, and especially Jim Ward, to escape the band's history and to build a unique musical vision, but Sparta were well on their way to doing just that - until this album. While it's not quite as dire as some of the most negative reviewers here have claimed, Sparta seem confused about their identity and direction. Wiretap Scars was tentative but strongly emotional aggro-grunge, and then Sparta really took a quantum leap forward with Porcelain, in which excellent songwriting and passionate playing nearly vaulted the band into their own new genre - a more mature and less whiny brand of screamo. Here on Threes, the band certainly sounds more solid. Jim Ward has added some subtlety (or subtracted a lot of screaming) from his vocal style, and new guitarist Keeley Davis delivers smoother accompaniment than the departed Paul Hinojos, who was always a much better bassist than guitarist.
This album does show development in a few places, like the insistent rockers "Taking Back Control" and "The Most Vicious Crime," plus the very effective power ballads "Unstitch Your Mouth" and "Atlas." Unfortunately, the professionalism of this album outweighs the passion by a mile, and other reviewers are correct in making comparisons to late-period U2. This is horrendously evident in "Erase It Again," "False Start," and "Without a Sound" among others. Striving to be as talented and accomplished as your idols is commendable, but Sparta have made a crucial wrong turn in trying to sound like their idols. And overall, this album comes up tragically short on memorable songwriting and passionate playing. Sparta once displayed those strengths in abundance and were ascending toward their own kind of greatness. You really have to hope that the absence of that magic here will only be temporary. [~doomsdayer520~]