Sparta is one of the more obscure bands of the glorious New Wave Of British Heavy Metal period. The band was formed in late 1979 by Tony Foster on lead guitar. The line-up was completed by Tony Warren on bass guitar, Karl Reders on vocals, Steve ‘Snake’ Reders on guitar and Paul ‘Radge’ Reders on drums.
In 1980, Nottinghamshire-based label Suspect Records put out Sparta’s debut single pairing “Fast Lane” with “Fighting To Be Free”. In 1981, the band unleashed their second 7" single »Angel Of Death« (with “Tonight” on the flipside), once again on Suspect Records. The same year their label published a compilation of local bands under the name of »Scene Of The Crime« (the original vinyl sells for anything up to 100 English Pounds nowadays). Sparta quickly gained a healthy local following by gigging with Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Lionheart and Budgie.
In 2011, »Use Your Weapons Well«, the ultimate Sparta compilation featuring 25 songs and spanning the band's whole career from 1979 up until 1990, was issued on vinyl and CD via High Roller Records.
The record was very well received and the profile of the band got bigger than it ever was. This led to the classic Sparta line-up recording their first-ever studio album entitled »Welcome To Hell« (after 35 long years!). Guitarist Tony Foster explains: “After the success of »Use Your Weapons Well« and contact from people all over the world, we thought that a new Sparta album could be successful. We started to write and record new material. I contacted Thorsten at High Roller and send him a track I had written called 'Welcome To Hell'. High Roller liked the song and eventually Patrick Engel at the Temple of Disharmony mixed the recording and I think we were all happy with the result. This was the first new Sparta track since 1985, so I was happy to use it as the title track for a new album. The concept of the album was a Hell in three dimensions: Hell in the sky as in 'Kingdom Of The Sky', Hell on earth as in the hell of battle i.e. 'Welcome To Hell' and the traditional Hell as in 'Dreaming Of Evil'. We are very happy with the end result which contains some killer songs and riffs. We decided to record 'Angel Of Death' (2013) as a link between previous Sparta material and the new stuff.”
»Welcome To Hell« does feature superb cover artwork. Tony Foster: “The artwork created by Alexander von Wielding was based upon the three hell concept and was inspired by the lyrics of 'Welcome To Hell', 'Kingdom Of The Sky' and 'Angel Of Death'. The first mention of the 'Kingdom Of The Sky' was in the original lyrics to 'Angel Of Death'. You can see the image of the 'Kingdom Of The Sky' on the left of the album. On the ground the King Spartan is engaged in the heat of battle. And you can see all around that Spartan Warriors are being resurrected from Hell to rejoin the battle.”
The album consists of all new recordings but according to Tony Foster some of the ideas for the songs go back a long time: “'Arrow' for example was an original Sparta song from the 1980s that had never been recorded. It was brought up to date and considered to be a suitable track for the new album. 'Soldier Of Fortune' is based on an original song I wrote in 1984 but you would be hard pressed to tell the similarities. It was never recorded in its original form. Every other track is brand new but at the outset we agreed with High Roller Records that if we were going to record a new album, it must be in the original Sparta sound. This was not a problem since all the original members were involved in the recording and I think you will agree that the record does sound like the original band but with much better production and recording facilities.”
“Soldier Of Fortune” is another killer songs on the album, Tony explains: “'Soldier Of Fortune' is about people all over the world through the ages who join an army and fight battles but never know what they are actually fighting for. In UK history peasants took the 'King's Shilling' to join the army and fight for the king but they were never aware of the deeper political reasons for war. Soldiers do not actually have to know what they are fighting for. The concept is that people fight battles and have no reason to know why, usually for money.”
The title of “Rock And Roll Rebel” might sound familiar to you, but it's not an Ozzy cover version as Tony Foster remarks: “'Rock And Roll Rebel' is a completely new song written by me. It has no link to the Ozzy song, although I was aware of the existence of the song. It is about life on the road as a band but additional lyrics from Karl turned the song, almost, into a celebration of some great rock songs over the years. If you listen carefully, you will hear several references to some of the great rock songs over the past decades. It is a little bit autobiographical about playing in a rock band over many years and seeing songs and bands come and go.”
Sparta will be playing the prolific Brofest in Newcastle on the 28th of February 2014. The band is looking forward to play up North: “We will wait to see what the reaction is after Brofest. We are definitely an active band and will continue to play and record. So you haven't seen the end of us yet. We consider that the rock music we play would be accepted by a wider audience and intend to play some festivals in the summer.”
Tony Foster makes clear that Sparta are definitely a band of the present: “Listening to a lot of rock music today, there aren't many new (old style) rock bands available today. We are confident in the music we play and produce today. I think 'Rock And Roll Rebel' and 'Wild Night' would make great singles but the chances of that happening are slim in the current economic climate. People always like rock music and what we have produced on »Welcome To Hell« stands up to comparison with other bands around today. There is a niche market for N.W.O.B.H.M., as shown by High Roller Records, but I believe there is a market for new great classic rock and sadly there are few bands at the minute producing such music. As you know, some of Sparta's influences are Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Motörhead with a little splash of AC/DC. We all are still fans of the original heavy metal but I think that with the release of »Welcome To Hell« classic N.W.O.B.H.M. still has a place in today's music scene.”