Review Summary: A overlooked little gem significantly better than the follow-up.
Escape. Leaving behind the tedious and dull drum of the everyday, 9-5 routine and forgetting about the everyday to delight in either physical or mental diversion. Said escape is essential for a healthy mind, and as a relief of stress. There are several ways to obtain this, whether it be drugs, entertainment, or music.
30 Seconds to Mars got their name from part of an essay by a former Harvard professor about the exponential growth of technology, but if you didn’t know this, you might guess it was a description of the music. Following that assumption would be the one that they are somewhat of a gimmick band, aimed at sounding futuristic and making quite euphoric music.
In 2002, Jared Leto (star of Requiem For a Dream and Alexander, among other films) formed 30 Seconds to Mars with his brother Shannon. After the idea quickly gained momentum, Matt Wachter joined as the bassist and keyboard player. Then after various guitarists came and went, Tomo Miličević finally joined and stayed as a permanent member.
Leto and company’s debut is a very solid rock album, with very strong electronic influences. None of the members display really noteworthy instrumental talent in these 50 minutes, but 30 Seconds to Mars
is an excellent example of how great music comes through the sum of its parts. The overall effect of each song is usually slightly euphoric, and gives a fairly drifting, spacey feeling to the listener – aided perfectly by Leto’s abstract, metaphorical lyrics. Each of the twelve tracks varies in both heaviness and overall sound, coming somewhere between modern Muse, old Rammstein, and the Deftones track “Hole in the Earth”.
Quite like Rammstein, much of the album here rides on the crunchy, meaty guitar parts. They are often fairly simple, focused on backing Leto’s soaring vocals, or played with the intention of electronics backing them. There are several clean and acoustic parts sprinkled throughout as well, creating an organic contradiction to the electronic elements. The rhythm section is quite similar, doing its job but never really impressing the listener or throwing you off balance. A sad fact, considering the lesser-known Leto brother could probably put the rest of his band to shame. All this is either backed or aided by the electronics. Quite audible synths often switch from leading a guitar rhythm or adding to the overall texture, usually doing a great job. Some of the tracks add a simple techno beat, most notably “Capricorn (A Brand New Name)”, where the verse consists of just a beat, synth and Jared’s vocals.
Jared pulls the usual frontman load of vocals and lyrics, doing quite well in both areas. Unlike A Beautiful Lie
, he hardly ever screams or yells, instead just singing catchy hooks in an excellent voice. Each specific lyric line is usually plain by itself, but the songs as a whole require thought and analysis. This is best exemplified by Buddha For Mary
”Mary was an acrobat
But still she couldn’t seem to breathe
Mary was becoming everything she didn’t want to be
Mary would hallucinate
And see the sky upon the wall
Mary was the type of girl
She always liked to fly
The album’s downsides are somewhat typical of any album. Most of the tracks feature nothing especially obvious to distinguish them from each other, and the album might feel fairly repetitive upon first listen. Although I’m quite sure he doesn’t need it, Leto’s voice does sound a tiny bit Pro Tool-ed up – and that’s excluding the parts where it’s an obvious studio effect. Perhaps the biggest problem is “Year Zero”, a song that doesn’t know when to end. Its lyrics and music that would make a proper 3-minute song are stretched out 2 minutes longer, and the song ends with "We'll never fade away
" being repeated into painful absurdity.
Despite its problems, 30 Seconds to Mars
is a quite overlooked tiny gem of an album. It molds electronic synths and alternative rock to create a somewhat unique sound that's too industrial for rock and too rock to be industrial. Try and forget about the beautiful lie you’ve been sold – this is something quite different.
Capricorn (A Brand New Name)
Edge of the Earth
Welcome to the Universe