Review Summary: While the album is overblown and pretentious, the final product does turn out to be pretty good.
It has been four years since 30 Seconds to Mars last release, and what exactly have the band been up to in that amount of time? Well apparently a thirty million dollar law suit with their label took place – the band apparently failed to fulfill contract agreements. While that was certainly an obstacle, they’ve also been quite busy at creating the “best album they can make
” as well. This Is War
shifts back to the more lengthy tracks of the band’s self-titled release, grabs the commercialized alternative rock that was found on much of A Beautiful Lie
, and creates a melding of the two efforts – oh, and I mustn’t forget: the band has also enlisted the help of 1,000 fans.
The result of this combination is rather pretentious and overblown in execution; however, some spots do turn out to be effective at capturing an epic feel. “Escape” acts as the general introduction of what listeners will find here: drums enter after brief ambiance effects, Jared Leto proceeds with his soothing caress of revenge, and The Summit
– those 1,000 or so fans as they are called – comes surging forth in unison for the proclamation of, “This is War!”
As you can see, right from the onset listeners are made aware that the band has taken on a large project with this offering. The inclusion of The Summit
throughout the record turns out to be a hit and miss affair though: some tracks will have you all but joining in with the mass of singers; others will have you rushing for the skip button just to breathe as Leto’s ambition can unfortunately choke listeners.
Fortunately, the first three proper tracks fall into the category of the prior. “Night Of The Hunter” carries a driving drum beat and gives a nod to the 80s with its keyboard riff; all the while, Leto’s melody pulls the right strings to lure listeners into the song. The Summit
comes in for the end of the track – properly it should be noted – and the A Beautiful Lie
-styled “Kings And Queens” follows next, chasing after the much sought after epic feel with a stadium-size chorus. The title track is the jewel of the album. The song creeps forward after a surge of The Summit
with a simple guitar riff, luring the listener into Leto’s tale of war and inevitable battle. The chorus is nothing short of gigantic, and the momentous build up in the bridge of the song makes way for one more plunge into the fray.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the three tracks detailed above turn out to be the album’s singles – one already is, as a matter of fact – and this brings me to the problems that arise with the second half of the album. Whereas the inclusion of The Summit
on the first half is wisely implemented and never quite overcrowds the rest of the band, things change drastically for the rest of the record that follows the Kanye West-assisted “Hurricane”. Leto takes on the pretense of a preacher that’s leading a choir; the best example of this being displayed on “Vox Populi” and “Seach & Destroy”. The former overuses The Summit with the repeated proclamation of: “This is a call to arms, gather soldiers, time to go to war. This is a battle song, brothers and sisters, time to go to war.”
Jared doesn’t do much to make things better as he all but takes on the overambitious persona of Tom Delonge as if he himself were leading Angels & Airwaves, spinning off tales of hope and healing that can’t quite be taken seriously.
“Alibi” is the ballad of the album. The track borrows from the superior “Hurricane” that came before it with its slower progression and piano dominance. The song escalates to an expected climax; however, by now Leto has already exhausted any of the listener’s emotions that might profit from this release. The album closes on the brooding recall to the band’s self-titled with “Stranger in a Strange Land” and finally lays the hour-long record to rest with the acoustic outro, “L490”.
The problems found on the second half of This Is War
fortunately don’t cripple the record; if anything, the band’s momentous amount of ambition is exemplified, and while that may cause some to scoff or turn away, the effort the band put into this album is well noted. That being said, I have to wonder what exactly the band might have in mind for their next outing in a few years – if they’ve even thought ahead that far – and where does all of this ambition stop? Will the fact that This Is War
does happen to succeed in many ways prompt Leto and the band to push forward, begging the question: what exactly would that entail? Strings, masses of fans, and stadium-size choruses make up the patchwork for the majority of this album; the end result is pretentious and overblown, but that doesn’t stop This Is War
from succeeding – well, for the most part anyway.