Whether you're a fan or a detester of his work both musically and in film, there's no denying that Jared Leto is an avid enthusiast of being ambitious. What the ambitious ideas he's incorporated into the styles his band 30 Seconds to Mars have tackled on their albums have always lacked is focus and guidance. The first two outings from 30 Seconds to Mars were both awkward amalgamations of space rock, post-hardcore, and alternative rock that could hardly be taken seriously in how slipshod the half-baked ideas were utilized, and despite the band’s best attempts to be outlandish, the music never fully developed into its own, and the forced artiness came off as pretentious more than anything.
30 Seconds to Mars’ work has seen slight but notable progressions into maturity. Even their third album, the U2-aping This Is War
was undeniably a step up from the attenuated progressive emo they were going for with albums like A Beautiful Lie
. Now returning four years later, it’s clearly apparent on the group’s latest effort Love Lust Faith + Dreams
that not only has Leto found an identity amidst his abundance of experimental ideas, but he has also finally learned to employ discipline over the music of 30 Seconds to Mars. While Love Lust Faith + Dreams
without a doubt contains the most mature music they group has ever produced, it’s ironically the album where the group embraces pop song structures the most. Heavy emphasis is put on earworm hooks here, but it all actually sound sophisticated and with intent. What’s matured the most is without question Leto’s vocal delivery, which sounds completely renewed in comparison to his whiny and shrill cries of past hits “The Kill.” The Coldplay-esque arena melodies are cranked out on nearly every chorus, but they actually take flight and soar to the rafters; having the ability to incite infectious chant-alongs instead of falling flat.
Love Lust Faith + Dreams
also feels purposeful conceptually. It appears that Leto has finally learned to settle upon a single source of inspiration to take prominence on an album at its core, so that other music styles can then properly be incorporated comfortably. His inspiration? It would appear to be the classy progressive pop of Genesis. At its center this album is almost like a tribute to the forward-thinking rock scenes of the '70s. There’s arguably hints of inspiration taken from krautrock, and the atmosphere behind the symphonies are more reminiscent of new age music this time out, while the prominently electronic-based production recalls Kraftwerk if anything. Regardless, this is the smartest approach 30 Seconds to Mars have taken to constructing their music. No two conflicting elements are battling for dominance, or even to just be noticed on this album. That refinement shows a definite handle on their craft, and it makes this a better album than anything they’ve done before it. The vintage analog-synths wouldn’t glimmer as much as they do if the slick coat of poppy frost interfered as opposed to harmonizing.
The icy textures and wistfully cold atmosphere still play a key role here as they have with all of the group’s prior albums, but underneath that shimmering tundra is an evidently reignited flame at its core that's burning with hunger and determination. Though its appeal is tentative and may bring uncertainty to fans upon first listens, Love Lust Faith + Dreams
is a fast grower, the most immediately satisfying and overall balanced music from the group to date, and possesses a sense of direction more keen than what most would expect. It’s clear that this all can be credited to how the group is now fully grown, and completely sure of where it’s going in the offbeat, yet rewarding little sub-world in neo-prog that 30 Seconds to Mars have etched out for themselves.