Review Summary: This Is War has triumphed.
With the release of their third album, This is War, 30 Seconds to Mars has once and for all shirked their reputation as an “angst” band. It could instead be argued that, while the wounds of their battle with Virgin Records are evident in their latest release, they instead offer themselves as healthy role models for listeners, channeling their frustration and suffering into songs of hope, optimism, and strength.
“I fell apart but I got back up again,” Jared Leto croons in “Alibi”, first in a soothing tone evocative of a lullaby, later soaring to a cry that is both anguished and exultant. This sentiment of determination and healing echoes throughout the album.
It’s rare for me to like an album the first time I hear it. I’ve always found comfort in familiarity; usually new songs have to “grow” on me. But it was love at first listen for This is War. It’s the kind of music you can listen to with your eyes closed and see the sun rise; the kind of music you blast with the car’s windows rolled down; the kind you sing along to with the enthusiasm of a fevered tent-revival disciple. This album gives you chills from its first notes.
As if it were even possible to do so, following the release of their platinum-selling second album, A Beautiful Lie, the talented men of 30 Seconds to Mars have continued to improve their musical aptitude, producing a more polished and innovative album than the previous two. (Note that I do NOT mean more “mainstream” – despite their producer Flood’s experience with renowned bands such as U2, Depeche Mode, and The Smashing Pumpkins, they continue to admirably deviate from the flow of “pop” music.) One example of their musical pioneering would be the choral accompaniments to many of the songs: the uplifting chants heard in the background of such songs as the title track (also featured in the game Dragon Age: Origins), “Night of the Hunter”, and “Hurricane” are actually the voices of 30 Seconds to Mars’ fans, recorded earlier this year in a “digital summit” (just one of many ways the band incorporates its “army” into the music). These full-bodied compositions will undoubtedly play well in the acoustics of a large venue.
This Is War also contains more of the smoky, sexy, whispered vocals that particularly send Leto’s admirers swooning. Because of this, the album will likely perform well in an intimate, acoustic setting. Regardless of the site, This Is War seems destined for live performance greatness.
Overall, 30 Seconds to Mars has used their strife to demonstrate unparalleled poise and grace, and the result is an album with more depth and intensity than I’ve experienced in a long time.
Provehito In Altum