Review Summary: Very overproduced and pretentious, but still enjoyable nonetheless.
After listening to this album for the first time, I came to the conclusion that one word that could describe it would be pretentious. For most of the record, there are times where it is just too overblown, overproduced, and of course pretentious. Does that mean the album is bad for that reason" Absolutely not because some songs are quite exceptional and really shows how far 30stm has come since their overlooked self-titled masterpiece. That said, this album is far from a masterpiece and probably the biggest reason this album fails at many points is the poor placement and overuse of The Summit.
For those of you that do not know anything about 30stm, they have an incredibly passionate and devoted fanbase that is respectfully called the Echelon. Many of these fans gathered together to sing choruses for many of the songs on the record in an event called The Summit. I know this sounds like each song would make for an incredibly annoying listen, but it really isn't when you actually sit down and listen. Songs like Kings and Queens and Closer to the Edge show how effective The Summit can be on the record. However, The Summit is clearly does not belong in a standout track like Hurricane(I'm talking about the original version without Kanye West). It is also overused AND poorly placed in Vox Populi which happens to be the most pretentious song I have ever heard. I know it sounds like I'm being harsh on this issue, but the truth is The Summit really does not make the record terrible. It's just worth being mentioned.
I have always been impressed with Jared Leto's singing ability and range and This Is War is no exception. Songs like Night of the Hunter, Kings and Queens, and Hurricane really showcases has fantastic singing ability. However, there are times when he over sings and you can hear the strain in his voice. The only track where he strains to hit the right note is Search and Destroy and this track is not a standout on the album. For the most part, he is very good, but the same cannot be said for his lyrics this time around which are very inconsistent. They range from great(Hurricane, Kings and Queens, Alibi) to downright corny(Search and Destroy, Vox Populi, This is War). It's a shame because he is usually a great songwriter.
Musically, the album very good. Shannon Leto is very consistent and Closer to the Edge is a great example of how great of a drummer he is. Tomo Milicevic is also very good at various points on the album. Kings and Queens is the musical highlight because everything works well and it is the best example of how well The Summit was placed. Alibi is all buildup through soft piano, ambient noise, and whispered vocals. Then it crescendos into the most inspiring song I've ever heard. Stranger in a Strange Land is a little electronic and eerie, but it pays off in the end with good vocals. The same can't be said for 100 Suns and L490 because they are so boring despite some soothing instruments in the middle of L490.
This may not 30stm's best entry into their discography, but for the most part, it's solid. Most of the songs could have done without The Summit and could have had better lyrics. If you are going into This Is War expecting a rehash of their self-titled you just are not going to find that. What you will find is an extremely pretentious but solid alternative rock album. At the same time, it is still enjoyable when they get it right.
Tracks I recommend:
-Kings and Queens