Review Summary: Mary was a different girl; had a thing for astronauts.
Ultimately a simple cog in the complex biological machine that is the human condition, change is ever present in all of our efforts. Be it due to mere boredom, or an internal driving desire to strive forward, beyond the familiar, it is our creative endeavours that often best display this shared quality. Of course, particularly in regards to our heavily focused musical culture, this change can sometimes result in a negative outcome, and cause many a woeful fan to wallow in dismay for the direction a band or artist has taken, but what about change that results in huge success" Released in 2005, Thirty Seconds To Mars' multi-platinum alternative rock sophomore effort, A Beautiful Lie
, skyrocketed the then only moderately successful Los Angeles quartet to astronomical heights, bringing down upon them the momentum that carried them through to stadium filler This Is War
, and more pop oriented effort Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams
. It's really quite unnecessary to say that the last 10 years have been good ones for Thirty Seconds To Mars, gradually transforming their sound into a more radio friendly style and leading to massive commercial success as a result. Change for the sake of artistic inspiration, or simply a desire to become more accessible" Whichever is true, it has worked for them, albeit at a slight decline in critical reception. But, overshadowed by all of that, hiding in the corner and now relatively forgotten about, is a little debut record that made all of this possible; the Thirty Seconds To Mars self-titled album.
As opposed to the mostly mainstream, more organic direction taken with A Beautiful Lie
and what followed after, the original incarnation of Thirty Seconds To Mars started out quite differently. While their sophomore effort certainly ended up being a competent record by all means, its originality and creative direction pales in comparison to what came before it. Stylistically taking on the form of a space rock opera, and drawing influence from the likes of Tool, Pink Floyd, and Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic novel Dune
, 30 Seconds To Mars
is as ambitious and cerebral as the name suggests. At the helm of this crusade is established actor Jared Leto, taking the role of lead vocalist and front man of the project. Employing introspective and fantastical lyrics to emphasise the album's themes of humanity and science fiction; "what's with the fascination with the Echelon, what's with the constant questions that you have this time," Leto demonstrates he is already an accomplished vocalist here. Whether it be during the powering energetic chorus of 'Buddha For Mary', or channelling his inner Maynard James Keenan through 'Year Zero's haunting chants of "we'll never fade away", Leto successfully delivers a vocal performance suiting the mood of the record.
Musically, the production found on 30 Seconds To Mars
is almost at choking point, but for the most part adds a fitting atmosphere to the themes present. It's true that some listeners may find the glossy special effects of studio production and pulsating synthesisers found in a track like 'Echelon' overpowering, but many of the tracks would likely lack some of their theatrical 'umph' if this were to be stripped down. As for instrumentals, drummer Shannon Leto brings the percussion backbone to the record in spectacular fashion; it is the blasting beats throughout tracks such as 'Welcome To The Universe' or 'Fallen' that bring an element of dramatic urgency, pushing the tracks climactically forward. Recorded before Tomo Milicevic and Matt Wachter came onto the scene, electric and bass guitar duties are instead handled by Jared Leto and a few additional contributors, and are perhaps best described as a competent effort. The regular huge distortion riffage is plentiful, with some atmospheric, effects laden lead sections here and there, usually peppered with delay or reverb to fit the mood. It does the job though, the riffs are catchy enough and give tracks such as 'Year Zero' and Capricorn' a big boost in energy.
As a debut title, 30 Seconds To Mars
is an ambitious one. It establishes itself as something quite original, and while A Beautiful Lie
brought the bulk of the fame, it did so with the price of being far more commercially accessible. Instead, 30 Seconds To Mars
attempts to push boundaries and construct a recognisable identity unique to the band, with its Achilles Heel being that on occasion, some of the tracks share a very similar sound, and thus blur together a little, lacking the memorability of other superior tracks. Regardless of this, 30 Seconds To Mars
is a competent, consistent album, and deserves far more recognition that it has received. On the flip side, it has become a nice little hidden gem that is fun to stumble across and listen to, allowing the listener an escape into a world of introspective, contextual metaphors, and a slight penchant for astronauts.
It could take a moment, but you just might lose yourself in here.