Album Review: 30 Seconds to Mars – This is War

30 Seconds to Mars

This is War

This is War is the perfect title for 30 Seconds to Mars’ newest album.  It works with the album cover as a social commentary; “This is War” written across a common citizen’s face. It works with the themes of the album, which explore religion, relationships, politics and tough questions like “would you kill to save a life?” It also works with their private lives, as between albums they were embroiled in a $30,000,000 lawsuit with Virgin Records.  This is the third studio release in seven years from “I’m an actor but don’t point it out” Jared Leto on vocals and guitar, his brother Shannon Leto on drums and Tomo Milicevic on guitar.
There are two things immediately noticeable about this album.  One is that nearly every track starts out really slowly and softly.  A couple of times, I turned the volume way up and then Bam! lost some cochlear hair cells when the song finally kicked in.  They must have liked this effect a lot, but let me tell you, waiting for over half a minute for each track to start gets quite tedious.  The other album pattern I noticed is even more irritating.  Almost every song on the record features Pink Floyd-esque youth choirs.  Luckily they cut this out on the last three tracks (of twelve); though one of them is an instrumental with a monk choir, so it doesn’t really count.  The choir works on the first track ‘Escape’ when they sing “this is war” and again when they reprise this idea in ‘Vox Populi’ (translation- “voice of the people”) with “time to go to war”.  I’d even tolerate it in one or two other tracks, but almost every song?  Come on.  Not only is it overdone but it gets super annoying and a little creepy too.
If there’s one thing to be said about This Is War, it’s definitely fan-oriented.  There are 2000 different covers for the album, each featuring a picture of a fan’s face.  Not only that, but the choir that I previously complained of is actually 1000 fans from all over the world, fondly called The Echelon.  They contributed their singing, stomping, humming and clapping in a series of recording “Summits” and via the internet.  This is definitely a neat aspect to the album.  It also guarantees that at least 3000 fans will buy the album just to see/hear their contributions. Clever marketing? I think so.
To me, This is War seems to lack significant growth since their last album, 2005’s A Beautiful Lie.  While this isn’t completely a bad thing- it makes sense to stick to a formula that works; a little bit of progress would be nice.  For example, their first single ‘Kings and Queens’ sounds exactly like every other single they’ve ever released.  Also, while listening to ‘This is War’ (the song) I catch myself singing “on his face is a map of the world” from past single ‘From Yesterday’.
The best tracks off the album are definitely ‘Closer to the Edge’ and ‘Night of the Hunter’.  They’re both harder, faster tracks that showcase how good this band can be.  ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ also has a dark quality about it that grows on you.  Others songs are a little slow, especially ‘Alibi’.  This one falls prey to Leto’s penchant for long, drawn out cries; leaving it draggy, unfocused and uninteresting.  Also, please note that if you bought/downloaded the album solely to hear Kanye West on ‘Hurricane’, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  For whatever reason, the Kanye-d version of this song that popped up all over the internet does not appear on the album.
There is definitely a lot of talent in this band and they’ve released a solid, well produced album.  Thought I would like to hear them experiment a little bit more, this album is bright, clean and tightly arranged.  It will definitely be well received by their legions of devoted fans.  As for the rest of us?  I think it will do well without really blowing anyone’s minds.


(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- Dec 21 2009)


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on February 25, 2011, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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