This Is War
I always used to write off Thirty Seconds to Mars.
To me, Jared Leto was an actor – and a damn good one at that; I just couldn’t take him seriously fronting a rock band. Then the way they promoted A Beautiful Lie, with Leto covered in dark eyeliner, just cemented that idea in my head and I, quite unfairly, wrote them off despite hearing that they were impressive live and moderately enjoying The Kill.
When they came out with This Is War I once again wrote it off until I heard the single Kings and Queens. There was something there in the atmospheric stadium rock. It was big, it was grandiose, it was a bit cheesy but it was good. Leto’s voice was strong, the type that makes you want to close your eyes and throw your hands out as you sing along. The drumming was interesting and the addition of a children chorus really propelled the song forward. This was good and intriguing enough for me to give them a second chance.
The rest of the hour long record pretty much builds on top of what Kings and Queens started, delivering progressive and stadium rock songs one after another; offering a serious nod to Pink Floyd and a more rock-oriented version of Angels and Airwaves. Leto’s voice is consistently strong, ensuring that perhaps I’ll finally allow him to be a singer and an actor (but he’ll always be an actor in my books).
This Is War sees Thirty Seconds to Mars offering some very interesting tracks that bear repeating. The six-minute Hurricane drags on a bit too long but has a chorus that just blows you away built on varied instrumentations and a powerful vocal delivery. Listen to the title track and the anthemic chorus will give you chills, particularly contrasted against the sparse verses. Night of the Hunter blasts through with a fast French introduction before thunderous drums come in along side synth melodies and Vox Populi is the de-facto atmospheric stadium rock song that would make Tom DeLonge green with envy.
The album, as a whole, sees some interesting musical structures, sometimes stadium rock, sometimes slightly industrial, sometimes atmospheric with strings and expansive orchestration. The problem This Is Warruns into is that they do it all too much and too often. By the halfway point you feel like you’ve heard it all before. The strings are a nice touch but were good on the last three tracks too. The children chorus adds a little extra something but loses credibility when it’s done at least three times in the same album – maybe more as they tend to blend together after a time.
That is the main detractor of the album: while it may be good, it’s all been done before and at an hour long, This Is War starts to drag. This feeling makes the final few songs filler as they fall into the background; only on L490 do they finally grab your attention again, unfortunately it’s a painful amount of feedback that does it and the feedback remains the only memorable moment of the closing track which seems very out of place in the album.
As I said before, This Is War is strong enough to convince me that Leto can have a career outside the movie industry; but it’s not strong enough to keep me playing it over and over again. A few songs here and there, but that’s pretty much all; and for an album that seems to be focused around one central theme, it’s odd that they didn’t bother supplying any lyrics in the booklets.