30 SECONDS TO MARS – This Is War

I heard the second album by these guys back when it came out; despite lots of decent press, it didn’t impress me.  Their sound was solid enough, but none of the songs made any lasting impression.  I was told to forget about that, since this third outing for Jared Leto’s band was a vast improvement.

It’s a little worrying that this is supposed to be better. To be truthful, it’s so formulaic that it hurts.  30 Seconds to Mars are more than musically accomplished, this is true, but ‘This Is War’ offers very little in the way of variety, with one song blending into the next, almost indistinguishable from each other.

The album features 12 songs (okay, 11 songs and an intro) which, at best, are pleasant, but nothing more.  At worst, this album is the musical equivalent of queuing at the post office – nothing much exciting happens and by the end, you feel like it’s gone on forever.

Most of the songs follow a set pattern: quiet-ish verse building to louder chorus, where Leto changes his vocal pitch (or listening to this, a studio engineer helps change his pitch).  If you weren’t sure whether the band were trying to make their formulaic, safe, emo-influenced tunes sound like anthems, they force the issue by adding backing vocals of live audiences going ‘whoah’ on nearly every track.  ‘Hurricane’ is slightly different, in that they inflict their irritating qualities over the duration of six minutes instead of four – and yes, they use the crowd noise yet again.  There’s not even enough variety overall to warrant Real Gone’s usual detailed approach of breaking each track down to expose particular musical highlights.

The single ‘Kings & Queens’ is fine for what it does.  It’s certainly the best thing on the album, but that’s not saying much.

I wish 30 Seconds To Mars all the best, but ‘This Is War’ leaves me cold.  Sorry.  Go and buy an Angels & Airwaves album instead.

January 2010