Thirty Seconds To Mars

Love Lust Faith + Dreams

Written by: TL on 01/06/2013 15:08:46

With 2009's positively outrageous "This Is War" actor/rockstar Jared Leto and his band 30 Seconds To Mars took musical grandeur and epicism to levels of production and explicitness rarely seen before, a feat for which many scorned them while equally many celebrated them. As readers likely know, I positioned myself excitedly in the latter camp, which at the same time positioned me to look forward to an eventual follow up with both anticipation and anxiety, because let's be honest, albums of "This Is War"'s rare magnitude are devilishly hard to follow.

Having been spurned on "This Is War" for repetitively setting up rallying cries in reflection of their ongoing legal, financial death-struggle with their label, the band - completed by Tomo Miličević on guitar and Jared's brother Shannon on drums and now stylised as Thirty Seconds To Mars - takes a new direction with the supposedly thematic division of "Love Lust Faith + Dreams", on which a female voice-over returns repeatedly to announce each act. Yet drawing any connections between her announcements and the following/preceding music and lyrics is a tricky task I'm going to leave entirely up to the individual listener.

Two things primarily strike me about "Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams", and the first is how varied it is compared to its two forebears: At once poppier and more uplifting than ever on "City Of Angels" and "Bright Lights", yet consistently exploring darker, more sinister themes with "Up In The Air"'s decadent chorus "I wrap my hands around your neck so tight with love" and rocking harder than the band has in a long time with the full-frontal beat-and-riff of the dramatic "Conquistador".

The other thing is how the band is turning into a force of eclectic artistery that the super-charged anthemics of "This Is War" has almost made us neglecting of. Because to be perfectly blunt, I don't think anybody considers this record anywhere near as sweeping as its predecessor, and I think that realisation will initially blind listeners to what's still here. And what's here is a solid banquet of catchyness and a consistently other-worldly vocal performance from Leto who, despite whichever megalomania you may suspect him of, must at least be recognised for one of the most remarkable singing voices around.

Furthermore, what can also get lost in all the things you can discuss about the band, is the fact that with "Love Lust Faith + Dreams", Thirty Second To Mars are extending a pole-position as frontiersmen in the expansion of the rock genre. Or, to put it more plainly, nobody around sounds like them, nor does anything similar to what they do. With a production job so rich and powerful it sounds like it was tailor-made for THX sound systems, the album mixes rock's back-bone instrumentation seamlessly with elements both symphonic and synthetic in an futuristic soundscape that blurs boundaries between terms like rock, prog and pop, blazing trails across constraints that can otherwise be suspected of having a lot to do with rock's decreasing popularity.

When all that's said and done, this is a review, and while reviews can soar with such observations, I think they must inevitably come down to earth and consider the persistent question: "How good are the songs?". And If it's a matter of catchiness, then over half the album is stellar. The diversity injected via small doses of foreign languages (Is that Chinese I hear? Wasn't there a bit of French?) and the Eastern sounding cries that accompany the deafening bass of the otherwise all-instrumental "Pyres Of Varanasi" injects an extra sense of mystery and exoticism. So it may be artificial, and it certainly seems like it when seen alongside the almost overblown wide-eyed-ness of "City Of Angels" and "Bright Lights", but then a seeming glance into Leto's fascination with his resident town also comes around in the former, lending it a personal and compelling anchoring.

So, while the last few songs on the album may have yet to sway me, eventually I think the bottom line is that with "Love Lust Faith + Dreams", Thirty Seconds To Mars only expand on their status as a band that, for better or worse, are a musical force that you can write paragraphs upon interesting paragraph about if you're of an analytical inclination - Yet also one that writes songs that you can appreciate casually at face value if you'd rather do that. That's a rare enough combination of qualities to keep me interested. How about you?


Download: Up In The Air, Conquistador, End Of All Days, City Of Angels
For The Fans Of: Muse, Linkin Park, U2, Angels And Airwaves

Release Date 21.05.2013
Virgin / Universal

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