When Thirty Seconds to Mars' second album, 2005's 'A Beautiful Lie', saw them earn mainstream success, it was inevitable that it would be seen as an actor's ego project. By the end of the campaign for the following 'This Is War' album, Jared Leto was a bona fide musician who occasionally appeared in films; it hit the top twenty in numerous countries including the UK and USA and had a record-breaking tour of 309 shows in two years.
Naming your opening track as 'Birth' isn't as clever as the band probably think, but in terms of a statement of intent this piece certainly does the job. Beginning with a brooding brass section, it develops with a cinematic feel before reaching a bombastic climax of guitars that could soundtrack Armageddon - someone may very well have been listening to Muse. It brilliantly mixes into 'Conquistador', a thumping anthem on which 30STM reveal an electro influence to their brand of alt-rock. It's instantly grasped with the first of many chanted vocal parts, something that can also be attributed to lead single 'Up In The Air' with its screeching guitars and simple hooks. 'City Of Angels' finds the trio in a less aggressive mood as they move toward U2-style stadium rock and particularly beneficial to the song is Leto toning down his vocal delivery. Whereas the album mainly features a lot of angst, which at times feels contrived, this is essentially a love song for the city of Los Angeles on which the sentiment seems genuine. Another track to take this approach is 'Bright Lights', but the results are less instantaneous in making a positive impression.
The frontman is back to growling again on 'The Race'; a dark number which disappoints with clichéd lyrics such as "It began with an ending"; but of more interest is 'End Of All Days'. Crunching guitars and synthesisers are stripped down in favour of a haunting piano piece that rewardingly builds to a crescendo as Leto gets ever-more emotive. It may not get fists pumping at their live shows, but it's certainly one of the more affecting songs on the album, and they soon return to big choruses and "whoa whoa" style vocals on 'Do Or Die'. For their fans, or The Echelon as they're affectionately referred to, this is the album that was wanted and will be openly embraced. For those outside this group, all too often it becomes difficult to find anything beyond a superficial enjoyment, hindering a good rock record from becoming a great one. There are only so many times you can "whoa whoa" before wondering what you're actually singing about.
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