Album Review: This is War by 30 Seconds to Mars

Fun Fact: Jared Leto's eyeliner is so thick, he was once mistaken for a raccoon and trapped before being released in a remote part of Yosemite National Park

For American hard rock group, 30 Seconds to Mars, intensity is the name of the game. From frontman Jared Leto’s blue-steel stare, reminiscent of Derek Zoolander, to the title of their most recent album, This Is War, the group’s style is downright fierce.

30 Seconds to Mars is composed of vocalist, Jared Leto, percussionist, Shannon Leto, and guitarist, Tomo Miličević. Spanning their three studio albums, the group’s brotherhood shows in their music. Shannon’s furious drumming pounds out the rails over which Jared’s lyrical screams roll like a runaway train while Miličević’s guitar stands ready to temper things when the pressure reaches dangerous levels.

This Is War is no deviation from the group’s signature sound. The segue from the album’s anthemic driving title track to the acoustic strumming of “100 Suns” is so seamless, you’d have to skip the CD back to make sure it actually happened. Cries turn to croons and you can almost hear the sweat dripping onto the drumkit as Shannon takes a well-deserved break.

“Kings and Queens” serve as the album’s tentacles, reaching through the radio and grabbing the listener’s attention. The heroic sound of “Kings and Queens” served to inspire one of 2010’s best music videos, a claim substantiated when MTV named it Best Rock Video of the Year. Jared Leto’s serenade to Los Angeles, accompanied by the can’t-miss sound of a children’s choir, is perfectly shown in the video as the band literally serenade LA from the city’s hills, giving a near-priestly blessing to the area.

The album’s second single, “Closer to the Edge”, is a frenetic, head-shaking song about the refusal to apologize, a theme expressed more subtly in the group’s larger instrumental style. “No, no, I will never forget, no, no, I will live my life”, expresses the track’s message nicely.

For all its likeability, the album provides a near cookbook for how to make an anthem. Start with relentless percussion, throw in some electrified plucking, a dash of soaring vocals, and finish with strong backing choruses. Draw it all out over the course of five or six minutes. Repeat. The album’s signature is also its downfall. Tracks blend together, making short interludes necessary.

At the rate they are going, 30 Seconds to Mars are on track to be one of the decade’s most accomplished American groups. Formula or not, their methods are working. Let their songs in your ear, and they might just stay there. They’re hard to remove.

Check out 30 Seconds to Mars video for “Kings and Queens” here