On Thirty Seconds to Mars' new album listeners are encouraged to rise up against something. I have no clue what exactly we're supposed to fight, but the album's concept has a dramatic, inspirational, and rebellious feel throughout.
Calls to arms "Vox Populi," "This Is War," and "Kings and Queens" are inspirational rock anthems tailor made for big arenas. Again, when the masses are pumping their fists in allegiance to Thirty Seconds to Mars, I'm not sure what they'll be banding together against. Musically, the anthems are upbeat with soaring vocals and guitars. Unfortunately, they're too often laced with Jared Leto's screamy belting. It felt like he went to the scream well a little too often for my taste. Leto has shown that he can sing really well as he showcases again on "Alibi." The screams would be more meaningful and tolerable if he didn't do it quite so much.
Another mainstay of the album are the choruses sung by what sounds like the people from this great resistance or rebellion we're called to join. The choruses sung on "Vox Populi" and "Closer to the Edge" are examples of the populous backing vocals. This kind of people's rock band concept was also tied into the 2,000 different album covers that featured the faces of fans who submitted their pictures.
This Is War's vague theme and Leto's scream singing are really nitpicks and observations. The album sounds great overall. I prefer their more industrial rock tracks found throughout their debut album and to a smaller degree in their sophomore album. Luckily, "Night of the Hunter" & "Stranger in a Strange Land" are nods towards their older sound. "Night of the Hunter" is a bombastic industrial rock track that's was welcomed after so much of the kumbaya-ness of many of the other tracks. "Search and Destroy" was another favorite for me. The soaring vocals return to the scream territory, but the overall structure of the song is much more memorable than the straightforward anthems. I could honestly listen to "Night of the Hunter" and "Search and Destroy" on a loop for hours.
Maybe the advantage of This Is War?s vagueness is that it will allow anyone to apply the music to their own lives and use it to fuel their own battles. While I didn't love everything about 30 Seconds to Mars' latest album, I largely enjoyed it. If nothing else, it is much more interesting than the standard rock fare on our airwaves these days.