Thirty Seconds to Mars

This Is War

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Emotional bloodletting never quite fit 30 Seconds to Mars -- perhaps it was residual prejudice from Jared Leto’s status as actor-turned-musician, but they always seemed to skim the surface, not even when they pushed roiling emotions to the forefront in the best traditions of grunge and screamo. When they were mining a post-grunge or nu metal or emo vein, this was a liability, but now that they’ve shifted their music with the shifting times, adopting a hybrid of the Killers’ retro new wave and My Chemical Romance’s gothic prog, they’ve wound up with a sound that suits their stance. Which isn’t to say that they’ve gotten any less ridiculous -- if anything, they’re more absurd, piling up Auto-Tuned vocals, gurgling synthesized loops, Kanye cameos, and a children's choir on almost every other song. Producers Steve Lillywhite and Flood, both veterans of U2, do give This Is War an appropriately epic scale, although appropriate seems an inappropriate word for such an ungainly mix of synth rock, metal, and prog, the distillation of all manner of brooding ‘80s teenage obsessions. What saves it from being nothing but thirtysomething wish fulfillment is that this move toward goth-glam requires 30 Seconds to emphasize hooks and gives them aural variety, which doesn’t make them seem any more serious but does make them considerably more palatable.

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