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A good fight!,
This review is from: This Is War (Audio CD)
Let me start with a simple statement. If you already like 30 Seconds to Mars or you like first single `Kings and Queens' then you will more than likely enjoy the album. It's that simple, but it's not to say that it is overly generic. Of course it has its own style but I would be disappointed if it didn't `cause that's what makes 30STM stand out from the crowd.
The whole album sounds like some kind of underground resistance going on between 30STM and the rest of the world. This makes sense of course once you know that the band went through a lawsuit with their record company and that they made this album at the same time while locked away in a house in the Hollywood Hills. Throughout the lyrics sound like the angry testimonial of a rebel with same emotion being reflected by the various anthemic chorus parts scattered throughout the record.
This angry and rebellious atmosphere is laid bare at the very start with a droning undertone overlain by a rolling drum beat which grows in intensity before Jared Leto's first vocal comes in declaring "It's time to escape". The vocals on the track are almost spat out at moments before the first choral shout of "This is war". It's an atmospheric opening. `Night of the Hunter' then strikes the first serious blow with a powerful drum line that drops away to allow space for some calculating vocals that grow into a chorus that is simultaneously epic and claustrophobic. The first single `Kings and Queens' is a defiant shout that demands respect from the listener from start to finish. The title track then is a chance for the rebellion to start gaining pace. The tapping rhythm is intriguing and it allows space for the vocals to lead the track through the verse and into the chorus like a call to arms. It doesn't just call for you to fight though, the lyrics also offer the chance of freedom at the end of it.
After `100 Suns' which is a brief yet pleasant acoustic moment on the album which makes it all a bit more personal the sound returns to one of demanding claustrophobia in `Hurricane'. It feels like a more personal track than those preceding `100 Suns' whether this is a result of the brief acoustic number or not is debatable, but you can be sure the lyrics and emotions of the track are raw and intense. Lyrics like "Do you really want me dead?" hit home to great effect. `Closer to the Edge' follows this intimacy then with more wide screen ambitions and hope, emphasised by the energy of the drums and the choral moments. `Vox Populli' build on the widescreen ambitions with urgency. It feels like the final rally call before the storm.
The start of the storm though is strangely quiet. `Search and Destroy' is in fact almost more questioning than aggressive to start with which is quite a nice surprise. It does however grow subtly into something more aggressive but without ever becoming abrasive. `Alibi' is then another quiet moment after the surprisingly brief storm. It's a moment of reflection more than anything else in fact. `Stranger in a Strange Land' then is a very dark song with powerful lyrics and brooding atmosphere created by rattling drums and malicious synth lines. It feels like the violent gesticulation at the end of a fight. Strange then that it is not the last track on the album instead it is followed by `L490' which is just an oddly atmospheric instrumental closer designed I expect to balance the atmospheric start.
Over all it is a strong album that loses its way towards the end, though this is mainly due to track ordering rather than a reduction in the quality of music. It has moments of atmosphere, emotion, widescreen ambition and aggression all balanced and portrayed effectively. It is well worth a listen in the cold winter months.