30 Seconds to Mars, ‘Love Lust Faith + Dreams’ – Album Review
When you launch a single to the International Space Station like 30STM did, it means one of two things: You either really know how to get publicity, or you really and rightfully believe in your art. In the case of the band’s single ‘Up in the Air,’ it’s a bit of both. With that in mind, how does their album measure up with the hype?
That depends on how much you like Muse and bombast. If you like those a lot, then it’s great. If you were expecting anything remotely stripped-down, genuinely deep or organic, well, this isn’t the package for you.
Also polarizing? The record is divvied up into sections titled after each word in the album title: ‘Love,’ ‘Lust,’ ‘Faith’ and ‘Dreams’ — and to let you know which section is which, a female voice breaks it all up for you in interludes. These are all things that some listeners love because it sets the tone for the album, but that will leave other listeners who just want to hear the music frustrated.
Thematically, it’s apocalyptic and comes with a sense of drama and impending doom. Depending on your attitude about Leto and Co. in general, this can come across as an awesome, profound concept … or a lot like derelict prophets with cardboard signs on the street.
We’ll leave that interpretation up to you. Sonically? It’s a solid, if not diverse, collection.
‘Birth’ opens with ominous sounding horns and frontman Jared Leto’s urging, “I will save you from yourself.” But will he save himself from sounding like a carbon copy, intended or not, of Matt Bellamy? Because this sounds like it could be a Muse song. That’s not bad — Muse are a great band. But Muse are not Thirty Seconds to Mars.
“This is a fight for the day / Night / Black and white / A victory dance / A burning riot,” Leto sneers. He’s backed by gang vocals, slightly muffled, roaring, “We will ride again,” and it all works seamlessly. It’s angry, it’s amped, it has a breakdown — this is what 30STM fans want. “This is the fight to the death,” Leto growls, and he won it. [Listen Here]
3. ‘Up in the Air’
Leto gets violent on the band’s lead single, telling the subject, “I’ll wrap my hands around on your neck so tight / With love, love.” It’s eerie, it’s creepy and may remind longtime Leto followers that he was in ‘American Psycho,’ but for the rest? They’ll just love the “whoa-oh” refrain. [Listen Here]
4. ‘City of Angels’
Leto channels his inner Jordan Catalano, warbling, “There was truth / There was consequence / Against you / Weep defense / Then there’s me / I’m seventeen / And looking for a fight.” Leto’s been pretty far from 17 for a while, but you forgive him for it because this song slows everything down melodically and beautifully.
5. ‘The Race’
Gang vocals, slightly more gravelly vocals from Leto and a “Hey, hey” refrain. It’s a 30 Seconds to Mars song. It sounds like most Thirty Seconds to Mars songs. [Listen Here]
6. ‘End of All Days’
How would Thirty Seconds to Mars handle the apocalypse? Well, apparently armageddon knocks out the bulk of their usual heavy production, leaving piano, Leto and some sparse percussion to tell the story of the end.
7. ‘Pyres of Varanasi’
This track — or at the very least its intro — was pretty much designed for a movie trailer. It’s bombastic, dramatic and instead of the usual roaring vocals, features bizarre, haunting chants before breaking into synths. It’s a little of everything you’d expect from the band, minus the gang vox.
8. ‘Bright Lights’
30STM get a little softer on ‘Bright Lights,’ but their subject matter is still with a sharp edge. Leto sings of love in the big city, which isn’t love at all — especially when one of you is on the road: “Demon, where did my angel go / Vacant, vapid, stupid, perfect / You are the one / A new day, a new age, a new face, a new lay / A new love, a new drug, a new me, a new you / Bright lights, Big city / She dreams of love / Bright lights, big city / He lives to run.” Romantic!
9. ‘Do or Die’
Another anthem with a strong hook, this time with intense synths. Thirty Seconds to Mars are really good at these, which is why they do them so often: They make it look easy, probably because for them, it is.
A two-minute, sparse, quiet ditty written by Shannon Leto, it’s a welcome and refreshing break from the otherwise blistering tracks.
11. ‘Northern Lights’
While Leto’s lyrics can sometimes sound sinister, in ‘Northern Lights,’ his voice matches at points. This is yet another dark, apocalyptic anthem, in which he sings, “Don’t ever take a single second to breathe / They’re gonna send me on a murdering spree / I cannot wait to dance upon your grave / They don’t even have a soul left to be saved / But you believe when you’re young / We swam among the northern lights / And hid beyond the edge of night / Waiting for the dawn to come / And sang a song / To save us all.”
12. ‘Depuis Le Début’
A stately, futuristic and slightly scary closer. There’s creepy mobile music, ominous strings, and lyrics about blood. Sounds about right.