Thirty Seconds to Mars
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Label: Interscope Records
Review by Jared Stossel
There are fewer voices in modern alternative rock music today that are more distinct than Jared Leto. He doesn't sound like the rest; he never has. Whether he's screaming on a track like "The Kill", an acclaimed cut from the band's five album discography, waxing poetic and encouraging cinematic singalongs on "Kings and Queens", or venturing into electro-pop territory on "Up in the Air", there is an undoubtedly unique chemistry between Jared Leto's voice and his brother Shannon Leto's drumming and percussion skills. Thirty Seconds To Mars are officially five albums deep into their career, and it's an album like America that shows they're ability to take what they've previously done (Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams) and push it even further, sometimes into unfamiliar territory. But the risks pay off.
"Walk On Water" may be one of the best tracks of the year, as it mixes drumline snare beats with new-age synthetic rhythms, buzzing synth lines, and an epic choir backing Jared Leto throughout as "Do you believe that you can walk on water" pushes the track higher and higher up the ranking in their collective discography. The powerful track leads into the summertime anthem "Dangerous Night", before clean plucked guitar notes move the album into "Rescue Me", another anthem-like track that almost sounds like it could have come from a Marshmello album. That isn't a slam at the band or Marshmello, by the way: it just shows how diverse the band have become, and how they truly aren't afraid to take songwriting risks anymore.
The album calms down greatly with "One Track Mind" (featuring an well-versed cameo from rapper A$AP Rocky about three-quarters of the way through the song), before leading into the instrumental track "Monolith", which sounds like something straight out of a Christopher Nolan film soundtrack. "Love Is Madness" features a high-profile duet between Leto and pop vocalist Halsey. Their collaboration is backed by hip-hop beats that are accentuated by marching band fills in between verse breaks.
"Great Wide Open" acts a sort of ballad for America, with Leto singing powerful vocals over a piano-driven chorus. "Hail To The Victor" brings the energy back up, with an electronic break that would put some of the highest paid EDM artists in today's industry to shame. "Dawn Will Rise" proves to be one of the calmer moments throughout the album as Jared Leto sings over a hypnotic beat. "Remedy" is the album's only acoustic moment, and the only one without Jared Leto's vocals. Drummer Shannon Leto takes over vocal duties with an impressive performance that compliments the flow of the album well.
The 80s-inspired "Live Like A Dream" combines the old with the new, as a gang-vocal chorus compliments the synth-wave verses throughout. America closes with "Rider", a track that really only features vocals and a simple 808-style beat that builds up throughout, rising to a crescendo as more and more instruments pile on. Synth layers and drum beats build up until we immediately cut to black.
Thirty Seconds To Mars consistently prove themselves to be one of the most ambitious bands in alternative music, particularly within rock. They make me question the genre and elitism of it at times. Is rock really limited to just guitar, drums, and bass? Or can it be so much more? A number of artists in alternative that were once packing Vans Warped Tour were known for heavily distorted guitars, bombastic drums, and screaming vocals. But time has changed, and America shows off the good that can come from musical growth. A thought provoking album indeed.