There are some things you need to know about me before you read my song by song, sometimes minute by minute review of the new 30 Seconds To Mars album, THIS IS WAR.
The first thing you need to know about me is that I am a huge ridiculous 30STM fanpoodle. I've seen them a whole handful of times, met them a couple of times, even made them some necklaces with the help of my wonderful glass-worker friend. I have all of their unreleased music, live stuff, acoustic versions etc. on my iPod. That's the first thing you need to know.
The second thing you need to know is that I'm a totally unbiased fanpoodle—yes, such a thing is possible—and I don't like, nor feel obliged to like, everything they've ever done. So when I fall in love with a song, it's because I'm in love with the song. I can't fake an eargasm. If I don't like something, I won't lie about finding it kinda “meh.”
The third thing you need to know about me is that I am musically retarded. I love music, I love to sing and dance and play tunes but I cannot read music and am not formally trained. Therefore I lack the vocabulary to really say what I'm talking about in most cases. Apologies.
But you can still you can trust me. ^_^
There are a few observations I'd like to make about the album overall before I go song by song.
The first one I'd like to make is that, if you are naughty like me and you downloaded the album before its official release date, THE OFFICIAL VERSION IS VERY DIFFERENT. Seriously. Like Kanye-less different. Be a good person and buy the music. (I had mine on pre-order since the day it was available to pre-order but that doesn't make me a better person than anyone else. I still DL'ed the naughty version. I just couldn't wait. It's a long drive to college and I needed something new to listen to. :D )
The second thing about this album is how majestic it is. It's HUGE. Seriously, this album is, like, Fuji-esque. It's Everestial. Kilimanjarian? It's just very large and majestic, a tremendous undertaking. You really kinda don't want to listen to only half; like, you want to have a long enough car ride or whatever so that you can hear the whole thing. And by the way, it's nice and long, too. LOL that's what she said. Anyway.
The third thing about This Is War is, WHY HELLO SYNTHESIZERS. My personal tastes run more towards heavy guitar and light on the synths (if any at all) which is why I am still and forever will be in love with their first, self-titled album which I think is without flaw, lyrically and musically. In A Beautiful Lie, they started edging towards synthiness, but still with some mighty guitarishness, but the lyrics had shifted from being about ideas (self-titled) to these things that you humans call “emotions.” ABL was an album about relationships, whether with another person or with oneself. (*Snicker* Not in that way.)
On This Is War, while I could totally have done with a lot more guitar and bass and crunchiness, I really enjoy the more sociological direction of the lyrics. And—this is only my own personal interpretation—I feel like some of it is about last year's presidential election. But more on that later. Point is, there's some real poetry on this album, and once in a while a lyric startles me with its imagery. I dote on surprising metaphors and I am so pleased with many of these lyrics.
There's one other thing that I felt was missing on this album, and I also felt was missing on ABL, and it's this goddamn creepyass beautiful insane thing that JLeto does with his voice on the self-titled. I can't really explain unless you hear it, but on the s/t, he's got this quality that I call “the menacing buzz” where he makes his voice sound like an angry swarm of a hundred thousand bees, and he holds these notes for just about ever. It was mostly on the s/t era unreleased tracks. The only thing I can do is show you. My favorite 30 song (after Edge Of The Earth) is an unreleased one called Valhalla. Just go about a quarter of the way in, maybe a little sooner, to where he says “Play again, in the hopes that you'll know where you've been,” and he holds the word “been” in that menacing voice for about a thousand years. You can also hear it in the song Revolution, another unreleased one. Go in about ¾ or more to the end when he's singing “I'm an American” for the last time in the last chorus and, holy god he just holds that buzzing note like it's the last one he'll ever sing.
Gosh, me and my unreleased 30STM songs. O_O So sorry. Anyway, this is about the NEW album, so onward.
The other thing that's missing from the album is Matt Wachter. I do wonder if they'll ever replace him. Though there is bass on this album (and I suspect Jared Leto plays it, since homeboy can play every instrument he puts his hands on,) well, I still miss Matticus. 30 is a trio now. Oh well, it's kinda cool though, three being that first prime number and all. ^_^
Now, a run-down of the songs. All of them. And the parts that I love. Sometimes by the minute. ^_^ I'll be kind to my f-list and put the longer ones under a cut.
“Prepare for judgment; only then will I get revenge...”
Guess what? This song is not on the album! It's a live song from a radio show that didn't make the cut. WHY? I want to know why. I'm putting it on my list anyway. It's gorgeous, just JLeto and Tomo playing guitars, and J showcasing his full and amazing range and control. Shades of Muse here. Whatever crazy minor key (I think?) that he's singing in here is spine-tingling. It's a brief song, but very soulful.
“It's time to pay...”
Even briefer, but huge. Welcome to This Is War and please begin to notice our theme of, well, war. And betrayal, anger, heartbreak, and, yeah. War. Here's Shannon Leto, (the brother with the incredible eyes and best eyebrows ever, but that's a story for another time,) reminding me why he is ridiculously superior to most drummers I could name off the top of my head.
JLeto at 1:30 singing through clenched teeth: “It's time to pay,” is the best part of the song. No wait, I tell a lie. The chorus of “THIS IS WAR” (and I do mean “chorus” as 30STM gathered thousands of fans for various “summits” to sing huge background throughout the album,) with its creepy little half-step upslide at the end is the best part. :)
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
( One, Two, Three, FIVE. )
The French ending, heh, kinda sounds like the indulgence of a snobby intellectual pleased with his own cleverness. And I say that as a snobby pseudo- intellectual often overly pleased with her own cleverness. ;D
KINGS AND QUEENS
( The age of man is over.... )
THIS IS WAR
( It's a brave new world... )
( I believe in nothing... )
Shoots, I know he probably didn't mean it exactly like that, but he's got his fingers right on the carotid of quantum physics and I kind of very much love him for that, even if he didn't do it on purpose. :)
HURRICANE (My favorite track so far! And, so sorry, but I'm using the uncut, unreleased version, 'cause I favor that one.)
( Where is your god? Where is your god? Where is your god? )
I like the end of this song, the little robot sounds, because they fit the cold tone of the entire song. Of note: the CD version has a verse added that was not on the naughty copy; it replaces Kanye's part. I'm flummoxed why they dropped him from the released version, however the added verse is beautiful.
CLOSER TO THE EDGE
( We all fall short of glory... )
If I'm on a quick ride, this is the one I skip.
VOX POPULI (I wish they'd named the CD Vox Populi.)
( Stamp, stamp, clap! )
SEARCH AND DESTROY
( I’m no Jesus, but, neither are you, my friend... )
( I fell apart, but got back up again... )
Nana korobi - ya oki. Fall seven times and get up eight. This song is beautiful. I love it all the way to the end.
STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
( If you're looking for Jesus, then get on your knees... )
Best creepy song ending ever: the smothered fade-out. I don't even know what the hell he's saying, but I love it.
L490 / EQUINOX
What can I say? JLeto says that SLeto played every instrument on this song. I think SLeto just stared at all the instruments with his eerie greengold-ish cat-eyes until they played what he wanted by themselves.
Whatever's going on from 3:15 to the end, I have no idea WTF. It is creepy enough when I play it in my car on the way home at night on long, unlit roads. But when I played it tonight on my computer and my dog jumped up and started staring at the door, it full on scared the everloving christ out of me. THANKS, GUYS! Naw, but I'm down with the creepy stuff, for real, I am all about creepy.
BTW, L490 is Naproxen. WTF?
Anyway, that's the end of the version(s) of the album that I have. I understand that there's a song you can only get on iTunes and I think it's a synthy remix of Kings and Queens. I'll take my K&Q straight up and organic, thanks, but I'm sure it's supercool.
And that's that! There's my crazy review of this entire album start to finish. I ♥ this band, and this album is a mixture of their old ideas with a new sound. It's catchy, with melodic guitars and songs that stick to your brain like peanut butter. Yadda yadda dicker dicker blah, typical review wrap-up, right? Enough of that! This Is War is dark, cold, heavy on the drums, and JLeto's got this incredible voice and amazing control and the good sense to play around with his stratospheric talent instead of being safe. The album is full of ideas and notions, but as cold as it sounds, it doesn't lack passion. This is a winter album for sure.
Its two biggest themes are revenge, and Jesus. I don't deny that I'm seriously curious where the Jesus stuff comes in. I can take a guess at the “revenge” part (part ridiculous lawsuit, part some personal betrayal, I'd wager,) but the “Wow, the religious right totally wronged me” stuff has me A) wondering and B) wanting to share a high-five of empathy.
Do go out and take a listen to This Is War. Even if you think it's maybe not your type of music, take a free quick listen on iTunes and see if anything catches your fancy. Perhaps you all might like it. It's sure different. :D
And wow, I can't wait till they come back out to NY so I can be part of the fan-chorus.