the ramblings of a music journalist and nearly-published author.

Album Review: 30 Seconds to Mars – This Is War

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While so many artists in today’s music scene produce music that is easy to listen to and makes you nod your head or tap your feet, the albums that make the listener think, affect them beyond just the act of listening, and serve as inspiration are few and far between.

As a music journalist and critic for a large part of my adult life, I am much more critical of music than I realize nine times out of ten. Within seconds, I decide whether or not I like something, and whether or not I care to continue listening to it. It takes a lot to get me into a ‘new’ band or a ‘new’ sound, because really – so many themes and sounds in new music are disposable.

One band that I’ve considered myself a casual listener of for the past several years has been 30 Seconds to Mars. Fronted by actor Jared Leto, the band has notoriety spilling out of their ears. Their previous albums, 2002’s self-title and 2005’s A Beautiful Lie have been constants on my iPod, but I was never truly affected by their music until my first glimpse at 2009’s This Is War. While the album was pushed back by a large lawsuit filed against the band by Virgin Records, once it finally saw the light of day there was no turning back.

The band’s imagery has always been something to talk about, with Leto at the helm of most of their music videos under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins. My initiation into the material on This Is War was through seeing the “Kings and Queens” music video in late January on Time Warner’s Music On Demand channel. The song itself is inspiring, with one of the most effective lyrics being, ‘We were the kings and queens of promise.’

I have suffered significant disappointment and had some negative times recently. Unemployed since September and battling constant fights against insomnia, I felt I had lost my voice in many ways. One night, I downloaded This Is War on iTunes, and soon after could listen to nothing else. From album opener “Escape” all the way to the “Kings and Queens” LA Riots Dance Mix packaged with the iTunes purchase, This Is War is one of the first albums in recent memory I can listen to from beginning to end, without skipping. For someone that has staked a claim writing about music, it is truly difficult for me to pick out my favorite tracks. If I had to, I would say “Kings and Queens”, “Hurricane”, “Closer to the Edge”, and “Stranger In A Strange Land”.

30 Seconds To Mars’ previous projects all seemed to meld together with similar sounds throughout, and This Is War changes that. Many of the songs are stark contrasts to one another, which makes each track a new adventure, a new feeling, a new beginning, even for those who aren’t that familiar. It is clear that the band went through hell and back to complete This Is War, and each and every track displays their passion for their creation and deserves a second, third, and fourth listen.

As a writer, I often feel like I’m fighting a battle I can’t win – with publications, with musicians, sometimes even with myself. Albums like This Is War change all that – change everything, and reaffirm the way I fell in love with music so long ago.


Written by Liz Van Pay

March 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

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