April 2, 2018 Thirty Seconds to Mars – America (Album Review)
It is not fake news: Thirty Seconds to Mars are back! Ready to paint a diverse yet catchy picture, America arrives on Friday, April 6, 2018, thanks to Interscope Records.
Formed in Los Angeles, California, around 1998, by brothers Jared and Shannon Leto, Thirty Seconds to Mars (sometimes stylized 30 Seconds to Mars) would release their debut album, 2002’s self-titled 30 Seconds to Mars, to nearly immediate fanfare. It is, of course, hard to deny that much of that initial fandom came thanks to Jared Leto’s stellar acting career, but fans were quick to catch on to the sincerity and the magnificent musicianship of the band as a whole. What has followed is a lengthy and impressive musical career, with three additional albums over the past thirteen years – 2005’s A Beautiful Lie, 2009’s This Is War, and 2013’s Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams.
With over 15 million albums sold worldwide, it is no shock that Thirty Seconds to Mars’ storied career has produced numerous awards and accolades, including a dozen MTV Awards, a Billboard Music Award, and a Guinness World Record for the Longest Running Tour in history. On July 4th, 2017, the band shot a Documentary titled A Day In the Life of America. Including over 90 crews in all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico), the project captures American life in a single day. While the Documentary is not due out until later in 2018, thankfully, fans need not wait any longer for America, the album.
Returning with their fifth studio offering, Thirty Seconds to Mars – Vocalist/Multi-Instrumentalist Jared Leto, Percussionist Shannon Leto and Guitarist/Multi-Instrumentalist Tomo Milicevic – present the twelve-track America. Produced by Jared Leto, along with the eclectic likes of Zedd (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber), Robopop (Maroon 5, Lady Antebellum), KillaGraham (Gwen Stefani, Hailee Steinfeld) and Hector Delgado (Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky), the collection sees the band further diversifying their sound and moving away from their rocking roots.
America begins with the massive, catchy sound of “Walk On Water,” where a thinly-veiled religiosity flourishes. Times are changing, indeed! Somewhat conversely, there is a sensuality to the EDM-sprinkled, Zedd-produced “Dangerous Night” (“I am a man on fire / you, a violent desire”). Meeting somewhere in the middle, we see Leto’s voice soar as he imparts candid wisdom within the electronically-tinged plea of “Rescue Me.”
The band seem to make a bid for the next Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack with the darkly seductive “One Track Mind,” which presents a truly impressive guitar solo. This leads to the instrumental, tension-building “Monolith,” namesake for the boys’ current headlining tour. In turn, this all paves the way for the explosively gritty sensuality of “Love Is Madness,” a stunningly infectious duet between Leto and noteworthy Pop-songstress Halsey. You need to hear this… a thousand times!
Echoing back to the opening track and with further religiosity baked in, the soaring “Great Wide Open” sees Leto swearing to God that he is the Devil. Meanwhile, there are political implications embedded in the completely addictive beats of “Hail To The Victor,” and yes, everybody out there is crazy. Thanks for asking, Mr. Leto! Downtempo “Dawn Will Rise” admits that we either change or die, while “Live Like A Dream” presents wispy verses and catchy sing-along choruses. They end with Leto’s sultry, fine vocal wine on the cinematic scope of “Rider.”
America, like the country its named for, is a bit of a conundrum: it is a good record, possibly a great record, but it is not a Rock record. Saturated in electronics and Hip-Hop beats that would set Katy Perry’s little heart a-flutter, this is a collection that sees Thirty Seconds to Mars moving ever further from their hard rocking roots and toward a more universally-friendly sound that will make the Millennials titter. Alright, so the man himself has a point: we must “change or die,” so change Thirty Seconds to Mars have, embracing the studio technology available in 2018 and crafting a record that is exceedingly well-done by Pop standards, if lacking in some originality. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Thirty Seconds to Mars’ America 4 of 5 stars.
The band encourage fans to continue a conversation that started before the album’s release, posting their thoughts and images with the hashtag #WhatAmericaMeansToMe across social media.