Come circa 2013, and the majority of music know-it-all’s will no doubt be aware of the existence of Thirty Seconds To Mars, a band perhaps most well known as film star Jared Leto’s ‘side project’, and subsequently dismissed by many as simply an outlet for his ego. However with the band – completed by guitarist Tomo Milicevic and Leto’s brother, Shannon on drums – now being 15 years old and 4 albums deep, have they matured to a point where they may finally be able to shirk the skepticism associated with the forever sticky ‘actor-turned-musician’ tag?
As yet another concept album devised by Leto, Love, Lust, Faith and Death revolves around the subject matter enclosed in the title. Split into segments introduced by a female voice, the songs come across as a certainly introverted affair which is overladen by a resolute musical grandeur, an aspect that reinforces what was established in the bands’ previous efforts – their self-titled 2002 album, their breakthrough effort – 2005’s A Beautiful Lie, and their last release, 2009’s This Is War. Despite such similarities, the album also reeks of a band striving to try something new and perhaps even begin to distance themselves from their previous efforts.
In Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, this translates into the incorporation of new mediums, as evidenced by the orchestra and synths that permeate almost every crevice of every track. From the off, the music is of cinematic proportions for example, the horns and rumbling drums in opening track Birth feel as if they could accompany a vivid screen battle in a modern blockbuster film. Its successor, Conquistador is clunkily and unexpectedly thrown upon us, and it is at this point that Love, Lust Faith and Dreams begins to feel like an extension of previous album, This Is War; chanting crowd vocals, clapping and marching abound, it feels almost too familiar. Up In The Air – the single that preceded the album – is easily one of the better efforts here, as it feels like the culmination of the band hitting the sweet spot in their experimentation in writing the album, successfully managing to merge the orchestra, the synths, the crowd (‘Whoa-o-a -oh’) vocals complimenting the metal influenced pop-rock that was honed on This Is War. The Race is also a highlight, it sounds like a foreboding, fast-paced sister to Hurricane – also of This Is War – complimented by frenetic violins, and would make a good future single.
That said, there are times where it definitely does not, with tracks such as the damp emotional effort City Of Angels practically fermenting in their own melodrama. Pyres Of Varanais proves to be an unfathomable interlude, incorporating Middle-Eastern vocals and a menacing orchestral display overladen with electronics; it would be perfect for a sci-fi soundtrack. Such spectacle was only reinforced by their promotional campaign prior to the release of Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, which saw the first copy of Up In The Air – the single that preceded the album – be carried aboard the Space X cargo mission to the International Space Station. That’s right: 30 Seconds To Mars finally ventured into space. A tad overblown, you may feel, especially for a mere single promo, however it certainly gives insight to the type of band that we are dealing with: 30 Seconds To Mars are not a band to do things by halves.
If the album has one saving grace, it’s Leto’s singing, which manages to span an impressive range across the 12 tracks. End Of Days proves to be an album highlight, and it is because Leto’s emotive voice alternately purrs and screeches its way through this dark, silky industrial pop ballad. Of course, lyrical responsibilities also fall to Leto, and they are perhaps the one thing that has consistently let the band down; there are only so many times that lyrics in the vein of ‘I’ll wrap my hands around your neck so tight with love’ (Up In The Air) manage to be intriguing. The track-listing is also positively infuriating, the album could have been much improved if it were not so musically schizophrenic, as the switching from moody and dark to light and euphoric in mere seconds ruins any atmosphere previously created.
With the band declaring that they intended Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams to see them breaking away into a different musical direction, it feels somewhat ironic to state that many of the songs – especially post-Pyres Of Varanais – feel interchangeable with each other. They all manage to merge, creating a blanket of almost pretentious mediocrity. The first half of the album however, hints at what this body of work could have been, had the band persevered with their experimentation; if there were more songs on par with End Of Days, it would have only served to solidify the album.
‘If it ain’t broke…’ as they say.
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