With a title hinting at their big budget spat with Virgin Records, former Hollywood swoonfest turned emo overlord Jared Leto leads his novelty rock act 30 Seconds To Mars in following up A Beautiful Lie with a bigger budget version of the same. Predictably, the title is as feisty as this record gets.
It’s all too easy to be dismissive of 30 Seconds To Mars, mostly because of their rabid emo following and because history hasn’t exactly been kind to actor-rockstar crossovers. And also because, well, they ask for it.
Dogged with some cringeworthy lyrics of teen angst performed by men in their late thirties, This Is War peddles a version of midtempo metal while striving for Gary Numan inspired cool on tracks such as -Stranger in a Strange Land’. It’s clear that 30 Seconds To Mars want what My Chemical Romance have, only they want it on a grand, U2-esque scale (surely an image to reduce grown men to tears).
Things aren’t helped when Leto oscillates between smooth teen heartthrob and Reznor-style rock god, never fully committing to either role long enough to give the project any strong sense of sincerity. This is a problem when almost all twelve songs on This Is War are attempting to be epic but end up sounding wholly contrived.
Roping in the vocal talents of an assorted medley of fans (in one of the band’s better -our fans are our family’-style gimmicks), this is faux-angst on a grand, vomit-inducing scale. With a cameo by Tibetan monks alongside said choir of fans and a multitude of snippets of other sounds and cultural reference points, This Is War goes to pains to hold onto your attention, like the whining child Leto’s vocals painfully resemble.
Despite the inexplicable vapidity of their sound, This Is War will be hungrily consumed by the masses; which is no indicator of quality. Just don’t hang up those acting shoes for good, Mr. Leto, even a My So-called Life reunion would have more credibility than this.