Its creators have tried to create a sense of drama and failed, dramatically.
Alistair Lawrence 2009
The stage is certainly set for a comeback. Anyone who’s not part of the swooning fanbase 30 Seconds to Mars gained with their 2005 multi-platinum sophomore effort, A Beautiful Lie, is just as likely be aware of the band’s high-profile falling out with their label for non-payment of royalties and subsequent re-signing to them as they are their music.
As it happens, the episode – turmoil, followed by a slightly flat resolution – handily foreshadows This Is War. It’s an album that should roar into life and bristle with righteous indignation, but instead perpetually plays it safe and consolidates the status quo.
The slow building intro of Escape is a dawdling set up for frontman Jared Leto’s breathy, nondescript vocals to be overtaken by a choir of their fans bellowing the album title in a compressed, overproduced delivery that robs it of any urgency. The seed of their angst has been planted, but it quickly sounds played out and affected.
The squelching electro-pop of first track proper Night of the Hunter comes with more gang vocals, which appear throughout like units neatly dropping off a production line. Lyrics as hackneyed and tautological as its refrain – “Honest to God I will break your heart / Tear you to pieces and rip you apart” – immediately start opening cracks along the thin ice on which they perform their pirouettes.
Elsewhere, the sheen of leadoff single Kings and Queens can’t disguise that it’s a song about the end of humanity that sounds anything but apocalyptic. Several tracks later, on Vox Populi, we’re still getting the ‘include the fans’ sleight of hand underpinning vague angst that reverberates so much there’s no room for any substance, just a stomp-stomp-clap motif that sounds hastily borrowed from Queen’s We Will Rock You.
People who want more of the same will enjoy the bittersweet, saccharine rush of their quiet-loud-quiet delivery as it pops up in blockbuster movies where everything turns out alright in the end, but taken as a whole This Is War sounds like its creators have tried to create a sense of drama and failed, dramatically.