It's been five long years since 30 Seconds To Mars released their last record, 2013's art-rock experiment Love Lust Faith + Dreams. In the time since then, art has become an evermore prominent factor in the way we look at the world. Whether we listen to a song about uniting together or a political cartoon depicting our President, art as a medium has undoubtedly become an increasingly important factor of how we look at the world around us.
30 Seconds To Mars take that sentiment head-on with their new record. It's neither solely personal or focussed on a global scale, but in its execution it manages to capture each listener's unique feelings towards one important subject: humanity. Thirty Seconds To Mars captures the essence of today in America, their fifth record that sees them explore what it means to be alive in today's day and age.
America is an album of inspiration. Each song elicits something raw within you, whether it be determination or lust. Fittingly, the album's lead single, the anthemic 'Walk On Water,' opens the album, spearheading that sentiment. 'Walk On Water' has become the theme of determination, the chorus loudly and proudly asking, "Do you believe that you can walk on water? Do you believe that you can win this fight tonight?" There's something really patriotic to it, and more than that, something inspiring in it. Perhaps conversely, 'Rescue Me' pleads for someone to deliver that inspiration. In its visceral, dark electronica that feels like a different take on Linkin Park's 'Sorry For Now' from One More Light, Jared Leto cries out for someone to "Rescue me from the demons in my mind / Rescue me from the lovers in my life," taking things to a more personal level as he assures the listener that even when everything seems perfect that there's still those voices on the inside that try to hold you back.
The theme of love is one 30 Seconds To Mars has danced with plenty of times, but the songs that explore love and lust in America feel very intimate and, oddly enough, celebratory. 'Dangerous Night' is an ode to love, the Zedd produced epic proudly and lovingly claiming that it's "a dangerous night to fall in love." In an era where even the idea of love has become something for people to debate, the daringness of 'Dangerous Nights' puts the thrill of it back into play before we lose it to diplomacy. 'One Track Mind' takes on a more intimate look at love, the tension and smoothness of Leto's voice and the dark atmosphere (broken almost tantalizingly by his scream of "there isn't other way" in the second verse) brings influences from The Weeknd and Kanye West together in a glorious way. A$AP Rocky's verse feels like an awkward break (even though it has its moments) from the wonderful back-and-forth from sensual verses and epic bass drops, but as soon as the guitar solo kicks in all of that sensual tension returns in a great way. Halsey and Leto have a similarly sensually intense back-and-forth in 'Love Is Madness,' the much more tantalizing and dramatic song beautifully capturing the dramatic side of the battle-against-love that 'Dangerous Night' saw the daring side of.
There is more to America than just love and lust, though. The album has an epicness to it that celebrates life - and America - more wholly. The most powerful of these tracks is 'Great Wide Open,' a song that could be the country's new national anthem. Opening gloriously with warm synths à la 'From Yesterday' and a faraway "woah" track, Leto comes in endearingly asking, "Is this life that we're living... Is this love? Some new beginnings? Or a night in our wildest dreams?" After the big first chorus, the second verse comes in even more driven, now with a gospel backing him, adding power and soul to the already heavenly words. The bridge calls for unity more directly, asking desperately for everyone to "Let it out, let it all go / Time to lay down your arms." The whole mood of the song really makes you feel like you're standing at the top of a mountain, looking below at the infinite landscapes and wishing for nothing more than for that sense of peace and beauty to last forever. It's a powerful emotion that's created there, but nothing speaks more powerfully in the album than these simple pleas in the choruses, though: "I will save your heart from breaking, won't you stop, please? Set me free."
Not all is about happiness and hope on America; especially as the album progresses, the music gains a growing sense of urgency with it. Instrumental 'Monolith' does a great job of establishing this idea of chaos, the pounding drums and distorted sounds roaring with urgency as they roll for the short but unforgettable minute and a half. 'Hail To The Victor' is filled with drama, the verses trying to come to terms with the monotony of everyday life that leaves us asking: "what are we fighting for?" The chorus builds epically as Leto chants "Is everybody out here crazy" before a badass bass drop comes in to add to the song's moody atmosphere. 'Remedy' sees drummer Shannon Leto take the reigns entirely, his bluesy Oasis-esque ballad being one of the only songs on the album led by acoustic instrumentation. His words feel reflective, the ballad seeming to look on his past as he asks himself in the present, "do you hear what I got to say? I'm searching for a remedy" as if to say he's still unsure of the choices he's made and worried he'll make the wrong ones in the future.
Jared offers a similar sense of inner turmoil in 'Dawn Will Rise' where he speaks for both himself and society, warning that we must "change or die" above the buzzing instrumental. 'Live Like A Dream' steps away from the sense of worry and channels the U2-like energy from 'City Of Angels' and 'Bright Lights' and reminds us about the American dream, and encourages us all to follow our dreams and not stop until we achieve them. Closing track 'Rider' returns to a sense of impossibility, but in a different way. It's a battle song of sorts, the dramatic song truly sounding like a hurricane is brewing. Leto confidently proclaims "you will miss me when I'm gone" as an orchestra builds epically. It's like the theme song of a tragic hero, Leto singing "I loved you, I'll leave you" as he faces his past and tries to walk away from the storm that is what he's leaving behind. The orchestra builds on an epic scale, growing as the storm seems to swallow everything in its path, ending abruptly as if to say the story is not yet over. It's an incredible and powerful ending, dramatic in such a way that has you at the edge of your seat. And as any cinematic masterpiece does, it leaves you asking: "what's next?"
"America" is a rare word. It means nothing, yet it means everything. If you asked twenty different people what it meant, you'd get a different answer. America is more than an album about the country. It's an album about the times we live in. Thirty Seconds To Mars captures the essence of today in America, perfectly providing a snapshot of this chaotic and uncertain time in history. It's neither wholly political nor intimate, but it has you questioning where we are really are in the world right now. Are we moving forward, or are we stuck in the past? 30 Seconds To Mars leaves it up to you to decide.
Favorite Tracks: Great Wide Open, Rescue Me, Rider, Love Is Madness, Remedy
Least Favorite Track: One Track Mind
Rating: 99 / 100
Stream or buy America on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: