When This Is War released in 2009, it transcended 30 Seconds to Mars into a whole new league of talent. While A Beautiful Lie catapulted them to stardom, the 2009 album shattered any expectation and created a monster of anticipation for whatever was to come. The future would hold out for almost four years of doubt and eagerness, which, in all likelihood, could only really disappoint.
That brings us to the present – 2013. When 30STM released their first single off the new record, “Up in the Air,” it was actually a very solid debut to whatever was to come. And so the expectations remained constant and intact. The thing that is most enjoyable about the song is that it picks up exactly where This Is War left off. It has a natural focus on their colorful frontman Jared Leto, while adding in the electronic-rock dynamic that was so successful in their 2009 album. However, if the goal was to further grow and show off the four years of work and dedication, this was a far cry from what should have been the final product. Expectation: back in check.
Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams begins with a very strange horn segment, which gives way to a bass-filled intro that is becoming a staple with any 30STM record. The track is mildly forgettable as it gives way to “Conquistador,” which is probably the only song that could be categorized as rock. “Conquistador” is a natural rock anthem and it kicks LLFD off extremely well. Moving forward, “Up in the Air” shows up third and while it is an impressive track, what comes next has the potential for Track of the Year. “City of Angels” showcases Leto as a true vocal powerhouse and although it is a natural ballad, the transition from “rock anthem” to traditional “electronic-rock” to “ballad” is flawless. Tracks 2-4 truly laid a rugged foundation for the remainder of the record.
Unfortunately, it is of my opinion that what follows falls far short of what the start had to offer its listeners.
What often happens, and I understand this better than most, is that expectations peak after a few brilliant tracks and then what follows…well, just doesn’t live up to that exaggerated expectation. So, my strategy has been to restart, or refresh my mind and begin the album from that point forward. Using that tactic, we begin with track 5 – still unfortunate, since it doesn’t seem to elevate the impression I get.
As we move toward the end of the record, tracks 5-12, only maybe three of them stand out. “Do or Die,” “Bright Lights” and “Northern Lights” all carry their weight nicely and contribute very well to the rest of LLFD. Where they’re lacking is that they’re surrounded by a lot of useless production (Thanks Tim) and fancy filler.
What this album ended up doing is pretty simple: it added quite a few remarkable tracks to an already remarkable arsenal of songs created by Leto and company. What it did not do is also very simple: live up to the impossible expectation that This Is War left in its path. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so.