Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” starts with the song “Birth” and ends with a music box playing the them to “Swan Lake,” the go-to tune to signal Death. The rock band is counting on its listeners to make this connection and to follow all the other very obvious themes of “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.”
And, in case you can’t follow, there’s literally an announcement at the top of each concept: “Lust,” “Love” and so on.
That’s the main problem with an album like this, and 30STM on the whole: there is no room for subtlety, not because the band can’t “do” subtle, but that they make a conscious choice not to.
yet again lets his outsized personality lead this crop of stadium-emo and brute-disco tunes, as a shaman-Jesus whose truisms are wholly dependent on your belief in Him (Leto). “All we need is faith” he leads over and over again on apocalyptic “End of All Days.” “Love is a dangerous game to play,” he concludes on “The Race.” He rhymes “city of angels” (on the song of the same name) with “comfort of strangers,” and “I don't wanna live a lie that I believe / Time to do or die… Faith is coming, that I know / Time is running, got to go” on the little chestnut of wisdom “Do or Die.”
The trio is as ambitious and equally indulgent in high concept music-making with a broader array of stylistic choices than their last “This Is War.” Like the Killers when they turned the corner with dancey “Day & Age,” 30STM adds more thumps, strings and BPMs to the mix. Unfortunately, they fill the space (and space-rock) with a litter of gang vocals on almost every song, indulging in hair metal-levels of “whoa-ohs,” “yeah-ahs” and rounds.
“Pyres of Varanasi” seems to be a bit of fantasy “world music” fulfillment than it serves its album, which keeps a pretty fixed (if not unrelenting) pace. It at least it provides room for a breath right before hypnotic “Bright Lights,” the best and most concretely complete song on this album. “I’m leaving, gone yesterday / Brutal, laughing, fighting, f*cking / The price I had to pay,” Leto broods. And then, again, with the “Oh-ohs.”
Again, this album works if the listener generously gives themselves over to the spirit of the thing -- all throttle, power, punishment, wantonness and deadpanning; it helps that Leto’s voice is better than ever. But, then again, it’s OK to pass on “Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” even if everybody along the way in the making of the set apparently said "yes," and never said "no."