After 18 months of work, 30 Seconds to Mars are closing in on the release of an album that includes Tibetan monks, a screaming hawk, and the voices of fans from eight countries along with Jared Leto's soaring vocals. Now that album has a title: 30 Seconds to Mars confirmed exclusively to Buzznet that the hugely anticipated project will be called This Is War.
Long the working title of the album, This Is War was not locked in until the band members agreed on it in their Los Angeles work space the other day.The title early on appeared closely tied to the battles the band found itself fighting, most prominently a lengthy legal fight with its record label, Virgin Records. But Leto has always said it encapsulated far more, including the spirit of the band's whole creative process.
"It's representative of the battles that we were fighting, us with the record label, creative battles, personal demons," he told Buzznet. "We've discussed, like, is it relevant anymore? Some of the battles - obviously the creative, and the battles with the record label, have all come to pass, but I think it really still represents this record in the best way possible, so we're sticking with This Is War.... It represents too clearly this period of time in our lives."
He added that the title does not have to literally refer to any specific fight. "Also come the ideas about winning, ideas about compromise, about defeat, victory of course. But I think as I've tossed it around, it's always been the working title for the record as well, This Is War, so it's been important because I think it really represented the goal in a good way, a strong way."
Part of the goal for the band as it prepared its first album in four years appears to have been a dramatic expansion of its sound. (The album includes production from expansioneer Flood, among others). Tracks from the album, which Leto played for Buzznet, include an emphasis on synths, heavy drums, and the constant presence of the band's own fans, recorded in specially organized "summits" held around the world. Filled with what are essentially field recordings of fandom, the album seems almost custom-built to be played live.
Night of the Hunter: Leto says the band was attempting "a collision of the small, the intimate, the minimal against the grandiose and the bombastic." The song spans both the soft voice of a French girl counting "Une, deux, trois... cinq," to Leto's high vocal lines against a stark backdrop.
Kings and Queens: Opening with a wild hawk scream, recorded live over the band's work space, the song includes a heavy contribution from the band's fans, captured singing a chorus created from layers of the band's "summit" recordings. Leto said the title and theme were inspired by a book found at the band's South African work space, but that it "ended up being a good metaphor" for world events from the past year.
Hurricane: Already generating online buzz because of the somewhat surprising inclusion of a cameo from Kanye West, the song sizzles with electronics and represents one of the biggest departures from the band's previous music. West sings "I need a heartbeat" over Leto's own vocals to powerful sonic effect.
But as Leto explained, the band's intention is not for fans to hear singles, but a complete work. Asked about recent comments from Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who suggested that his band would not record full-length albums again anytime soon, Leto indicated he doesn't necessarily agree.
"To me, the songs are like scenes in a film or chapters in a book and they kind of work with each other in a way that they don't work and would never work separately," he said. Listening to This Is War in full, he said, "would be the best way to understand and to get the best sense of what the intentions were."
Plus: See the amazing photos from Buzznet's visit.