This Is War

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This Is War
Studio album by Thirty Seconds to Mars
Released December 8, 2009 (2009-12-08)
Recorded The International Centre for the Advancement of the Arts and Sciences of Sound, Los Angeles, California
Genre
Length 60:40
Label Virgin, EMI
Producer Flood, 30 Seconds to Mars, Steve Lillywhite
Thirty Seconds to Mars chronology
A Beautiful Lie
(2005)
This Is War
(2009)
MTV Unplugged
(2011)
This Is War Deluxe edition
Singles from This Is War
  1. "Kings and Queens"
    Released: October 13, 2009 (2009-10-13)
  2. "This Is War"
    Released: March 26, 2010 (2010-03-26)
  3. "Closer to the Edge"
    Released: August 20, 2010 (2010-08-20)
  4. "Hurricane 2.0"
    Released: January 10, 2011 (2011-01-10) (Deluxe)

This Is War is the third studio album by American rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, released through Virgin Records and EMI on December 8, 2009. Upon its release, it peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200.

Background and development[edit]

See also: Artifact (film)

30 Seconds to Mars were sued for breach-of-contract by their record label, Virgin Records, in mid-2008. The label sought $30 million in damages, claiming that the band had failed to produce three of the five records they were obligated to deliver under their 1999 contract with the now-defunct Immortal Records. In 2004, Virgin took over the contract. Jared Leto responded to some of the claims in the suit on the band's website and was coerced into dismissing rumors that the group had disbanded. He said the claims were "ridiculously overblown" and "totally unrealistic", before stating "under California law, where we live and signed our deal, one cannot be bound to a contract for more than seven years." 30 Seconds to Mars had been contracted for nine years, so the band decided to exercise their "legal right to terminate our old, out-of-date contract, which according to the law is null and void."[4]

After nearly a year of the lawsuit battle, the band announced on April 29, 2009, that the case had been settled.[5] The suit was resolved following a defence based on a contract case involving actress Olivia de Havilland decades before. Leto explained, "The California Appeals Court ruled that no service contract in California is valid after seven years, and it became known as the De Havilland Law after she used it to get out of her contract with Warner Bros."[6] 30 Seconds to Mars then decided to re-sign with EMI (the parent label of Virgin). Leto said the band had "resolved our differences with EMI" and the decision had been made because of "the willingness and enthusiasm by EMI to address our major concerns and issues, (and) the opportunity to return to work with a team so committed and passionate about Thirty Seconds to Mars". He said it was "the most challenging business obstacle that we've ever gone through as a band."[5]

Upon completion of the record, Leto spoke of the troubles the band faced while working on This Is War; "We spent two years of our lives working on that record, and it was us against the world... There were times that it was overwhelming. Everything that was going on was brutal... It was a case of survival, to tell the truth."[7]

Leto produced a documentary Artifact, that chronicled the state of the modern music industry through their dispute with their record company. Other musicians also gave accounts of their industry experiences. The film premiered at at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival where it was well received and won the People's Choice Award for Best Documentary.[8][9]

Writing and recording[edit]

This Is War makes extensive use of choir recordings made at a fan gathering nicknamed "The Summit".

During recording sessions, the band hosted a gathering in they called "The Summit" at the Avalon club in Los Angeles.[10] The purpose of this was so that fans could see how far into recording the band was, and maybe even participate in the recording. In an interview, frontman Jared Leto said this:

"The Summit was an experiment in our recording process, and we were just trying to think of ways that we could deepen the connection between ourselves and our family of fans around the world. We do that often, and think of ways to break the boundary. And we thought, 'How great would it be to invite the world to come and be a part of the next 30 Seconds to Mars album? [...] There were some things [we tried] that were left-field sound experiments — using the group, the collective, as a musical instrument. We did everything from percussive expression to whispering to things that were a little bit more familiar, like inviting the 1,000 people that were there to sing the chorus of a song. And those people who were a part of it all will be a part of the next 30 Seconds to Mars album. ... It was quite simply one of the best things we've done as a band."[11]

Further on in this interview, Jared revealed that album's style will be leaning more towards that of their self-titled debut than that of A Beautiful Lie, saying that,

"The longest song on there is, like, eight minutes. The shortest, probably five. ... I don't think we have one under five. I think we do a really good job at just chasing the feeling, the core of the song, and allowing the song the ability or right to go where it leads us, where it wants to go. The song dictates that, and we've been working on this collection of songs for 12 months, so we know them pretty well."[11]

During May 2009, Kanye West posted a photo of himself, Brandon Flowers (the frontman of The Killers) and Jared Leto together and announced that he and Jared were working together on a song named "Hurricane". This collaboration was only included on an early version of "Hurricane", and West's work did not make it onto the album.[12] Leto said that he,

"...had actually brought up [the idea of working with West] some time ago, but it's pretty unbelievable that it actually happened. [...] He came by here, he was here in the studio, and we did some initial kind of listening, and he did some singing, and we knew we needed to kind of follow up and finish things, so I went over to Hawaii [with] an engineer and a small crew, and we had a great time."[13]

West's vocal contribution to the song was ultimately removed because of legal issues surrounding the rights of each record company. Although it was not released on the original pressing of the album, Leto has said the track will be heard eventually.[14] The early leaked versions of the album had the version of "Hurricane" featuring Kanye West included. The album was released in a Deluxe form with this version.

Musical style and themes[edit]

"Kings and Queens", the third track on the album, was partly written in South Africa.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Allmusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine acknowledged the band's progression since their last record; saying that it was a liability "When they were mining a post-grunge or nu metal or emo vein," but now the group has deviated to a sound that is more reminiscent of "a hybrid of The Killers' retro new wave and My Chemical Romance's gothic prog." He said following the band's transposition "they've wound up with a sound that suits their stance", referring to the overall style of the record as a mixture of synth rock, metal, and progressive rock.[15] Sara Anderson from AOL Radio referred to This Is War's "extremely progressive rock sound with killer choruses"; saying the album clearly takes inspiration from experimental Pink Floyd to melodic M83.[2] Billboard writer Cortney Harding said the album "represented an artistic step forward for the band," observing that the band hasn't completely abandoned its melodic and hard rock tendencies.[16] The Times described the record's sound as "a tighter, more textured set of eyeliner indie-rock tunes than the group's previous albums".[17]

"One thing that I thought was missing from 30 Seconds to Mars was a sense of optimism, which I think you feel on songs on this record. 'Kings and Queens,' there's a triumphant feeling of the possibilities that we all have. 'This Is War,' you feel a confidence and a celebration, and even 'Closer to the Edge'. [In the case of] 'Stranger in a Strange Land' ... the other thing I felt was missing was sexuality. And that's obviously a big part of all of our lives, and I thought it (was) important to address some of that."

—Jared Leto, 30 Seconds to Mars lyricist and vocalist, on the themes incorporated into the record.[18]

30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto described the record as a concept album, proceeding to say "if this isn't, I'm not sure what is".[18] He said the record was created in an "intense two-year period, where it felt like the whole world was falling apart and massive changes were going on. I think you can hear that in the sound of this album."[19] Furthermore, he refused to call the album a rock opera, "People seem OK with calling it 'a rock opera'... I would never say that though; the only thing I'm comfortable saying 'rock opera' about is Tommy by The Who. But it's very conceptual, about many spiritual things, and it really is simply who we are, who we've become."[18]

Leto described the style as "much more electronic and experimental, with lots of vintage synths."[19] Leto also mentioned that he had written lyrics about some themes he felt were missing from their previous work, such as optimism and sexuality only for the song "Stranger in a Strange Land".[18] Rock Sound writer Victoria Durham referred to the dramatic themes instilled in the album, such as "Night of the Hunter" which she said "is one of the album's most dramatic efforts" and also reminiscing over their previous album, A Beautiful Lie, which he says "featured its share of over-dramatic moments, (but) this time the band have blasted them into the stratosphere. The massive-sounding 'Vox Populi' is a prime example." She reiterates Leto's claim, noting the track has a "feeling of all-conquering optimism".[20]

The music video for the song "Hurricane" was banned by MTV and several other TV channels around the world. The video, which runs for 13 minutes and 10 seconds and was directed by Jared Leto under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbin, premiered on MTV on November 29, 2010. "I didn't expect all this to happen, but it's a good thing that it happens, only because of the conversation that it may provoke, about these sort of things, and looking at art and creative expression and weighing that against protecting the viewers from the exhibition of certain behaviors." —Jared Leto, the director and writer of Hurricane video due to its censor.[21] " The video was censored and banned because of its elements of violence, nudity and sex. On November 28, 2010, Jared Leto posted the letter from MTV about the censorship of the video on his blog. The list features the offending scenes, such as a woman running her finger on the anus of another G-string woman, which was classified as "restricted". It was only this shot which had made the video completely restricted.[22]

Promotion and release[edit]

Main article: Into the Wild Tour
30 Seconds to Mars performing in Zürich, Switzerland in-support of This Is War.

BioWare has announced that the soundtrack of Dragon Age: Origins contains the song "This Is War", the title track.[23] The track made its world debut in the game before the release of the album. Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive of Music and Music Marketing at Electronic Arts described working with 30 Seconds to Mars:

"EA has always had a forward-thinking relationship with 30 Seconds to Mars and we are overwhelmed with excitement about the band's involvement and creative contribution to Dragon Age: Origins. This exciting song debut exemplifies our continued commitment to working with great bands that move the needle to where music is going."[24]

Jared Leto commented, "We always try to push the envelope both in the entertainment world and the media, and our title track to debut in a game of this caliber is one of the best ways to bring our music to fans around the world. We've come a long way from having to rely solely on radio to approach and engage music fans, and Dragon Age: Origins is the perfect game to do this with."[24]

This Is War features 2,000 different album covers featuring individual photos of fans from around the world.[25][26] The band asked fans to submit pictures of themselves, and then selected the 2,000 best images. The images were then used as covers for the album itself and shipped randomly to stores around the world.[27]

Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta revealed to MTV News that he is featured on one of the covers, after sending in a photo and not expecting to be selected. Leto's mother also features on a cover.[27] There is also a number of other notable persons including manager Irving Azoff and label executives Ron Werre, Greg Thompson, Angelica Cob-Baehler, Colin Finklestein and Bob Semanovich; as well as celebrities Bam Margera, Kat Von D, Conan O'Brien and members of the bands Chevelle and Street Drum Corps.[28][29]

The CD booklet, as well as the promotional and digital artwork features a roaring tiger. All retail albums include varied sleeves, separate from the booklet, featuring one of the 2,000 different covers.

The song "Escape" is featured in TV spots and in the trailer for the 2011 film adaption of I Am Number Four.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[15]
Alternative Press 4/5 stars[30]
Billboard (favorable)[31]
Entertainment Weekly (B-)[32]
Kerrang! 4/5 stars[33]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[34]
Melodic 4.5/5 stars[35]
Q 3/5 stars[36]
Rock Sound (9/10)[20]
Spin (3/10)[37]

Critical response[edit]

According to many notable publications, This Is War received critical acclaim upon its release.[38][39][40] However, at Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received a score of 55, based on 10 reviews, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[41]

Chart performance[edit]

In the week of its release, This Is War sold over 67,000 units in the United States, entering the Billboard 200 at number 19.[42] The album had debuted at number two on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart,[43] number two on the Digital Albums chart,[44] number four on the Rock Albums chart,[45] and number 23 on the European Albums chart.[46] On August 19, 2011, the album was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry for shipping 300,000 units.[47] On November 8, 2011, the album was certified gold in the United States.[48]

The first single from the album, "Kings and Queens", debuted in its week of release at number 20 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and the number 24 on the Rock Songs chart.[49] On the Alternative Songs chart, the song rose to the Top 5 only four weeks after its debut, peaking at number one and staying there for three weeks, ending Muse's song "Uprising"'s dominant run at the top of the chart.[50] It is the second Alternative number one song from 30 Seconds to Mars, with the first being "From Yesterday", which managed two weeks at the top.[50] Before its release as a single, in the week ending December 26, 2009, the song "This Is War" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 72,[51] number 67 on the Canadian Hot 100,[51] number four on the Heatseekers Songs chart[51] and number 33 on the Hot Digital Songs chart.[51] The song was released as a single to American radio on March 8, 2010.[52]

In Germany, the album debuted at number 15 and quickly fell, and after only 14 weeks it disappeared out of the albums chart. After the album achieved several new entries at some low positions, it managed to climb up continuously since June (six months after the album's release) and after another 10 weeks, it reached its final peak of 12.[53]

As of May 2012, This Is War had sold nearly four million albums and over one million singles worldwide.[54]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jared Leto, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Escape"   2:24
2. "Night of the Hunter"   5:40
3. "Kings and Queens"   5:46
4. "This Is War"   5:27
5. "100 Suns"   1:58
6. "Hurricane"   6:12
7. "Closer to the Edge"   4:33
8. "Vox Populi"   5:43
9. "Search and Destroy"   5:39
10. "Alibi"   5:59
11. "Stranger in a Strange Land"   6:54
12. "L490" (Shannon Leto) 4:27
Total length:
60:40

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Distributing label Format
Australia[90] December 4, 2009 EMI Music CD
Austria[91]
Finland[92]
Germany[93]
Italy[94] EMI/Virgin
Switzerland[95] EMI Music
Denmark[96] December 7, 2009
New Zealand[97]
Norway[98]
Poland[99]
United Kingdom[100] EMI/Virgin
Argentina[101] December 8, 2009 EMI Music
Canada[102] Virgin
Mexico[103] EMI Music
Spain[104]
United States[105] EMI/Virgin
South Africa[106]
Brazil[107] December 10, 2009 EMI Music
Japan[108] July 14, 2010 Toshiba EMI
Deluxe edition
United States[109] November 9, 2010 EMI/Virgin CD+DVD
Australia[110] November 19, 2010 EMI Music
Poland[111] November 22, 2010
Brazil[112] November 30, 2010

References[edit]

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