America is 30 Seconds To Mars’ fifth album and has been an uncomfortably long wait following 2013’s exemplary Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams. America is a more politically charged affair – frontman Jared Leto has been inspired by the current American climate with many songs exploring themes such as politics, sex and fame. The artwork (which comes in several different iterations) represents this to a tee – a simple background with a list of words associated with America such as Apple, Microsoft, Oprah and Jesus. On top of recording the album and his film career, Leto is heavily promoting this album by trekking across America and visiting different towns to hear people’s experiences and opinions of their own country.
There is lots to like about America but it also isn’t their strongest work. Whilst LLFAD saw the band begin to experiment with more electronic sounds, America does this to an even greater extent at the expense of Shannon Leto’s guitar. There’s nothing wrong with electronica but some of the sounds here are a little uninspired and probably won’t age the album well.
America is also a very oddly structured album. The lead singles, Walk on Water and Dangerous Night that open the album are pretty typical of 30 Seconds To Mars – big, grand affairs with anthem-like choruses. The rest of the first half is a mix of electronica, cinematic instrumentation and bizarre yet serviceable collaborations with artists such as Halsey and A$AP Rocky. This is all a bit hit-and-miss, but it’s the second part of the album where the band begins to return back to its roots and it is this half of the album that fares much better.
Hail to the Victor, Dawn Will Rise and Remedy, which feature in this second half, are the album’s highlights. Hail to the Victor is a particularly catchy track with a belter of a chorus whereas Dawn Will Rise is far more subtle initially before erupting into a well-developed climax. The general omission of the band’s dark horse, Shannon Leto can be forgiven as for the first time, he provides the lead vocals for Remedy, a more low-key track that also develops instrumentally as it progresses.
America ultimately marks an interesting experiment for the band and there is certainly fun to be had here. Its function as an album, however, is not quite as intelligent as its marketing would suggest, and ultimately, it is a bit of a tonal jumble.