Personnel: Zhu Zhu (vocals).
Recording information: Jodhpur, India; The International Centre for the Advancement of the Art.
Photographers: Jared Leto; Bartholomew Cubbins; David Devlin.
Elevated to the position of international stars -- if not quite globe-conquering superstars -- with their 2009 album This Is War, 30 Seconds to Mars do the smart thing for their 2013 sequel, Love Lust Faith + Dreams. They retain War co-producer Steve Lillywhite -- here co-producing with the band's lead singer/songwriter Jared Leto -- and give themselves a sleek, stylish makeover, accentuating the creeping escalation of electronics heard on This Is War and otherwise shedding whatever churning new millennial angst that lingered on the third record while retaining their emo angst and love of prog. Often, the pounding, splattering analog synthesizers bring to mind the otherworldly, trapped-in-amber futurism of the '70s -- the instrumental march "Pyres of Varanasi" expertly evokes the unsettling vistas of Wendy Carlos' soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange -- but this isn't a retro record, it's galvanized for the present, pushing its thick processed guitars, chanted choruses, and clanging keyboards to the forefront, flirting with taboos underneath its shining surface. 30 Seconds to Mars are no longer afraid to dabble with disco -- "Up in the Air" puts all four on the floor and there's an overall tendency to push big beats over hard attacks -- and this loosening of their stylistic confines results in their boldest, brightest, most imaginative record yet. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine