Keeping alive the totally non-indie tradition of the epic rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars is a band born to play arenas. Their massive sound, described as everything from neo-progressive and alt-metal to post-grunge and screamo, is a throwback to the days when bigger was better, rock stars were treated as deities, people held up lighters instead of cellphones and concerts were over-the-top affairs.
Formed in 1998 by brothers Jared Leto – yes, that Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream, My So-Called Life and Fight Club) – and Shannon Leto, the Los Angeles-based band started out as a small, family project. It didn’t stay small for long. Their self-titled first album had two hits on the mainstream charts and set the stage for what was to come: a steady string of chart-topping hits, platinum album sales, numerous awards, world tours and a video that was too hot for television; in short, the rock ‘n’ roll American dream.
Their second release, 2005’s A Beautiful Lie, with its four Top 30 singles, catapulted the band into mega-stardom. To encourage sales of the physical album they included 12 randomly-placed “Golden Passes” that gave a handful of lucky fans free access and backstage passes to any Thirty Seconds to Mars show for the rest of the band’s formation. The Willy Wonka move turned out to be a brilliant marketing ploy; the album went on to sell over a million copies in the U.S. alone. For their next release in 2009, This is War, the band took the fan-appreciation route again and used 2,000 fan-submitted photos for the album’s cover art, further sealing their stellar reputation with their legion of loyal followers.
Embracing the rock ‘n’ roll ethics of the past, the neo-everything musical landscape of today and the space-is-the-place massiveness of the future, Thirty Seconds to Mars is a shining example that the spirit of rock is alive and well, and still capable of filling arenas.
Thirty Seconds to Mars plays the San Jose Event Center on Friday, Apr. 8.