As brooding Jordan Catalano on the cult teen drama My So-Called Life, actor Jared Leto perfected the art of the beautiful enigma, constantly bewildering Claire Danesís Angela by alternating alienation with unexpected bursts of passion. The debut album from his new band, 30 Seconds to Mars, operates in much the same way, throwing musical curveballs and lyrical mysteries at every opportunity. The gothic industrial-flavored "Echelon" features jagged lightning bolts of electronically treated guitar and droning, Alice in ChainsĖstyle harmonies. "End of the Beginning" is a complex rhythmic storm à la Korn or Tool; "Buddha for Mary" brings to mind a Rush track thatís been Pro-Tooled by Trent Reznor.
The words that accompany the keyboard-laced prog metal Leto favors are every bit as enigmatic as the music. In "Mary" he whispers, "This is the life on Mars" and speaks of a girl who "had a thing for astronauts"; in "The Mission" a paranoid-sounding Leto confesses, "I open up my head inside and find another personís mind." Unfortunately, whereas Jordan Catalano always seemed to possess something substantial just beneath his temperamental surface, the same canít be said for 30 Seconds to Mars, whose vague if vaguely familiar tales too often sound simply pretentious.