Music Review: Trench by Twenty One Pilots

 Back in April of this year, fans of the ever-growing musical duo Twenty One Pilots noticed the band’s official website linked them to an obscure website. This website hinted at the return of the band three years after the release of their previous hit album Blurryface. Clues left in the form of pictures, letters and maps introduced fans to the story of Trench, their new album that was released on October 5th and has already received critical acclaim. Like their past album, Trench is a loosely conceptual album that follows the story of Blurryface while taking on topics such as loss and holding on to hope in the midst of struggles.

The album kicks off with the heavy bassline of Jumpsuit; a rock-heavy introduction to the escape of Clancy, a character introduced in the website, from Dema, a fictional walled city meant to represent the dark parts of our mind. Lead singer Tyler Joseph’s soft vocals contrast tremendously with the instrumentally heavy music as he calls out for his jumpsuit, which is meant to symbolize a form of safety amidst the chaos in his mind, to “cover me.” The track, which served as the lead single for the album, works as a powerful start to an electrifying album.

Levitate quickly follows, highlighting Joseph’s quick rapping and drummer Josh Dun’s rapid-fire beats. Through the intricate lyrics one comes to expect from the duo, this song follows Clancy’s escape with other inhabitants from Dema as they make their way towards Trench, a place symbolizing freedom. Nico and the Niners, another song that centers heavily around the story of Trench, focuses on the bishops that control Dema and represent our deepest insecurities and fears over a reggae-style beat, not unlike songs from their previous album like Ride.

Despite the story that is weaved throughout the album, the band mostly steps out of this narrative with songs like Morph, that talks about constantly changing who we are while searching for our better selves; Chlorine, with slow and ominous beats that go along with lyrics of finding something that hurts you and heals you simultaneously; The Hype, a hopeful track that offers a faint 80’s vibe; and Cut My Lip, narrating the band’s continuous journey in the music industry laid over a slow percussion and infectious hi-hats.

As always, the duo is never afraid to dive into deep or personal topics in their songs. Smithereens is a love song to Joseph’s wife-- an updated version of Tear in My Heart. Legend is an upbeat yet somber tribute to Joseph’s grandfather, who passed away earlier this year. My Blood follows Joseph’s entrancing falsetto in a song dedicated to his close bond with his brother.

Perhaps one of their most controversial songs to date, Neon Gravestones is a critique towards a society that-- although has raised awareness towards it-- continues to glorify suicide and death, especially those of celebrities. “I’ll mourn for a kid/ but won’t cry for a king” he sings, implying that we can mourn for the loss of a life, but we should not glorify their death and put it on a pedestal. Instead, Tyler offers the solution-- glorifying life: “Find your parents or someone of age/ Pay some respects to the path that they paved/ To life, they were dedicated/ Now that should be celebrated.” This song offers a point of view about the glorification of suicide that is not commonly expressed, and it is surely a song to stop, make you think, and spark conversation.

Another standout song from the album is Bandito, which brings us back to a more story-heavy song that introduces the listener to the Banditos, a group of rebels that escape Dema, and narrates Clancy becoming one of them as they make their way out of the captivity and toward a land of freedom from Dema and the bishops. There is also Pet Cheetah, a track that derived from writer’s block, a recycled beat, and a bet to place a lyric written years ago about having a pet cheetah named Jason Statham into a song. There is very little this band can’t do.

The album ends on a somber note that is only comparable to the feeling you get when a concert ends-- there is always a longing for more. Leave The City is the perfect ending to the record. The song’s meaning is able to take on various forms, from Clancy leaving Dema, to the band declaring they are metaphorically leaving the city to go onto their next musical journey, to a more personal interpretation of finding oneself in the in-between of one’s personal problems (whether it’s mental problems, doubts about our faith, etc.) and the path that still lies ahead. “In time, I will leave the city/ For now, I will stay alive” Tyler croons in the bridge of the song, a promise to keep moving forward, to stay alive no matter the difficulties that he may face.

Without a doubt, I believe Trench is Twenty One Pilots’ best album yet. Their growth as artists is palpable in each track, with intricate beats and impressive instrumentals, quality production, and deeply meaningful and eccentric lyrics. These genre-bending masterminds managed to create an album that weaves a coherent story throughout its 14 songs (one that runs deep in the songs, the Dema website, and connections with the previous album, though I’ll leave that up for the reader to investigate and theorize on their own) without over-saturating them with narrative. Instead, they’ve created an electric, pulsating, multi-layered album that speaks of hope in the midst of desolation and defies the expectations of the band’s long-awaited return.

 

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