by Brandon Carson
Even though they have been making music for nearly a decade, Twenty One Pilots struck a chord in the mainstream with their last album Blurryface back in 2015. Songs like “Ride” and “Stressed Out” basically controlled the radio. While they did have a sound that was pretty unique and genre jumping, I always found something missing from their sound. Blurryface sounded like it was made for the radio, where they didn’t push any buttons making that record. But with Trench, they push boundaries with their instrumentals, production, and song structures while also delivering excellent vocals.
Enhanced and well planned production
At first, I didn’t want to review this album. I didn’t like Blurryface for the most part and thought that they could easily write return to that style. But then they released “Jumpsuit” and “Levitate” and blew me away. “Jumpsuit” has a new sound that we have not heard yet. It’s loud, booming, and bass heavy. The song has a loud chorus that is juxtaposed nicely by excellent soft verses from Tyler Joseph. “Levitate” features very tight production and synths that lurk in the background. The instrumental lifts Joseph’s vocal delivery to the forefront, creating a stellar flow.
The production on the song “Chlorine” has eerie synths and piano arpeggios that feels like a harpsichord, but also has a very old school Twenty One Pilots drum beat. This song is one example of how they keep some of their old sound, but they enhanced their production with more nuanced sounds. A lot of these new sounds come to light on more disco, indie inspired tracks like “My Blood”, “Legend”, and “Bandito.” In a lot of these songs the instrumentals change, which makes it interesting to hear what the instrumentals do.
There are a couple moments when the production is lacking for just a moment in several songs. The final song on the album, “Leave the City,” has a very boring beginning where I was left waiting for things to pick up. If the instrumental is boring, or not highlighted, then the listener needs a good vocal melody to carry the song, which was also lacking. The beginning of “Bandito” is also very lackluster until the song changes.
If anything, the production carries this album, and is the best part about it. The many interesting sounds and choices truly make the album unique in their discography.
A concept and lyrics worth looking into
Another great aspect for this album is the concept and story. The story follows a character named Clancy who lives in a city called Dema. Clancy once glorified the city and felt safe there, but now he feels trapped and must escape the city. There are nine bishops that rule the city including Nico. The rulers keep the people of Dema in line by removing hope using a certain religion they made. Clancy eventually escapes the city with the help of the Banditios.
What really works about this concept is Joseph writes about his own struggles that fit into Clancy and the story. There are many lines that reference mental illness and personal struggles. Even the city of Dema is a metaphor for mental illness. “Neon Gravestones” is a very heartfelt song with a very important message. The track attacks the glorification of suicide and using it as a form of attention. The topic is touched on very well and thoughtfully.
While there are many great lyrics and stories on the album, it does come with its flaws. The track “Smithereens” is very cliché and feels like a radio single. The song is about Joseph getting beat up in fights if he had to protect his wife. The song features a whole bridge where Joseph sings, “You know I had to do one on the record for her like this” that does not work at all for me. The song is very forgettable and could have been cut.
Another aspect of the album that the band does really well is changing songs structures and musical passages. If there’s one thing I can’t stand that a band does, it is making every song on an album have a “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus” structure. On Blurryface, Twenty One Pilots fell into that trap, but on Trench they make almost every song interesting by changing up the music.
“Neon Gravestones” has many beat changes that create different tones for the very touching topic. “Chlorine” starts off very straightforward but then takes a turn into a dream pop wonderland. The track that goes through the biggest change is “Pet Cheetah.” The song starts off like a pop song, then turns into a heavy, hype, rap cut. These changes in tone are all over the album and make it a fresh listen every time.
Recommended if you like:
Panic! At the Disco
Fall Out Boy
Featured Image: Variety
‘Trench’ truly could have easily been another ‘Blurryface,' but Twenty One Pilots put in the effort to create a better, more unique experience for the listener. The incredible production elevates the music to another level and compliments the melodies sung by Tyler Joseph. The story of the album is dense and worth diving into. But the main feature is how the music constantly changes while still feeling like a cohesive record. For those who have not listened to Twenty One Pilots, this album is definitely worth listening to. For the fans of Twenty One Pilots, this albums serves as a high point in their discography that you will love.
Brandon Carson is a Journalism Major. He reviews music for Byte and also makes his own music on the side.