Three years after ‘Blurryface’ and nine years after their self-titled debut, Twenty One Pilots have introduced us to ‘Trench’. Despite ‘Blurryface’ propelling them to new heights, ‘Trench’ could be considered the bands most impressive body of work to date.
Lead vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn arguably embraced genre-neutrality before it became trendy. An amalgamation of alternative, hip-hop, electronic, rock and reggae, the band defies definition.
What’s immediately striking about ‘Trench’ is it’s cohesiveness. Although ‘Blurryface’ was an album which ate into numerous genres, it did so at times with little conviction. ‘Trench’ sees the band having meticulously embraced and mastered each element of their genre identity.
This album is unmistakably twenty one pilots. ‘My blood’ and ‘Pet Cheetah’ retain the catchiness of their previous work, taking a somewhat heavier turn. ‘My blood’ is gorgeously synthy with unpredictable yet flawless vocals and strong drums. ‘Pet Cheetah’, on the other hand, is one of the only tracks which strikes me as a bit rushed. ‘Cut my lip’, however, is almost certainly ‘Blurryface”s closest relative
Opener and single ‘Jumpsuit’, is one of the albums heaviest tracks. Refined vocal sections juxtaposed with throbbing bass breakdowns and Joseph’s screaming at the end, makes for an interesting structure which feels like a perfect storm.
‘Jumpsuit’ moves seamlessly into the hip-hop inspired single ‘Levitate’. This is the first hint of the album’s social consciousness. Lyrically the track appears to explore everything from depression to religion. Joseph’s confidence gives the track momentum and purpose, a quality maintained throughout ‘Trench’. There appears to be a particular frustration at the nature of the industry, touched upon again in ‘Neon Gravestones’.
What is also exceptionally interesting about ‘Trench’ is its position as a concept album. The album functions perfectly as self-contained album without having to consider the underlying narrative. However, the band have created a fictional world ‘Dema’ and a character ‘Clancy’ for their more avid fans to explore. In ‘Bandito’, Joseph sings: “I created this world to feel some control. Destroy it if I want”.
This narrative in itself could be interpreted as an allegory for Joseph’s personal experience of depression. ‘Nico and the Niners’ and ‘Leaving the city’ are two of the most implicit nods towards this fictional narrative created by the duo. ‘In time I will leave the city. For now I will stay awake’ is one of the most poignant lyrics which hints at overriding themes of entrapment and escape.
‘Trench’ is a undoubtedly a success. The production is flawless and the band have clearly used the springboard provided by ‘Blurryface”s success to grow during their three year hiatus. Musically, its the perfect amount of playful and experimental, whilst maintaining their identity.
Additionally, as a concept album, ‘Trench’ is also a success. The duo Ohioan, have clearly acknowledged their strong fan base in this albums curation. They have taken their huge following as an opportunity to create something multi- dimensional. The narrative doesn’t take away from a superficial listening experience, but adds an iridescent shine to the album which is subtle, yet impressive, upon discovery.