October 5, 2018 Twenty One Pilots – Trench (Album Review)
To the average consumer, it would appear as if Twenty One Pilots emerged out of thin air with the mega successful Blurryface album back in 2015. Not everything is as it seems, because the duo has been around nearly 10 years, first making their way as an indie artist, releasing 2 LPs on their own in 2009 and 2011. Then signing on with Fueled by Ramen in 2012, their major label debut of Vessel dropped in 2013, making a relatively strong impact. Then there was Blurryface, a game changer that elevated Twenty One Pilots to multi-platinum arena packing stars.
Comprised of Tyler Joseph (lead vocals/keyboards) and Josh Dun (drums), Twenty One Pilots are sort of an enigma in the world of Pop music. Part of their irresistible charm, they have shown they could care less about fitting into one sub-genre, as they weave from Pop to Rock, to Electronic, to Hip Hop, to Reggae. Perhaps this is why there are those cynics who like to trash-talk the duo, thinking they are over-hyped and unappealing. Or maybe some just cannot accept that an act that certainly falls within the Pop music world can be as schizophrenic style-wise as Twenty One Pilots. Whatever it may be, these guys are a talented, unique musical odyssey, and after some time out of the spotlight, the duo return on Friday, October 5, 2018 with their new album Trench.
An album that has been cloaked in secrecy, Twenty One Pilots did an exceptional job of keeping the music under lock and key until the official release – something very difficult to do in the modern age, thus spreading even more curiosity. Although, no one was completely in the dark as to what to expect from Trench, with the release of heavier Rock “Jumpsuit” and the funky, Reggae “Nico and the Niners” back in July, before they dropped the Hip Hop laden “Levitate,” plus “My Blood” in August. By the way, the Synthpop styled “My Blood” was picked as a fourth single by default after the band previewed a 10 second snippet to promote the album, only to find somehow someone got a hold of the full song and leaked it onto their Twitter account in low quality – the modern world, sometimes it sucks.
All this in mind, the majority of the album was a mystery to listeners until now, so let’s dive into the ‘trenches.’ As per usual with Twenty One Pilots, their consistency is a mixed bag of sounds from song to song. Where Trench stands out is the extent to which they have grown as songwriters since Blurryface. Songs like “Morph” and “Chlorine” both have their Hip Hop driven motor, but when you look under the hood there is also some atmospherics, R&B and jazzy textures powering it all. Both extremely catchy, on the other hand, the more upbeat Pop tunes “Smithereens” and “The Hype” satisfy the need to dance with electronics, and even some Dubstep touches.
Although, the real brilliance of Trench emerges with tunes such as “Neon Gravestones,” “Bandito,” and album closer “Leave the City.” All standout moments, “Neon Gravestones” takes a more somber approach while provoking you to think about the concept of progress, but reminding you to respect those who paved the paths before us. With “Bandito,” the atmosphere is a flawless Synthpop bliss, in the vein of acts such as Editors, expanding Twenty One Pilots’ depth even further. Then there is “Leave the City,” perhaps the band’s finest hour. Piano driven, it is haunting, thought-provoking, and concludes the album much like “A Day In The Life” does The Beatles 1967 classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Overall, at nearly an hour of music, Trench is a epic return from Twenty One Pilots. The album cements them as a diverse, unique musical trip which is a gift to the often generic Pop world. Innovative in their approach, the music is equally as compelling as the lyrics with many brilliant lines such as, “I needed change of pace, couldn’t take the pace of change,” as heard in “Leave the City.” Naysayers beware, Twenty One Pilots are the real deal and here to stay. That is why CrypticRock gives Trench 5 out of 5 stars.