‘Trench’ takes a new angle to look at mental illness

Twenty One Pilots continues their brand of contemplative lyrics and heavy beats

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“Trench” is one of the most anticipated alternative rock albums to be released this year, and has left no boundary uncrossed. Using lyrics that Tyler Joseph — Twenty One Pilots’ lead singer and lyricist — continues to talk about mental illness and depression, they pick up the baton directly from their last album “Blurryface.” The album is chock-full of lyrics riddled with meaning and bass lines strong enough to shake the floor. 

The album also resembles “Blurryface” in the fact that the music videos for the album create its lore. In the music videos for “Jumpsuit,” “Nico and the Niners” and “Levitate,” a backstory is established that a character called Clancy (Joseph) is attempting to escape a walled city called Dema. This backstory is referenced to in some of the songs, especially the three mentioned earlier. Many fans speculate that this is an expression of how the main character is trapped by his mental illness and is attempting to escape from it.

The album itself resembles a trench in terms of lyrical darkness. The songs “Chlorine” and “Neon Gravestones” find themselves in the middle of the album, dealing blatantly with suicide and its causes and effects, whereas the songs “Levitate” and “Leave the City” are slightly more hopeful in their connotations. This artistic representation of mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder and depression, have become a staple for TØP, and yet each time they manage to show a new angle to the struggles faced by people who suffer from these disorders. 

“Maybe we swap out what it is that we hold so high / Find your grandparents or someone of age / Pay some respects for the path that they paved / To life, they were dedicated / Now, that should be celebrated.” These lines from “Neon Gravestones” are especially powerful, as they encompass the meaning of the album. The entire song — set to the backdrop of soft piano and a simple, steady, and heartbeat-like drumline — talks about mental illness, as well as how fame and society can change people’s point of view about suicide and depression. 

Joseph, using his trademark combination of soft singing and rapping, tells the story of how a lot of people — including himself — suffer from depression and how the hyping of celebrity suicides can turn into a double-edged sword. It raises awareness of mental issues — however, it also encourages people who feel alone and unloved and gives them an expectation of something that may not even occur. Joseph clearly states his concern in these lines: “They say, "How could he go if he's got everything?" / I'll mourn for a kid, but won't cry for a king.”

Apart from the lyrical depth, the album also has its fair share of slow, soft, almost-ballads, as well as some bops that are sure to hit the radio. “Jumpsuit,” “Pet Cheetah” and “Nico and the Niners” are some songs with addictive beats. Drummer Josh Dun’s powerful beats keep the fast pace of Joseph’s rapping while simultaneously melding in the guitar and keyboard that keep the melody going.

“Trench” is a dark yet beautiful album to listen to, both for its music and for its lyrics. However, with this awareness comes a clear warning — it is the listener’s duty to keep forging on and make their life great. There is light in the world, and the album asks for the listener to escape the darkness of the trench and embrace life. “Trench” is an aesthetically pleasing look at something that many people don’t want to come to terms with, but perhaps need to.

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