Trench (album)

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Trench
Trench Twenty One Pilots.png
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 5, 2018 (2018-10-05)
Recorded2015–2018
Studio
Genre
Length56:04
LabelFueled by Ramen
Producer
Twenty One Pilots chronology
Blurryface
(2015)
Trench
(2018)
Singles from Trench
  1. "Jumpsuit"
    Released: July 11, 2018
  2. "Nico and the Niners"
    Released: July 11, 2018
  3. "Levitate"
    Released: August 8, 2018
  4. "My Blood"
    Released: August 27, 2018
  5. "Chlorine"
    Released: January 22, 2019

Trench is the fifth studio album by American musical duo Twenty One Pilots, released on October 5, 2018, through Fueled by Ramen. It is the band's first studio album in three years, after the breakthrough success of their previous album, Blurryface (2015). Recorded in secret during a year-long public silence, it is a concept album which explores mental health, suicide and doubt, themes prominently featured in the band's previous works, framed in the metaphorical city of Dema and the surrounding valley known as "Trench".[3] The album is also the first release of the newly revived Elektra Music Group.[4]

The album was preceded by the release of four singles. The first two, "Jumpsuit" and "Nico and the Niners", were both released on July 11, 2018. The third single, "Levitate", was released on August 8, 2018. The fourth single, "My Blood", was released August 27, 2018. The fifth single, "Chlorine", was released January 22, 2019. To promote the album, The Bandito Tour began at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on October 16, 2018, and will continue through June 30, 2019, ending at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.[5]

Trench received acclaim from critics, who applauded its lyrical content, cohesiveness, and musical diversity; many recognized it as the band's best work thus far. It was also a commercial success, reaching number one in six countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Spain and the Netherlands and number two in several countries, notably the United Kingdom and United States.

Background and production[edit]

Twenty One Pilots released their fourth studio album, Blurryface, on May 17, 2015. The album topped the Billboard 200 and produced two top five singles, "Stressed Out" and "Ride", peaking at number two and number five, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100. The songs, along with the single "Heathens" from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, launched the band into mainstream success in 2016. The duo embarked on two world tours in support of the album from 2015 to 2017. Following the five final dates of the band's tour, "Tour De Columbus", the duo entered a year-long hiatus beginning on July 6, 2017.[6][7][8]

Paul Meany, singer and keyboardist of the alternative rock band Mutemath (pictured) co-wrote and co-produced much of the project alongside frontman Tyler Joseph.

The conceptual world of "Trench" was created before the songs from the album had been written, departing from the band's regular songwriting process where they would create the album song by song.[9] It is unclear when production of Trench began; however, Joseph was working on the track "Bandito" as early as 2015, during the Blurryface Tour.[10] Joseph produced the album's fourteen tracks within his private home studio, while Josh Dun's drum tracks were captured at United Recording Studios.[11] Mutemath frontman and keyboardist Paul Meany co-produced and co-wrote much of the project, following his previous collaboration with Twenty One Pilots for the TOPxMM remix EP and on the Emotional Roadshow World Tour.[12][11] Adam Hawkins mixed the album in its entirety. The album's "drop dead due date to get ahead of production and distribution" was August 15, 2018, less than two months before the release of the album.[13]

Concept and music[edit]

Trench continues the band's exploration of themes surrounding insecurity, faith, suicide, and mental health, prominent themes on Twenty One Pilots' previous albums.[14] The album was formed around the conceptual world of "Trench", created by Joseph and represented through the album's accompanying marketing and music videos.[12]

Much of the album and its marketing material discusses the city of "Dema". Dema, literally meaning "Tower of Silence", is a fictional location set inside of Trench that draws its name from Zoroastrianism. In that religion, Towers of Silence were used to dispose of dead bodies by having vultures eat the corpses. The band explained on Reddit that they were inspired by the "sad and intriguing concept of a dying religion... the reason it was dying was something they could never control: The lack of the vultures needed to carry out their theology. Something so natural and logical can get in the way of your religion."[15][16]

Nico, one of the nine "bishops" of Dema, is named after Nicolas Bourbaki, the collective pseudonym of a group of predominantly French mathematicians (pictured).
Last record, Blurryface was a character that represented insecurity, and the more you learn about those insecurities and the more you learn about that character, the more control that you can have over things like that in your mental game of war. With this record being a continuation of that, one of the things that I knew I wanted to do was to figure out Blurryface's real name, and Blurryface's real name is Nicolas Bourbaki.

–Tyler Joseph, speaking to Music Feeds[17]

Trench's city, Dema, is ruled by nine "bishops", whose names are Nico (full name Nicolas Bourbaki, based on a collective pseudonym of a group of mainly French mathematicians), Andre, Lisden, Keons, Reisdro, Sacarver, Nills, Vetomo, and Listo.[18] The chief bishop, Nico, was revealed by Joseph to be Blurryface, the personification of his insecurities from their previous album of the same name.[1] Other characters involved are part of a group who call themselves the "Banditos", whose aim is to liberate the people of Dema. They adopt the color yellow, specifically 0xFCE300, which the bishops are unable to see.[19]

The album, like Twenty One Pilots' previous records, contains many different genres of music, including alternative rock,[20][21][22] alternative hip hop,[23] pop rock,[24] electronic rock,[24] R&B,[25] reggae,[26] hip hop,[27] electropop,[20] rap rock,[28] and pop,[21][29] with elements of jazz.[30] It opens with alternative and hard rock song "Jumpsuit", dealing with Tyler Joseph's insecurities.[31][32] It was described by Rolling Stone as having "distorted bass guitar, crisp drumming and dark washes of synth" with Joseph's vocals building from "a near-whisper to a full-throated scream, to an atmospheric falsetto."[26] The song's outro merges into the next track, "Levitate", a minimalist rap track.[33] "Morph" explores the themes of life after death and references the leading bishop, Nico.[34] The song has been compared to artists such as Khalid, The Prodigy and DJ Shadow.[35][36] The following track, "My Blood", is an indie pop song about remaining loyal to a friend.[37] The track has been compared to songs such as Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Portugal. The Man's "Feel It Still" due to the song's chorus featuring a falsetto sung by Joseph.[36] "Chlorine" is a song about cleansing your mind from dark thoughts.[38] "Smithereens" is a "cute and playful" song about Joseph's love for his wife, Jenna, whom he married in 2015.[39][40][41]

The next song, "Neon Gravestones", is a "slow-burning" rap song building over a 6
8
piano riff with electronic percussion being added as the song progresses.[21] Lyrically, explores suicide and its glorification by the media and ends with a plea to admire those who have gone through life, not those who have chosen an earlier grave.[42][43] "The Hype" is an alternative rock chant-along with a ukulele bridge.[44] In an interview with Coup de Main Magazine, Tyler Joseph says the song is about the difference between internal and external pressure.[45] The next track, "Nico and the Niners", is a reggae-rap song about resisting the "bishops", a theme found in "Doubt", a song from the previous album, denouncing their religion, "Vialism", and leaving Dema.[19] "Cut My Lip" is about willingness to persevere even when times are hard, and also discusses Tyler's struggle between staying true to himself and giving into the demands of the music industry.[46]

The following track, "Bandito", is a slow song that sees the protagonist accepting his role as part of the Banditos, a group of rebels. It contains the words "Sahlo Folina", which unscrambled reads "all Ohio fans".[38] "Pet Cheetah" is a song that blends rap, techno and rock and is a metaphor for the songwriting process and writer's block.[44] "Legend" is a tribute to Joseph's grandfather, Robert Joseph, who passed away on March 17, 2018. He was featured on the right side of the album cover for the band's 2013 label-debut release, Vessel.[38] The final track, "Leave the City", features slightly restrained vocals, a strong piano segment, and light drumming. The song is about losing faith, reflecting Joseph's struggles with his Christian beliefs.[47] It does not build up to a complete crescendo and intentionally leaves the song feeling slightly incomplete. Joseph explains this as representing the concept that "Trench" is a journey between one place (Dema) and whatever comes next, which mirrors how mental illness is an ongoing struggle that one needs to keep working at.[12]

Release and promotion[edit]

Twenty One Pilots first mentioned Dema, the fictional city created by the band, during the 2017 Alternative Press Music Awards when they won the award for Most Dedicated Fanbase.[48] Josh Dun collected the award alone and apologized for Tyler Joseph's absence, mentioning that Joseph was "severing ties with Dema", hinting that he was working on an ongoing project.[49] On April 21, 2018, fans discovered the URL dmaorg.info hidden in a GIF on the band's webstore.[50] This site consisted of a series of cryptic teasers centered around Dema.

The website also contained many journal entries from Clancy, a fictional character and the protagonist in the band's conceptual world.[51] The journal was about his escape from Dema, with entries periodically added over time. On July 6, following a journal entry promising that "by morning, everything will be different",[52] the band sent an e-mail containing a GIF of a slightly opened eye to fans who subscribed to their newsletter.[53] The band returned to social media on July 9, 2018, with a video of a more opened yellow eye.[54] Billboards and murals emblazoned with the band's new logo were put up in numerous cities around the world overnight.[55] The next day, the band posted another video of the eye, more open than before, with a muffled version of the intro to "Jumpsuit" playing.[56][57] The song, as well as a second single, "Nico and the Niners" were eventually released on July 11. The same day, the band announced their album, "Trench" and revealed its release date.[58] The track list for the album was revealed the next month.[59]

Upon the end of the band's hiatus, Josh Dun was interviewed by Hanuman Welch of Beats 1 about the album's writing process and the band's two new singles. On September 5, 2018, Zane Lowe, also of Beats 1, hosted an interview with band member Tyler Joseph in his home studio in Columbus, Ohio, to speak about the band's year-long hiatus, the album, and how it reflected his struggles with insecurity, spirituality, and mental health.[12]

On September 14, 2018, Twenty One Pilots announced on Twitter that they would be releasing a yellow colored vinyl LP exclusive to their online store. They also announced that they would be releasing 15,000 copies of the LP in olive green through Indie Retail and 8,000 copies of the LP in olive green and yellow on the Urban Outfitters website.[60] It was announced that the band would appear in various record stores across the United Kingdom during the European leg of the Bandito Tour.[61][62]

On October 2, 2018, several copies of the album were accidentally sold in a record store in Australia and the record was subsequently illegally leaked.[63] Josh Dun hosted a livestream on Instagram with Tyler Joseph the following day to promote the album and addressed this leak.[64][65] The album was released at midnight two days later, accompanied by a new music video for "My Blood".[66][67] The band uploaded a spoof poster of the 2018 musical "A Star Is Born" on their Twitter account, replacing Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga with themselves in a bid to defeat the soundtrack album in terms of sales.[68] In December 2018, the band partnered with music streaming service Spotify to create an immersive video experience exploring the world of "Trench" which also revealed the meaning of the five symbols featured on the album cover underneath the track listing.[69][70]

Ahead of the album's release, the band was featured on the cover of Rock Sound magazine's September issue,[71] Alternative Press magazine's September issue,[72] and Kerrang! magazine's October issue,[73] all containing an interview with the band and exclusive photographs. Following the album's release, Caryn Ganz, writing for The New York Times, interviewed Joseph and Dun about the band's history and the album's creation.[74]

Singles[edit]

On July 11, 2018, the band released the first two singles, "Jumpsuit" and "Nico and the Niners", as well as a music video for "Jumpsuit".[75][76] On July 25, 2018, a music video for "Nico and the Niners" was released, as a second addition to a three-part music video series, regarding Tyler Joseph's fictional city, Dema. Both videos feature references to "Heavydirtysoul", a single off of the band's previous album, such as the repeated imagery of a burning car.[77][78][79][80]

The third single off the album, "Levitate", was leaked onto the streaming platform Tidal on August 7, 2018, only to quickly be removed.[81] This was accompanied by a leaked track listing for the album.[82] The song was subsequently released the next day as the album's third single via Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show as the day's "World Record".[83] A music video was also released, concluding the trilogy series.[84]

On August 20, 2018, at the VMAs, a ten-second long snippet of the song "My Blood" was played at the end of a commercial promoting the album. On August 27, 2018, a Twitter user leaked the full song onto his Twitter account in low quality, after they found that it could be played on their Apple HomePod. The leak was confirmed real when the band made the song available on streaming services later that day, as the album's fourth single.[85] A music video for the song was premiered on YouTube the day of the album's release.[86][87] On January 22, 2019, the track "Chlorine" was released as the album's fifth single and was accompanied by a music video.[88][89]

Tour[edit]

Two men wearing yellow attire perform live on-stage.
Twenty One Pilots performing at their pre-tour show "A Complete Diversion" at Brixton Academy on September 12, 2018

The day of the lead singles' release, the band announced a new world tour, called "The Bandito Tour", would begin on October 16, 2018.[90] It was later revealed that Awolnation and Max Frost would perform as the opening act for the first North American leg of the tour.[91] On August 19, 2018, Twenty One Pilots released an unlisted YouTube video promoting a concert at the Brixton Academy in London; the performance was titled "A Complete Diversion", a reference to lyrics in the song "Nico and the Niners" ("And start a concert, a complete diversion").[92][93] The concert took place on September 12, 2018, a little less than a month before the scheduled release date of the album.[94] A second North American leg ending on July 30, 2019 was added to the tour, including shows in Mexico and Canada as well as two shows in the band's hometown, Columbus.[95][96]

Commercial performance[edit]

Trench became Twenty One Pilots' first number-one album in Australia, debuting atop the ARIA Albums Chart on October 13.[97] It also debuted at number one in New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and the Netherlands, and was also the band's first number-one album in those countries.

Trench debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 behind the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, with 175,000 album-equivalent units, of which 135,000 were pure album sales. This marked the band's biggest sales week in the country, surpassing their number-one album Blurryface.[98][99] It is the band's second US top five album.[98] The album then dipped to number 7 in its second week with 49,000 units.[100] The album debuted at number one on the Top Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts, and every song from the album charted in the top 25 of the US Hot Rock Songs chart.[101] The album also debuted at number two on the Canadian Albums Chart with 11,000 album-equivalent units.[102] The album was leading the UK midweek charts upon its release with 6,000 combined sales,[103] but debuted number two on the UK Albums Chart with 29,835 copies (including 6,178 sales equivalent streams), almost 2,000 behind the soundtrack album A Star Is Born, making it the band's highest charting album to date in the country.[104][105][106] It also became the band's highest charting album in Ireland, Scotland, Finland, and Norway, debuting at number two in these countries. In France, the album debuted at number nine on the SNEP Albums Chart, selling 6,400 units.[107] In the US, Trench was certified Gold on December 18, 2018.[108]

By January 3, 2019, 7,000 cassette copies of Trench had been sold in the US, making it the third most sold cassette album of 2018 behind Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2, thus making a major contribution to the 23% rise in cassette sales in the US in 2018.[109][110]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic81/100[111]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[22]
Billboard(favorable)[36]
Dead Press10/10 stars[112]
Hot Press7/10[113]
Kerrang!4/5 stars[114]
NME4/5 stars[41]
PopMatters7/10 stars[115]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[116]
USA Today(favorable)[117]
Variety3.5/5 stars[21]

Trench was critically acclaimed upon release, notably for its production, lyrical content, musical diversity and cohesiveness. Many of them recognized the album as the band's best work. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has an average score of 81 out of 100 based on 6 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[111] Kerrang! gave the album a positive review saying "some of the year's catchiest, most accessible alt-pop tunes of the year speaks volumes of the level upon which they're operating here."[114]

Billboard gave the album a positive review calling the album "surprisingly cohesive" and that "Trench revels in the confounding genre-blurring and cavernous conceptualism that has defined Twenty One Pilots over their nearly decade-long existence."[36] Chris Willman, writing for Variety, gave the album three and a half stars, saying "Take my recommendation and forget about the most deeply conceptual parts of this concept album—which just seems like a lot of work—and enjoy the many parts of Trench that don’t require a thirst for symbolic origin stories."[21] Damon Taylor of Dead Press complimented the album saying, "a plethora of influences are splashed across the record, giving their core sound a new distinction."[112]

Christopher Weingarten of Rolling Stone gave the album a positive review calling it "more mature" than Blurryface, saying the album's elements have "coalesced into a smarter, more mature whole", and that the album "has more of a cohesive sound and feel".[116] Joshua Copperman of PopMatters, in a positive review, wrote "The album hangs together thanks to an increased maturity in the thematic content and production."[35] In a positive review of the album, Matt Kennedy of USA Today wrote, "Trench is a more low-key album" and that "Joseph and Dun show maturity in not overworking songs, too."[117]

In a positive review, AllMusic's Neil Z. Yeung wrote "although Trench requires a few spins to really register, it's ultimately rewarding and fully immersive, delivering a depth and gravity at which Twenty One Pilots only hinted on Blurryface."[22] David Hayter of 411 Mania wrote, "mythos laden concept album Trench might struggle to consistently fire on all cylinders, but the good far out weighs the bad, making for a thoughtful and sonically daring experience."[118] Gary Ryan of NME wrote, "Trench is the sound of a band ratcheting up the ambition without ever being pulled down by an undertow of pretentiousness. It's more low-key than Blurryface, but ultimately more rewarding."[41] Stephen Keegan of Hot Press also gave the album a positive review, saying "In today's 'stan culture', Joseph's clever breadcrumbing of lyrical clues allows fans to bond over their shared community – and will have obsessives debating on Genius.com for months."[113]

Accolades[edit]

Year-end lists
Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Alternative Press The 50 Best Albums of 2018 N/A
Billboard 50 Best Albums of 2018
34
Kerrang! The 50 Albums that Shook 2018
21
Rock Sound Rock Sound's Best Albums of 2018
1

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Jumpsuit"Tyler Joseph3:58
2."Levitate"2:25
3."Morph"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
4:19
4."My Blood"Joseph3:49
5."Chlorine"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
5:24
6."Smithereens"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
2:57
7."Neon Gravestones"Joseph4:00
8."The Hype"Joseph4:25
9."Nico and the Niners"Joseph3:45
10."Cut My Lip"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
4:43
11."Bandito"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
5:31
12."Pet Cheetah"
  • Joseph
  • Meany
3:18
13."Legend"Joseph2:53
14."Leave the City"Joseph4:40
Total length:56:04

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per AllMusic.[124]

Twenty One Pilots

  • Tyler Joseph – lead vocals, piano, keyboards, guitars, synthesizers, ukulele, bass guitar
  • Josh Dun – drums, percussion, trumpet, backing vocals

Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[159] Gold 40,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[160] Gold 10,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[161] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[162] Gold 500,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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