Twenty One Pilots return with possibly the most important album of the year
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots have returned after a year-long social media silence with their fifth studio album “Trench,” following 2015’s record-breaking “Blurryface.”
While “Blurryface” showed the development of the titular character as the personification of one’s own insecurities and fears, “Trench” takes on the large task of building a whole world, and it works.
The world of Dema, a fictitious city based on the Iranian word Dema sets the stage for their next album. The word Dema loosely means tower of silence, a tradition in the Zoroastrian religion where towers were used as burial sites for natural elements to decay bodies.
Nine dictatorial bishops rule in this world where Dun Dun, the drummer, leads a rebel group of “Banditos” who try to save Joseph from Blurryface, now portrayed with the name Nico.
However, the world building isn’t the most impressive part of Twenty One Pilots’ new direction; it’s the maturity of their sound, both lyrically and sonically.
Having taken a year off, the duo came back with their signature rallying call: discussing a topic that most mainstream bands let fall to the wayside, mental health.
While “Trench” does include nods to Blurryface’s character, such as “rebel red carnation grows while I decay,” and “Hide you in my coat pocket, where I kept my rebel red / I felt I was invincible, you wrapped around my head” in the song “Chlorine,” it is clear that this time around, the band is discussing a wider range of topics than just insecurities.
As “Chlorine” continues, Joseph remarks that he is “sippin’ on straight chlorine,” or using a destructive habit to cope with his insecurities, to which he later asks if he can “build my house with pieces, I’m just a chemical.”
Perhaps the most important song on the album, though, is the piano and spoken-word driven “Neon Gravestones.”
In an album that finds its foundation within mental health awareness and championship, “Neon Gravestones” proves to be the hard-hitting lesson.
The song serves as a commentary on suicide-culture and mental health awareness in general. Joseph proclaims that as a culture, we would rather glorify someone after their death, and not celebrate them while they are alive.
“We don’t get enough love / well they get a fraction / they say ‘How could he go if he’s got everything? I’ll mourn for a kid, but won’t cry for a king,’” reads one of the lines. Joseph continues to remark how while the rise in awareness has helped to beat the stigma behind mental illness, more discussion is needed and more importantly, action.
Another argument that Joseph puts forth is that perhaps some use suicide as a “form of aggression / a form of succession / a form of a weapon / thinking ‘I’ll teach them’ / well I’m refusing the lesson / it won’t resonate in our minds.”
Suicide as a form of revenge will not necessarily resonate in our minds. It will not raise the awareness of real, debilitating mental health disorders that plague people every day. Joseph remarks that he does not wish to disrespect what is left behind, but does not wish for it to be glorified.
He ends the song with these final lines: “Maybe we swap out what 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.”
At the end of the day, this is the message of Neon Gravestones. Suicide is not the answer. We must begin to celebrate people while they are alive, and not after the fact. We place people on pedestals after their death, which only serves to give an illusion of immortal fame.
The thought that “if I were to die, then everyone would know my name and then they’ll miss me” is perhaps the most dangerous message society can be giving to those suffering from psychological disorders and suicidal thoughts.
Joseph himself even warns his listeners that while he could “go out with a bang” and that “neon grave stones try to call for [his] bones,” he claims that these neon gravestones will not get his bones.
Joseph also pleads that if he “lose[s] to himself / that you won’t mourn a day / and move onto someone else” so that the cycle of celebrity suicidal worship won’t continue.
If we want to make a change in mental health and suicidal awareness, this one thing is clear: We must take action. We cannot simply raise awareness for “a kid” or “a king.” We must stop suggesting that “an earlier grave is an optional way.”
This song, without once saying the words “die” or “suicide” shows that there is a need for discussions such as the one “Trench” provides, one of life, not death.
This album as a whole shows the maturity Twenty One Pilots were able to gain from a year of silence, and how effective a more salient and concrete discussion on mental health can become. With songs such as “Chlorine” and “Neon Gravestones,” they were able to reach a fanbase eager for their return as well as bridge a gap with society as a wider whole.
Whatever your view on mental illness, Twenty One Pilots’ “Trench” promises to spark discussions for months to come.