A Deeper Look Into The Thoughts Behind The New Twenty One Pilots Album
After the massive success of Trench, followed by a huge world tour, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun had a lot of pressure to follow up a great album.
Well now the band have announced ‘Scaled and Icy’, their latest project, with the single ‘Shy Away’ and a very colourful, vibrant and exciting new feeling. This change came at quite a surprise for some, especially those who aren’t deeply invested in the complex narrative of the band.
So, is the new sound and vibrant style deeper than we think, or is it simply an evolution of the band (after all this is common, and seen with bands like Linkin Park, with ‘One More Light’)?
Before you can decide, you need to know the true reasonings behind the band. For Tyler Joseph, the music has always been more than just making albums and money. It has been understanding and representing his own emotions and thoughts, with the hope of helping others do the same.
Tyler has always had a very different way of talking about the difficult and often taboo topics of mental health, and his music has been that outlet. The songs give a voice to his demons, and very enigmatically tells a story. This narrative has been ingeniously constructed through an incredibly complicated and cryptic nature, all of which started with the album ‘Blurryface’. The record is named after the character that Tyler created and this persona is a representation of insecurity. The album itself explores topics like self-doubt, depression and anxiety, with a dark and hybrid sound paired with lyrics that really make you think. Then, after a series of tweets, the band went on hiatus, ending the era. Blurryface really is a great introduction to the full concept – but an introduction is all it really is.
Whilst the band were still silent, fans found a website called ‘DMAORG’ which consisted of notes and pictures from ‘Clancy’. His story becomes clear later. After a year of complete silence, fans received and email titled, ‘ARE YOU STILL SLEEPING’, with a video of an eye opening. This symbolised the start of a new era and little did fans know; it would be the most diverse and complex record yet. The songs ‘Jumpsuit’ and ‘Nico and the Niners’ opened the window to the world of ‘Trench’. The album introduces ‘Dema’, a city created in Joseph’s mind, run by nine bishops, one of whom is Blurryface, or as people now call him, Nico. The city of Dema follows a religion known as ‘Vialism’, which has the main principle of glorifying suicide. The residents of Dema are entrapped by the bishops, and indoctrinated into believing in the glorification of suicide, and other dangerous ideologies surrounding mental health. Songs like ‘Neon Gravestones’ explore this idea even more with lyrics questioning the ideas of Dema.
The concept of ‘Banditos’ also comes into play, as a Bandito is a rebel who breaks away from Dema, represented by the colour yellow, which the bishops cannot see. Yellow tape is seen throughout, as a sign of escapism and rebellion. Throughout the album, Tyler is shown trying to escape Dema with the help of the Banditos, who are shown as people such as Josh Dun, and his wife. Finally, Trench is the exit. It is a place where residents of Dema try to escape the noise and evil of the city. It is shown in the music video for ‘Jumpsuit’, where Tyler is chased down by Nico. This can be seen as Tyler escaping his demons, only to be pulled back down again. Trench is really the middle point. It is what connects Dema to the escape of Vialism. This brief description barely scratched the surface on the depth of this creation, and there is so much more to it.
Hopefully now you have an understanding of the world that Tyler created. The band’s latest album came from the destruction of that same ‘DMAORG’ website that introduced Trench. It is suggested that the character Clancy was caught leaking the truth on Dema and Vialism, and was therefore taken back. This resulted in the website destroying itself. After days of loading, the website was eventually gone, leaving us with just a message from Dema, firmly stating that it broke the rules and violated the city. However, it did reveal the first posters for the new era. The still silence from the band left fans sceptical, as the bright colours and Dema marketing seemed as if the fictional bishops were really the ones behind the album, and as if it is all just propaganda for vialism and Dema.
This is were Scaled and Icy truly comes in. The title of the record is an anagram for the phrase, ‘Clancy is dead’, which hints at the loss of a key character in the destruction of Dema, and suggests he lost the fight. The sonic of the first single ‘Shy Away’ is bright, just like the colours and marketing, which feels as if Tyler has had a real change in direction. So, whilst the media, press and social media suggest it is simply a change in sound and the band commercialising, I think of it as more than that. The album appears to just be propaganda for Dema, and not Twenty One Pilots, as if Tyler has completely lost control, and the bishops have taken over. The bright colours almost seem false and fake, and the sound doesn’t quite feel as familiar to the band’s history as previous records. This could well suggest Tyler has lost his own battle with Dema and given in to their indoctrination. The album will be revealed in a live stream show, all doused in Dema branding. The band website itself is designed to look like a Dema control room, with labels for the bishops and dangerous looking equipment. The album will be released on May 21st, and I feel we will have a clearer picture on the true meaning behind it. Personally, I don’t think it’s simply a change in sound, or the band following trends, but an even deeper dive into the story of Dema, masked by the false sense of positivity of the bishops.
It is all too easy to see this as just a story. It is not. It is a complex representation of Tyler’s own mental health, with the bishops representing his own demons, depression and anxiety, and the city with Trench representing the whole culture around mental health. Although the story is told through characters and fictional places, it is very real. The fiction is simply a diversion from reality and gives names to things that culture still doesn’t quite comprehend. It brings light into the things that the media are too afraid to be vocal about, and helps those who don’t understand their struggle to find hope. The new album may appear positive and colourful, but the meaning and story certainly isn’t. The colours simply mask the true meaning that Tyler may have given in to his own demons and lost that sense of control. The ‘Dema’ branding would definitely suggest that his own demons have taken over. Could it be Tyler giving in to the pressures of the music industry, depression and anxiety, or is it a cry for help? Whatever the reason, it truly is genius, and will be glazed over by most, who just see it as the band conforming to popularity and commercialisation.
‘Scaled and Icy’ is out May 21st with the first single, ‘Shy Away’ out now.
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