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Review: Twenty One Pilots connect albums

Emma Tanner

Alternative rock duo Twenty One Pilots announced the release of their new album “Clancy” on Feb. 22, along with a short film. The film, narrated by lead singer Tyler Joseph, explains the story of main character Clancy in the fictional city of Dema. 

The video connects the band’s past three albums: “Blurryface” (2015), “Trench” (2018) and “Scaled and Icy” (2021). Some fans received mail from the band and a new logo was displayed on billboards and posters worldwide. Their new single “Overcompensate” was announced on Feb. 28 and released on Feb. 29. Their album “Clancy” is set to release May 17.

As explained by Joseph, Dema is a city and government. It is ruled by nine bishops, who are assigned to different regions within the city. Keons is Clancy’s bishop.

Trench (yes, like the album) is the land outside of Dema. It’s mostly populated by a renegade group called Banditos. Clancy joins them in the Trench album, but is recaptured by Nico and forced to create Scaled and Icy. 

Voldsøy is an island off the shore of Trench. It is populated by a group of little furry creatures called Neds. Ned is first seen in the music video for “Chlorine,” and appears again in “The Hype,” “The Outside” and “Choker.”

Some other locations are Paladin Strait, the body of water separating Trench and Voldsøy and Port Vial, a port controlled by Dema off the shore of Trench.

Now getting into the characters (and there are quite a lot). Clancy is portrayed by frontman Tyler Joseph. He is the main character of the Blurryface saga, and a resident of Dema. He first appeared through letters before the release of Trench. As stated previously, he joined the Banditos, and a good deal of the songs from Trench are rebellious music made by him in opposition of the bishops. He was captured and forced to create propaganda, but has since escaped to rejoin the Banditos. He is missing, and was last seen on Voldsøy. 

The Torchbearer is the character portrayed by Josh Dun, the other half of the duo. He is a member of the Banditos, and was last seen with Clancy on Voldsøy. Not much is known about him, but it is theorized that he’s the leader of the Banditos.

The bishops rule over Dema and represent their own insecurity. Their names come from lyrics in Blurryface songs and their insecurities or fears are kind of muddy. They vary depending on where you look, so these are just the most theorized fears. I followed the fears listed out by I-m-a-BaNDiTo and LenTheSpaceWolf on Reddit. 

The first is Keons (“choKE ON Smoke” from “Heavydirtysoul”). He is said to represent a fear of Blurryface or a fear of death. I have also seen people say that he represents a struggle with faith, since “Heavydirtysoul” talks about struggles with faith and anxiety, and that is the song his name stems from.

Sacarver (she’S A CARVER from “Tear In My Heart”) is the second bishop, and they represent a fear of vulnerability or a fear of losing a loved one. I am more inclined to go with a fear of vulnerability, since “Tear In My Heart” is about Joseph’s wife and it is the only one that does not mention Blurryface.

Listo (“a LIST Of people” from “Ride”) is the third and represents a fear of existentialism or a fear of the end. “Ride” is about a journey through life. In it, Joseph says how he finds dying easy, unless you have something or someone to live for. In the realm of Dema, I think a fear of existentialism fits nicely, as individuality is something not highly encouraged in the city.

Lisden (“all i feeL IS DENial” from “Polarize”) is the fourth and represents the fear of self or the blurred lines between himself and Blurryface. The song “Polarize” details this pretty well, portraying Joseph’s fears in his inability to separate himself from fear, depression and anxiety (what he considers Blurryface to be). 

Reisdro (“temperatuRE IS DROpping” from “Doubt”) is the fifth and represents self doubt. People also said it could represent a fear of losing faith, like Keons. “Doubt” is a pretty easy fear to pin, but looking further into the song does have a stronger case for a fear of losing faith. The song has pretty heavy themes of falling away from God and faith and not wanting to. I am more inclined to believe that Reisdro represents the fear of losing faith. Like all of the other songs on “Blurryface,” Joseph mentions anxiety and fear. 

Vetomo (“will they be aliVE TOMOrrow” from “Lane Boy”) is the sixth, representing a fear of fame and success. “Lane Boy” talks about not wanting to sell out, or be labeled as something inauthentic. Ironically, the song was a successful single for the band and came out about a week or two before the “Blurryface” album. I am not arguing too much about Vetomo’s fear, since it seems pretty likely that fame and success (or more specifically, selling out) is his fear.

Andre (“AND REpeat yesterday’s dance” from “Fairly Local”) is the seventh bishop, and he represents a fear of emotion or a fear of staying the same. “Fairly Local” has two running narratives: Joseph, singing the verses, and Blurryface, singing the pre-choruses. Joseph is trying his best to destroy Blurryface, while Blurryface shows that he is the personification of anxiety and depression. This song was the lead single for the album, and I think it is a good introduction to the character of Blurryface. Also, completely unrelated, but I think it is funny that there is the line “This song will never be on the radio,” when the song performed very well and was on the radio a lot. Food for thought.

The eighth bishop is Nico, full name Nicolas Bourbaki. He is also called Blurryface (“my name’s BLURRYFACE” from “Stressed Out”), and is the most fearsome bishop. It is also important to note that Nicolas Bourbaki was a pseudonym for a group of French mathematicians in the early 20th century, which may allude to Blurryface being a collection of all of his fears. This is purely my speculation, however, so take it with a grain of salt. Nico represents anxiety, as stated by Joseph.

The ninth bishop is Nills (“beaten dowN, I’LL Slip away” from “Goner”), and he represents a fear of weakness. “Goner” is the closing song to the “Blurryface” album, and has a sense of hope that Joseph will one day overcome Blurryface. He may be weak now (Nills’ fear), but the background music has a hopeful and triumphant tone.

I am going to condense some other elements here. Vialism is the religion practiced in Dema. The goal is for those who practice to eventually take their own lives. The Glorious Gone are those who have taken their lives for Vialism. They have neon gravestones around the city, and their bodies are “available vessels” for psychokinesis. Psychokinesis is the ritual the bishops do to possess the bodies of the Glorious Gone. Aside from the bishops, Clancy is the only one who can perform psychokinesis. Smearing is what happens when someone is captured by a bishop. Their hands are painted black, like Joseph has for most of the Blurryface promotion. 

Now onto their latest single. “Overcompensate” is the first song from “Clancy.” It has about a minute or so of intro, with voices speaking German, French and Spanish. They are all saying roughly the same thing, translating to “This small eerie island has made me a weapon. We both believe that we can use it to change the momentum of this war.”

The song uses a recurring phrase in the Dema lore, “Sahlo Folina,” which the band says is a cry used in Trench when they are needed. When translated to a language, most have decided that it is a Somali phrase that roughly translates to enabling a distaste for conformity and routine.

On some promotional material sent to a fan, “overcompensate” is described by Dema to “take excessive measures in attempting to correct or make amends for an error, weakness, or problem.”

Throughout the song, Clancy explains how he has undergone a transformation and plans to exact revenge on the bishops and Dema.

I have loved Twenty One Pilots since I was about 11. I loved every album before “Scaled and Icy,” and liked what I heard with “Overcompensate.” I will be honest, I didn’t even know most of the storyline before they posted the “Clancy” video. I do love a good mystery, and love a thought-out storyline even more. I can’t wait to dive into the world of Dema with the release of more singles and, eventually, the album.

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Emma Tanner
Emma Tanner, Former Editor-in-Chief

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