Review by Shannon Shumaker
All seventeen songs on Astoria, the new album from Marianas Trench, are incredibly well written, thoughtful, and fun to listen to. From the wildly diverse opening track, to slower ballads like “One Love” or “Forget Me Not,” there is no filler on Astoria.
Kicking off Astoria in a very theatrical way (which will continue to be a strong point throughout the rest of the album) is the title track, brought in by raw and passionate vocals that are sure to hook listeners from the very first lines. The long, emotional notes that vocalist, Josh Ramsay holds out in the very beginning of this track are captivating, and to back up the vocals perfectly is some remarkable instrumentation. The way that the song changes within the blink of an eye is insane, and the band makes the multiple tempo, key and genre transitions without missing a beat. Within seconds, “Astoria” goes from a big rock ballad to a pop track, and the falsetto vocals match the pop sounding parts perfectly. But then, right before you can get used to it, the song is transforming once again. “Astoria” goes from sounding like Journey in the beginning, to Justin Timberlake in the middle to a big rock ballad from Queen in the end, and by the time the song fades out, I’m completely blown away. And that’s just the title track.
“Burning Up” follows “Astoria,” and just when you think that Marianas Trench couldn’t possibly outdo themselves, they prove you wrong yet again. “Burning Up” keeps that same strong energy and incredible vocals that they establish in the first track. The falsetto vocals in this song are amazing yet again and the harmonies are absolutely mind blowing. As the song progresses, I just find myself feeling blown away again and again. The moment toward the end of the track where the music cuts out and the vocals just ring out on their own is breathtaking.
Following “Burning Up” is dancy and fun “Yesterday.” The vocals in this track, while still strong, take a backseat to the smart and fun instrumentals, proving that Marianas Trench are not a one trick pony (if the first song hasn’t already convinced you). Then, “One Love” comes in and slows things down with a big ballad. When the vocals in “One Love” get soft and emotional toward the end of the song, the result is a beautiful and raw sounding track. Within just the first four songs, Marianas Trench prove that they are basically capable of anything, and that still leaves thirteen songs to blow your mind.
The cool thing about Astoria is that not everything is what meets the eye. If you attempt to judge a song simply by the first few notes or lines (or even the first minute) you’re bound to be surprised when it suddenly changes pace halfway through. Marianas Trench prove again and again that they are great at the insane genre, tempo and key changes that propel the album forward. Track after track, they pull these incredible moments off effortlessly. There is no dull moment on the album, either. Even songs that most bands would use as a filler track are not. “This Means War” is a great example of this. While the song doesn’t sound too interesting right off the bat, it ends up becoming one of the most diverse sounding songs on the album, full of beautiful group vocals, intricate and interesting drumming and a huge, explosive chorus, all topped off with wild vocal runs.
“Dearly Departed” is a really cool step away from the intricate songwriting on the rest of the album, as ukelele and vocals dominate the majority of the track. In true Marianas Trench fashion, however, this song isn’t just a simple acoustic filler. When the group vocals come in near the end of the song alongside string instruments, the song really feels like it’s blooming. Songs like “August Burns Red,” Hollywood Renaissance” and “Straight On Til Morning” are nice little theatrical interlude tracks that separate the different halves of the album.
As Astoria chugs forward, it is apparent that Marianas Trench have pulled out all of the stops with this one. Not one song on the album is boring, nor do any of them sound the same or feel out of place. Even the very Jackson 5 feeling track, “Shut Up And Kiss Me” fits in with the rest of the album amazingly. A few songs later, “Wildfire” is very big and full feeling. The vocals and lyrics in this track are very emotional and relatable, such as lines like, “I don’t know how we could ever let this transpire/You know I thought this love would always burn like a wildfire.” And the string instruments in the chorus make it feel even bigger. “Forget Me Not” is another gorgeous track, as you can really feel the emotion and longing in the raw vocals. Things may slow down a little bit toward the end of the album, but definitely not in a bad way. Where wild key and tempo changes dominate the first half of the album, big ballads and relatable lyricism take over the second half. Marianas Trench excel in both areas, and the result is a very well balanced feeling album as it comes to an end.
Ending Astoria just as strong as it begins is “End Of An Era,” which feels very theatrical, much like the rest of the album. “End Of An Era” builds and builds until blooming into big string instruments that sound very similar to the interludes that are spaced throughout the album. By the time that it comes to an end, it’s apparent that Marianas Trench have poured their hearts and souls into this release. Seventeen songs in length, and not one single track sounds out of place or boring by any means. Astoria is a fearless, timeless and fun to listen to release, something that will keep fans entertained for years to come.
Listen to "Astoria," "Burning Up" or "This Means War"