Marianas Trench are finally back with a new album: Astoria. It has been well-worth the wait, I assure you. There is nothing rushed or sloppy about this album, which drops on October 23rd. The album plays out like a coming-of-age film, much as the band aspires, especially considering its multitude of Goonies references, and the strong 80’s presence that adds to the enjoyment of every track.
Each transition track could have been a part of a film score, or even deemed as the overture in a larger-than-life stage show.
“Astoria” kicks things off with a massive, cinematic introduction, and then the piano comes in, rounding out the already magical instrumentals. Josh Ramsay’s vocals come sweeping in beautifully, adding to the overall melodic tone. There’s a depth to this track that rings out like a banner to listeners, an anthem of sorts, and has an operatic feel as some points (one point actually reminds me of Queen). This song is revenge, lust, adolescence, and everything in between. For those of us that grew up on 80’s music still being played all the time, this track is perfection, going through multiple emotions, and finishing off with a sweet moment on the piano that feels like the red velvet curtain being lifted onto the most amazing stage show. 7 minutes isn’t long enough!
“Burning Up” carries on that build-up of energy with pure, bouncing-off-the-walls excitement. The track is upbeat, makes you want to snap your fingers, dance, etc. You’ll want to sing along…if you can come anywhere near the falsetto of Ramsay’s voice (not likely). But perhaps if you can’t sing along like Ramsay, you could dance to “Yesterday” like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or just stick to singing along loudly to needs-to-be-seen-live, high energy “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” filled with some of the heavy 80s bass (Mike Ayley) we all love so much.
Of course, Marianas Trench released two singles already: “One Love” and “Wildfire,” and while they were stunning out of context, within the album, there is a raw power to them that will hold you completely entranced. “One Love” is emotional, vibrant, and rich in instrumentals…as well as flawless vocals. It’s a sing-along ballad, if anything. Rock/pop-rock ballads seem to be a dying art, but Marianas Trench bring it back effortlessly. The first time I heard this single, I got goosebumps, because it’s honestly that good. I still get chills listening to it now, for the millionth time, almost as I do with “Wildfire,” which is filled with so much imagery, and just sets a scene with ease. The track builds up, thanks to Ian Casselman’s impressive drumming, and just explodes with a great collection of music and powerful vocals. Both songs carry such a raw power to them that radiates throughout the whole album.
Even the overtures themselves are incredible. The orchestra is like the finishing touch that just brings Astoria to life, as both a unique album and as a story. From the beautiful simplicity of “August Burns Red,” the reserved nature of “Hospital Bells,” to the cinematic “Hollywood Renaissance,” “Never Say Die,” and the final overture that is “Straight On Til Morning,” I’d like to put in a request that Marianas Trench begins scoring movies and plays now, if I could.
…For now, I’ll settle for the music video for “This Means War,” which plays out so clearly in my mind. With a buoyant style and bitter undertone, the song seems to craft the idea that fighting with someone you love is better than insincere small talk (“I’d rather be a riot than indifferent”), which seems to tie in to the idea of “While We’re Young.” The latter of which has a stunning narrative, and will be perfection being played live.
Between “Dearly Departed” and “Forget Me Not,” the band proves that while they sound incredible with an orchestra, they can put a simple, no fuss, no muss song out there, and still make listeners stop dead in their trace. “Dearly Departed” makes use of a ukelele that makes the song sound, despite the implied death, either physically or metaphorically; bringing the idea of love, whether its lost or broken, full circle. The track begins quite simply, but steadily builds a wealth of instrumentation. It’s bittersweet, filled with gorgeous choir vocals, and brings the band’s career full circle, making references to some of their earlier tunes. “Forget Me Not” is a fantastic piano song, with a gorgeous set of lyrics, fabulous vocals, and just a simple beauty that will leave you in awe, especially considering the pure emotion of the track. It’s about growing up, and things have changed, but there’s a fear of leaving everything behind. It’s the kind of song that can bring even someone like me (a non-cryer) to tears; that’s when I know a track is more than just a song: it’s a story, it has a presence, and it has a voice.
However, out of all of the strong songs on Astoria, the one I find myself enamored with is “Who Do You Love.” Granted, the phrase “who do you love,” has been something quite personal to me for many years, so it’s only natural that I gravitate towards the song. It’s gorgeous, and solidifies itself and the album as a masterpiece. It will stop you in your tracks for its anthemic quality and pure drive. I could play this a million times, and never get tired of it.
The band leaves us with “End Of An Era,” which perfectly bookends the album. Almost mirroring the title track (and powerhouse of an introduction), but with a bittersweet tone to it: sad that it’s over, but triumphant, flowing into a haunting, phenomenal ending. “We went through hell in Astoria/ we lost ourselves in Astoria/ I gave in to sickness/ can you find forgiveness/ for a dear old friend/ Astoria can end.” Casselman’s drums and Matt Webb’s wailing electric guitar sent shivers up my spine on this track. If you didn’t already know that the men behind Marianas Trench were incredible musicians, this album solidifies that. This is the group that rock legends of past must be smiling down on right now, because they’re keeping the art alive.
I really wish I could turn Astoria into a stage show, because through every track, I can almost see it on a stage, with colorful sets, costumes, and a script that could further tie the story together. If you want to watch a play in your mind, I highly recommend that you listen to the latest masterpiece by Marianas Trench.