TDP Review: Issues (self-titled)

For fans of: Of Mice and Men, Bring Me the Horizon, Woe, is Me

issues album cover

All different styles of music have been connected to critical stereotypes, and no genre is more plagued by cliches than metalcore. Cast off by many as a childish attempt to release some sort of ridiculous pre-teen angst characterized by dark clothing and ripped skinny jeans, in recent years the genre has been generalized as a stagnant pool of songs with generic metal riffs, whiny clean vocals, and unnecessarily explicit lyrics. Yet in every music scene that has ever faced a similar issue, there is always a group that tries to play the hero, to bring something new to the table, something fresh. In the metalcore scene, California/Georgia-based band Issues is looking to do just that by combining their super-produced metalcore background with three seemingly unlikely influences, R&B, nu-metal, and EDM.

In their follow-up to their 2012 EP Black Diamonds, Issues return with their daringly self-titled record that showcases twelve tracks on which the band overtly flaunts all of their diverse influences. With clean vocalist Tyler Carter’s unique, R&B-esque vocal melodies, Ty Acord’s impressive nu-metal-esque synth/ turntable-playing capabilities, as well as a vast background of experience from the other members of the band, Issues is successfully able to create a record that is not only unlike any other band on their label (Rise Records), but unlike any band in the metalcore genre as a whole.

Throughout all twelve of the songs, the band adequately appropriates and incorporates all of these seemingly uncombinable musical influences in a manner that allows for all members of the band to shine in their capabilities at several different moments. Despite all of the members showing off their different abilities, the grooves on the album are still very well composed, allowing for a record that is as melodically complex as it is relatively homogenous. The first single from the album “Stingray Affliction” boasts this strong cohesive ability as well as some of the best instrumentation and vocals on the record with Carter being able to go full-fledged with his R&B melodies during the bridge that feel boy-band-like, but in the best way possible.

While much of the album is very high-energy, it also contains more sentimental and emotional tracks, such as “Tears On The Runway (Pt. 2)” and “Disappear,” on which Carter appropriately demonstrates his notable vocal control. Carter also pushes his vocal capabilities in some songs, having parts where he uses more grit and force as to show how he can stray from his signature R&B tendencies. In addition to Carter’s clean vocals, screamer Michael Bohn expresses just how he has improved in his clear screaming pronunciation. In terms of instrumentation, guitarist AJ Rebollo is able to compose riffs that are unforgettably metalcore in nature but aptly fit the rhythms of the song to create some tracks that have excellent flow from section to section and guitar riff to guitar riff, such as on songs like “Life Of A Nine.” Working directly with the rhythms provided by Rebollo’s guitar riffs, drummer Josh Manuel, longtime YouTube drummer turned Issues member, spices up nearly all of the tracks as well with his extensive drumming capabilities. With a feel for grooves that suits the nature of the songs’ excellently, he forms the basis of a rhythm section that complements Issues wonderfully with Manuel being able to show off his abilities on tracks such as “The Langdon House.”

Structurally, the album is diverse as well. Some tracks have immediately catchy choruses and straightforward verse-chorus-verse structure such as on tracks like “Never Lose Your Flames,” which arguably has the catchiest chorus on the record, whereas other tracks have more complex orderings with divergent yet cohesive tangent sections. Many of these structural complexities come straight from the compositional and structuring talents of bass player Skyler Acord.

In terms of areas that could have improved, Bohn’s vocals, while having improved in their pronunciation, remains often times flat and monotone. Bohn does attempt to push his intense vocal grit to have some sort of melodic sense to it such as on the nu-metal-esque verses of “The Langdon House.” Unfortunately, this only leaves a desire for more as a well as creates a feeling of frustration where the listener may feel as though some songs have sections where Bohn is screaming for the sake of screaming such as on “The Settlement,” arguably the album’s weakest track. Additionally, while this is a metalcore band and heavy, open-note chugging has always been a definitive characteristic of the genre, these chugging metalcore tropes sometimes only serve to drag down certain parts of the album such as on “Never Lose Your Flames” with the breakdown at the end of the chorus and bridge breakdown ruining the otherwise pleasing fluidity of the track. Issues has the capacity for fluidity and cohesiveness as shown through many parts of the album, but the band must continue to even more acutely refine their appropriation and flow of heavy sections into more poppy sections and vice versa. But perhaps the band’s largest issue (pun-intended) lies within their initial goal: to create a record that combines multiple seemingly opposite genres. “Late,” while a catchy tune, showcases the forefront for this problem expressing just how difficult it is for the band to change from radio-ready pop to brutal metalcore without listeners sometimes questioning the transitions. In addition, the record constantly rushes from tracks that are more lyrically aggressive to tracks that are more emotional, creating a consistent conflict that makes the album seem as though it struggles with some form of musical multiple personality disorder.

Issues’ self-titled record is a massive improvement from their debut EP, an improvement made clear from the first listen. While the album struggles with a consolidation of interests and a focus on just exactly they want to accomplish in several instances, it is still an impressive effort. And Issues have undoubtedly accomplished at least one of their initial goals: they have created a record unlike any other in the metalcore scene. If Issues can continue to refine and consolidate their musical aspirations, the band will grow into prominence to become one of metalcore’s most unique and innovative acts.

Overall rating: 3/5

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