Issues, a band founded on a signature blend of R&B and metalcore, has always pulled influences from all over the generic map. They’ve never been afraid to venture into new territory either, and found even newer terrain to explore on their latest album, Beautiful Oblivion. On this album, Issues take more risks and experiment more than they have ever done before. And it’s bolstered by more refined songwriting abilities. While previous release Headspace was often too busy, Beautiful Oblivion is cleaner, crisper and more layered. The album is full of hooks, grooves and surprises.
This is the band’s first release since the departure of former co-vocalist Michael Bohn at the start of 2019. There’s less screaming on this album (guitarist A. J. Rebello took on some of those duties) , but it doesn’t lose anything for it. The band worked with Howard Benson (Escape the Fate, Simple Plan) and former Issues keyboardist and programmer Tyler “Lophiile” Acord also provided production and songwriting support.
Each member gives an outstanding performance on this record. Tyler Carter’s unique voice is so strong that he could get away with singing anything (and on here, he pretty much does). The same goes for his bandmates: Rebello on guitar, Skyler Acord on bass, and Josh Manuel on drums. They all shine through on this record – from Rebello’s versatility to Acord’s grooves – and they all may have given the best performances of their careers on this album. Carter has never sang with such conviction and his ability to ramp up the emotion on a refrain is what elevates many of these songs.
Their performances are so good in fact that at times they’re competing with each other rather than working in harmony, as on “No Problem (Keep it Alive)”.
On Beautiful Oblivion, Issues truly made the most of their genre-bending abilities. Opening and closing tracks “Here’s to You” and “Beautiful Oblivion” respectively contain stark drops from lighter to heavier music and both of them pull it off impressively. “Find Forever” has an opening country-blues-style riff, which blends into a harder, heavier riff – stylistic maneuvering which shows the band’s sophistication at using more diverse influences.
The first two singles were among the strongest offerings on the album, and possibly, in Issues’ career. “Drink About It” may be the best combination of R&B and metalcore on the album, blending grooves into every aspect of the melody so that it holds together cohesively. “Tapping Out” is the heaviest song on the album, and it truly packs a punch. The fast flow of the melody, the soaring hook, the driving instrumentation and rush of emotion make this song feel larger than life.
“Rain” is also one of the album’s strongest moments. What works well is the control and start and stop of the instrumentation, creating effective pockets of silence. Again, the variation of the guitar’s tones and effects also give the song its compelling range.
The surprising hit is piano ballad “Your Sake,” which is so powerful even though it’s stripped back. The melody does at times sound familiar, but draws strength from its rising and falling and the emotion Carter’s voice conveys.
Beautiful Oblivion is strongest at its softest and heaviest but it’s the middle-ground that’s, well, middling. When the album struggles, its hampered by contrived melodies and vague lyrics. The vocal melody in “Find Forever” feels too simplistic and repetitive and the lyrics aren’t inventive. “Downfall”, though textured and layered with intriguing synths, is weighed down by a melody that doesn’t sound wholly original and a chorus that doesn’t make much of an impression. There are times where the songs suffer as a result of following the stereotypes of a genre as with pop-punk on “Second Best” and with R&B on “Get It Right”. (“Without You” almost succumbs to this pitfall, but is rescued by its genius hook.) The lyric writing across the album could be more specific and original.
The wild card on the album is “Flexin,” which polarized fans and sparked tweets from musicians about the need to experiment when it was released as the third single for the album. It’s refreshingly unique both musically and lyrically, as it tackles financial struggles, a subject that isn’t often brought up in rock songs.
Beautiful Oblivion succeeds in its extremes, but even with all of the risks they took, Issues could still take their experimentation farther. What Issues have to continue to do is go bigger, harder and weirder in the most unexpected way possible, as they’ve already shown they can do here.