Issues
Headspace
(Rise Records)

Issues have been redefining what it means to be a metalcore outfit since their inception in 2012. They started off their career sounding similar to other bands, but they quickly pulled away from the herd with their unique blending of genres. Aside from their obvious metalcore influence, elements of pop, R&B and hip hop can also be heard throughout each song the band releases. Tyler Carter’s solo music is heavily influenced by these genres, so there’s no surprise that it bleeds into the music he releases with Issues.

The first song fans heard from Headspace was “Realest” – and that was before the album was even announced. It was the first indication that Headspace wouldn’t be like their previous releases. That’s made apparent by the funk-influenced slap bass solo heard about two-thirds of the way through the song. In addition to the myriad of influences heard throughout the album, Michael Bohn steps up as a co-singer instead of just the unclean vocalist on many occasions. Fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the change in sound though. The band still has some of the same signature elements that they are known for. A few of the tracks include the ever popular record scratching, including “Realest,” “Flojo” and “Blue Wall.”

Months ago the band confirmed they had a country-influenced track titled “Yung & Dum.” They spend three minutes waxing rhapsodic about being young, careless and free. Whether it was intentional or not, this song is the perfect summer anthem – even if you are not a fan of country music (which, to be honest, it’s not really that country sounding). Carter allows his southern twang to shine through in his singing, and near the end of the track guest vocalist Jon Langston, a country musician based out of Georgia, adds a heavy dose of that unmistakable country sound to the song. The song didn’t really need that extra tidbit, as it was solid enough on its own, but at the very least it doesn’t make the song bad.

Creating any sort of art is a vulnerable act. Musicians often pour their hearts into what they do, then release it to the masses to be consumed and judged. This is the case whether they are including anything particularly personal in their work or not. Carter has not only been in the eye of the music community for years now, but he has allowed himself to be vulnerable on numerous occasions. Songs like “COMA” and “Someone Who Does” shows there’s more to him than a handful of one liners.

“Blue Wall” is the type of song I want to hear more often. The band makes no effort to disguise the message of the song – as they shouldn’t have to either. It’s an homage to the Black Lives Matter movement – and the topic is police brutality. Given the current climate surrounding the subject the song is incredibly timely. Issues are not an overtly political group, but releasing a song such as this earns them some respect. There is absolutely no reason that more bands shouldn’t be taking similar risks with their music. If their songs land well, they could be incredibly successful. Letlive. is a great example of a band who has taken the lead when it comes to writing political songs (within metalcore). They are carrying the torch for all other alternative groups out there and more bands should follow suit.

As the band’s music has progressed, frontman Tyler Carter has made a marked shift his lyrical content. From initial appearances, Issues began as a “revenge” band against Carter’s former group, Woe, Is Me. Some of their fans, including myself, did not believe the band would continue after their debut EP. I am happy to say that I was sorely mistaken. Black Diamonds was a platform for Carter to unleash some of that pent up frustration, and after its success that left the band with an opportunity to craft a sound they could call their own. Their self-titled album still contained some anger, as well as plenty of breakdowns, though we begin to see the more sensitive side of Carter. Headspace, on the other hand, has the most mature sound we’ve heard from the band thus far. The album is about love, letting go and retrospection. This is a progression that no one could have possibly predicted a few years ago.

Issues are one of the the most dynamic bands in the alternative music scene right now. They don’t use the same formula for every song, which makes each one unique in its own right. Their lyrics have improved and the singing is as on point as ever. If music listeners are open to having a different experience from the typical cookie cutter metalcore sound, then Headspace is the album for them. It has a little bit of everything, which is difficult to appreciate initially, but it’s something that will grow on the listener after a few spins. (Kriston McConnell)

Purchase Headspace here.

4-stars

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My specialty is detached malevolence.

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