ALBUM REVIEW – “Issues” (Self-Titled)

Every so often a band releases an album that lures a whole new generation into the world of heavy music, often by incorporating more “mainstream” elements into the typical sound of the time. Fourteen years ago, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was that album – a complete reinvention of nu metal that was so accessible, on an album so perfectly crafted, that it defined what heavy rock could represent for millions of fans, and rewrote the rulebook for everyone who followed in their wake. If there is any justice in the world, the self-titled Issues album will assume this mantle in 2014.

It’s easy to draw comparison between the two bands – both feature two vocalists and a DJ alongside the traditional guitar/bass/drums setup; both take the sound of the scene around them and put their own twist on it to the point it’s almost unrecognisable; and both craft tunes so huge and utterly addictive they simply will not leave your head. If Hybrid Theory broke the glass ceiling for what nu metal could be, Issues will surely do the same for modern metalcore, and a breath of fresh air such as this is exactly what the genre needs. And much like Linkin Park, it’s unlikely that Issues will remain constrained by their “scene” for long.

Right from the opening soundscape that begins ‘Sad Ghost’, Issues make it clear that they’re not content to follow trends, lacerating heaviness and beautiful melodies soon ensuing in a tastefully dark package. DJ Scout’s work is all over the record and frequently provides its highlights, from the shuddering synths of ‘The Langdon House’ to the coarse scream scratch manipulations on ‘The Settlement’. He even gets a solo moment to dominate proceedings on electro interlude ‘Old Dena’, itself clearly inspired by Hybrid Theory’s ‘Cure for the Itch’, but with far more contemporary sounds.

The more traditional rock instrumentation on the record also finds room to shine, massive bouncing riffs driving forward ‘Stingray Affliction’ and ‘Personality Cult’. Drummer Josh Manuel is an excellent addition to their arsenal, finding a perfect balance between the straightforward and the virtuosic. While most bands take their stock rock songs and attempt to shoehorn elements from other genres in, Issues seamlessly integrate EDM, pop, hip-hop and R&B influences without once sounding contrived or forced. There’s shades of pop punk on ‘Never Lose Your Flames’ and even gospel on the gorgeous outro of ‘Disappear (Remember When)’– somehow, everything works.

Nothing, though, can steal the show from Tyler Carter. Easily the most unique and skilled “clean” vocalist of the last few years, he routinely delivers choruses that will lodge themselves permanently in your brain (‘Mad at Myself’ has been in there since I first heard it) and other moments that are nothing short of breathtaking. Michael Bohn’s screams are machine-like in their efficiency, and are perfect for the record’s heavier moments, but he works best in tandem with Carter – ‘Life of a Nine’ in particular is utterly relentless, a tag-team vocal assault that refuses to let up for a second.

One of the most exciting things about Issues is their obvious potential to hook in fans of other genres. R&B singer Nylo helps elevate ‘Tears on the Runway Pt. 2’ to something that transcends genre, throwing everything in to create a song that’s both beautiful and difficult to pigeonhole. Perhaps the best tune of all, though, is the one that’s sure to draw the most controversy. In an alternative universe ‘Late’ would be the club-pop smash to end anything before it, only its guitar inflections and screamed second verse providing a hint as to the band’s origins. It’s “mainstream” as hell and it’s utterly magnificent.

The growth from the band’s first Black Diamonds EP is obvious and astonishing. No two songs on Issues sound the same yet the whole thing comes together to create a coherent musical entity unlike anything else in the world today. Not a single song fails to deserve its place on the album, each one bringing something different to the table – but the record’s also more than the sum of its parts. This is an album that takes the rules of what you can do with heavy music and feeds them through a paper shredder. Purists are going to hate it, but that’s irrelevant, because many more people are going to love it. Repeat listens only make it sound fresher and more exciting, a rare thing nowadays.

In an era with such sheer volume of music being released every week, it’s impossible to know which bands will dominate the zeitgeist and break through to household name status. Betting against Issues, though, would be a very foolish thing to do. What’s scary is to think that this is the very beginning of their career – from here they could take their music in almost any direction. As they stand now, though, they’ve created something that sounds both very contemporary and absolutely cutting edge. Not so much a hybrid theory as a fusion of everything exciting in music today, Issues sets a new bar for the band’s contemporaries. Believe the hype, this might just be the future.

Rating: 9/10

[Michael Bird]

‘Stingray Affliction’

‘Late’

ISSUES2014

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. ISSUES Premiere “Never Lose Your Flames” Music Video | RichardThinks.Org - April 30, 2014

    […] Check out our official review of ISSUES’ self-titled album at this location. […]

  2. Watch ISSUES Perform “Never Lose Your Flames” On CaliberTV | RichardThinks.Org - June 29, 2014

    […] Sacramento, CA on this year’s Vans Warped Tour. Stream the performance below. Check out our official review of ISSUES’ self-titled album out NOW through Rise Records. Don’t forget we’re also giving away tickets to any date […]

  3. Issues Announce US Tour with I Killed The Prom Queen, Ghost Town, Marmozets, and Nightmares | RichardThinks.Org - August 18, 2014

    […] After a solid two years of playing support tours, ISSUES have announced details of their first-ever North American Tour. Fresh from the 2014 Vans Warped Tour, as well as  a #9 debut album on the Billboard Top 200, ISSUES have announced they will be embarking on a US headlining tour this fall. Support will come from I Killed The Prom Queen, Ghost Town, Marmozets and Nightmares. Dates and cities can be seen below on the tour admat. Check out our official review of ISSUES self-titled album. […]

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