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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

Issues - Issues Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 02.26.2014

My 2014 Reviews:
Ed Harcourt - Time of Dust EP [8.0]
Warpaint - Warpaint [9.0]
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues [7.0]
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust [9.0]
Mogwai - Raves Tapes [4.0]
Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter [6.0]
You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth [5.5]
Gaslight Anthem - The B-Sides [6.5]
Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force [8.0]
Within Temptation - Hyrda [8.5]
Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow [8.0]
The Rifles - None the Wiser [5.0]
Skindred - Kill the Power [7.0]
Katy B - Little Red [9.0]
The Family Rain - Under the Volcano [7.0]
Clare Maguire - Clare Maguire EP [7.0]
Behemoth - The Satanist [7.0]
Wild Beasts - Present Tense [10.0]
Beck - Morning Phase [9.5]
Issues - Issues [7.0]
Fanfarlo - Let's Get Extinct [4.0]
The Chain Gang of 1974 - Daydream Forever [3.5]

Issues is:
Tyler Carter – clean vocals
Michael Bohn – unclean vocals
AJ Rebollo – guitar
Skyler Acord – bass
Ty Acoued – turntables, synthesizer
Josh Manuel – drums


Track listing:
1. Sad Ghost
2. Mad at Myself
3. Life of a Nine
4. The Langdon House
5. Late
6. Old Dena
7. Stingray Affliction
8. Never Lose Your Flames
9. Personality Cult
10. Tears on the Runaway, Pt. 2 [feat. Nylo]
11. The Settlement
12. Disappear (Remember When)
Running time: 43:44

Issues is a band that came to my attention for a couple of reasons. First of all, the lead singer is Tyler Carter, formerly of Woe is Me fame. In fact the band was more or less born right out of the ashes of Woe is Me, so that was the first thing that got my attention. The second was their cover of Justin Bieber's “Boyfriend,” a track a stumbled across last year that I believe was released on one of those Punk Goes Pop compilations. The track certainly fell into he category of so bad's, it's good. Thirdly, their sound is described as metalcore meets R&B. Claims like that always intrigue me because they always sound far-fetched. Debut EP Black Diamonds was an interesting metalcore record that clearly paid homage to certain R&B influences, but it was undoubtedly a metalcore offering. That first sample did more than enough to make me come back for the debut album, and the self-titled Issuesis certainly not a bad outing.

The first thing that needs saying is that Issues clearly succeeds in what it sets out to accomplish. The band has been hyped tremendously in the last year or so, with many predicting their sound to be the future of metalcore going forward. Their sound does a brilliant job of mixing clean vocals and unclean vocals in a way that provides hook after hook after hook. Their particular brand of metal is somewhat overproduced for their genre, but it works for them as they bring those R&B influences and soulful melodies into the play – such production is quite clearly necessary, but it doesn't take away from the power and intensity of their sound. There's an obvious comparison to be made to the nu metal sounded of the turn of the century that so brilliantly moulded rock and hip hop, and Issues similarly produce a sound that manifests turntables and rapping with crunching riffs. The songs themselves don't work all the time, but, along with Of Mice and Men who released the blistering Restoring Force last month, we may well be looking at a new force in metalcore in Issues.

Whenever a band attempts a sound such as this, there's likely to be detractors. Metalcore fans or indeed fans of the members' respective former projects are likely to point out that there's songs on hear that sound almost as if they're lacking a lead guitar. Instead you have a track like “Stingray Affliction” that is dominated by these crunching sounds that fill a void but sound nothing more than background noise. It's a song that's ultimately forgettable until all of a sudden the anger we get an R&B breakdown and this crooning vocal from Carter. It's easily the best vocal work of his career. And there are several similar instances throughout the record where the most memorable aspect is the clean vocal. Miichael Bohn's unclean vocals are quite strong, and he seems more comfortable in a middling range than he has previously, but there's little that actually sets his work aside. What makes the album memorable is that mix of sounds.

It's not all plain-sailing though, there are certainly instances when the Top 40 sound and the post-hardcore effort mix as well as oil and water. “Personality Cult” is one such effort, and is also a horribly titled track that only evokes an image of Living Colour. “The Settlement” has a catchy enough chorus but it's middling screams are off-putting and timid, while “Never Lose Your Flames” is a tediously paint-by-numbers metalcore track that a few synths can't save and serves of a reminder of why these genre is need of such a shot in the arm in the first place. It's a genre that's stagnating, and Issues and one or two of their contemporaries are doing their level best to revive it. “Tears on the Runway Pt. 2” features the wonderful Nylo and demonstrates some of the best lyrical work on the record, along with “Life of a Nine.” They talk of personal themes, addiction and the like, and are both among the record's stand outs. Elsewhere the album leaves a lot to be desired lyrically, and that's a shame because it lets down an otherwise strong piece of work. The stand out tracks are truly great but an occasional lack of cohesion, poor lyricism and two or three instances of blatant filler keep this from being a genre-defining success.

Issues - “Life of a Nine”

The 411Issues is by no means a flawless record, nor is it likely to achieve the commercial success it deserves for its addictive choruses. It is, however, a template for a promising future. The mishmash of styles isn't flawlessly executed, and at times it's head-scratching, but it's deniably fun, catchy and bold. Carter produces his best ever vocal work to make and smooth and stlyish record that is well-produced and well thought out. Inevitably it'll alienate many, and even it's biggest fans will not be able to heap praise on some of the bog-standard affair the album occasionally offers up, but generally the band need to be applauded for their ambition and their success in make a sound entirely their own and making it work, appealing to a wide audience. Undoubtedly they'll have many a medium-sized venue and festival tent rock over the summer months.
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend


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