Pushing the boundaries of what they can deliver within the elusive confounds that people often try to draw up within metal (looking at you elitists) is something that not only Issues thrive off, but continue to do as their career moves forward. The smooth Justin Timberlake-esque voice that Tyler Carter possesses and delivers with flair and aplomb alongside Mike Bohn‘s gruff growls has even seen the band almost coin their own genre: R&Bcore.
Their 2014 self-titled debut, which was a concoction of metalcore, nu-metal, RnB, hip-hop, and several other influences was a breath of fresh air in a scene that is regularly spewing out stagnant copycat acts that in turn spew out one sterile and derivative record after the other. Sophomore effort, ‘Headspace’, is another saving grace, and is set to see the Atlanta outfit ascend to even greater heights.
‘Headspace’, as a whole, presents a far more positive and accessible vibe for the most part. Things certainly aren’t more pop-y, but a lot more ground is covered here in terms of styles, genres, and routes of delivery. Bohn, for the first time in his career, brings some surprisingly delightful cleans of his own, with ‘Made To Last’ and ‘Slow Me Down’ being particular highlights of this, and, though understandably not on par with the pipes of Carter, the pair still marry together as well as they have since their breakthrough into the masses with previous project, Woe, Is Me.
Indeed, returning to the expansions in style and diversity, the band bring a choir back into the mix with ‘Lost-n-Found (On A Roll)’, following track ‘Yung & Dum’ holds a pop and summery core underneath its metal layers, and even features a guest vocal spot from local country musician, Jon Langston. Carter bears his RnB and soul influence and style on his sleeve more than ever (‘Someone Who Does’, ‘Rank Rider’, and ‘Hero’) and, though Scout Acord is no longer officially in the band, he ensures the desk scratching nu-metal presence remains in ‘Rank Rider’, ‘Flojo’, ‘Blue Wall’, and ‘Hero’.
Those fearing that the band may have decided to go down a much lighter route can rest easy. ‘Blue Wall’, a track seemingly about police brutality, easily stands as the heaviest track in the band’s arsenal to date, and also sees some screams from guitarist A.J. Rebollo. Following track ‘Someone Who Does’, touching on the abandonment of a father, doesn’t pull back the punches either, but it’s closer ‘Slow Me Down’ that proves once again that Issues leave the best until last. From start-to-finish each member is on absolute top-form on this song. It’s haunting and eerie throughout, and the emotion on display here is unrelenting.
‘Headspace’ challenges the norms of metal, RnB, and every other genre that Issues have dared to mix with success throughout its 13-track run through. On paper, what Issues do shouldn’t work, but the fruits of their labour are here in abundance. This record further sets them apart from their peers, sets the genre(s) further apart from what is considered to be the textbook norm and, if nothing else, highlights how lazy other acts in this scene are. Originality and innovativeness isn’t dead, it’s just that so few bother to unearth it.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)