When Hybrid Theory came out in 2000, waves of adolescents crammed into any record store they could find to get their hands on a copy – one reason was because P2P wasn’t really widespread back then, but mostly because the kids wanted to hear this new wave of ‘guitars vs DJ scratch’ nu-metal that was gracing the airwaves. Of course, Linkin Park have since moved on to greener pastures, giving up the nu-meta; shtick and instead bombarding us with electronica-infused radio rock albums. The exact thing seems to be happening here in the 2010’s – first Dangerkids, now Issues. One difference being, the kids aren’t queuing anymore. It’s almost a cliche to start a review with some sort of Hybrid Theory re-introduction, and I apologize for that – but I feel it’s the best way to kick this review off.
Issues is a headphone job, 320
Issues rise from the dust of former outfit Woe, Is Me. Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn, both clean and rough vocalists respectively left WIM for reasons that you can Google for if you’re interested. Having already impressed the internet with initial EP Black Diamonds, which pummeled listeners with simple metalcore riffs underlying strong vocal performances from both cannons, and impressing further with single Hooligans which really introduced the ‘record scratch’ sound they were pining for with their EP, Issues have really found a market for their brand of metalcore. This self-titled album is proof of that.
This record promises 4 things, and 4 things only: solid instrumentation, brilliantly performed vocals, stellar production and a uniqueness that really does seperate Issues from the rest of the pack. They don’t sing about what other metalcore outfits are so hellbent on writing about. There’s no relentless breakdowning, there’s very little in the way of over-the-top ‘fuck you’ culture. It’s a refreshing record to hear if you’re into metal, rock, or even pop – this album gives you a taster of all the different scenes that the band is interested in. The vocals can weave from straight up rock, to southern-twang, metal and even R&B-infused vocals that surprise you each and every time they occur.
Issues have seemingly done the impossible – revived a dying genre that everyone is currently kicking the shit out of for being shit out of ideas
The variety on this record is a strong reason why I hold it in such a high regard. The contrast between the heaviest track and the poppiest track is alarming, but the gulf is tied together with a constant quality in vocals and musicianship. There are times where you wish for longer tracks, which would make for a longer album and ultimately a more immersive listen. It’s accessible to people who wish for metal, but it’s not going to be a hardship playing it in your group of friends if pop is more their bag.
It’s easy to say that people will only listen to this for Tyler Carter and his incredibly versatile voice – and while this may be true for a handful of fans, this record has contributions from the entire band. Of course Carter delivers on this record – his voice is something that most artists these days crave for on their records, mostly because of it’s immediacy and pitch-perfect impact it can have on tracks. That being said, it’s far from just the Tyler Carter show; the songs are littered with surprisingly creative riffs, which are sometimes quietly hidden behind the vocals. Because of this, Issues is a headphone job, 320. Sad Ghost was one of my favorites when it came to instrumentation – there wasn’t anything about the track I’d change. Michael Bohn is one of the best rough vocalists I can think of in the metalcore scene at the moment, and he gives the performance of his life on this record. He’s free from the shackles that he was in during his tenure in the now-defunct Woe, Is Me, where the lyrical content was very much subject to the metalcore ‘fuck you and your God’ cliche catalog. Scout, who plays synths and drives the turntable, has again contributed a single track to this LP. Much like in Black Diamonds, where he produced the introduction that led harshly into King of Amarillo, Scout has delivered a quality interlude that reminds me again and again of Linkin Park’s Cure for the Itch.
There’s no relentless breakdowning, there’s very little in the way of over-the-top ‘fuck you’ culture
Thereare heavy tracks on Issues that will please fans of substantial metal and rock. The Settlement is a crazy heavy track that pretty much shows the other end of Issues musical spectrum. Sad Ghosts, Mad at Myself, Personality Cult and Tears on the Runway are all songs that heavily rely on Carters ability to deliver a good hook. Carter’s clean-cut, sharp voice is starkly polar to Bohn’s piercing gruff scream, and this gives the songs on Issues a way of constantly refreshing themselves. The songs on this thing are incredibly well produced, and this really helps with the party vibe that some of the songs offer.
Tears on the Runway Pt 2 is a beautifully written and executed song. Featuring guest vocals from up and coming female vocalist Nylo (which work wonders when pitted against Carters quality voice and Bohns ridiculously powerful screams), this track is a wonderful example of how modern-day rock can still be heartfelt, effective and unique.
The record flows with this variety in mind, and because of this, Issues have done a brilliant job at separating themselves from the rest of Rise’s roster. One of the best things about this self-titled effort I can think of is that Issues have seemingly done the impossible – revived a dying genre that everyone is currently kicking the shit out of for being shit out of ideas. They’ve taken all the great elements that make metalcore what it is, trimmed the fat…and crafted one of the most creative records to come out of the scene for a long time. There’s very little negative feedback I can give on this record – it’s a huge step up from their initial EP, it’s written brilliantly and quite honestly, it’s certainly the best [rock] record that 2014 has offered us so far; it’s going to take a HUGE album to knock this out of the water for some time.
You can buy the record right now on iTunes, or grab the physical album if plastic tickles your fancy. Here’s a track from the album; Louise, who doesn’t like my music taste (who the fuck would), will be reviewing this album later in the week – look out for that, won’t you.
Coming soon on Sans Sheriff: Louise’s post-mortem following #FakeYourDeath