Issues – ‘Beautiful Oblivion’

By Dave Stewart

There are plenty of bands that fuse genres together, but not many manage to do it with as much finesse as Issues. The Atlanta based quartet take influence from jazz, djent, funk, metal, and R&B, to name but a few, throwing them all into a melting pot and boiling them down into something completely unique, yet strangely familiar. After some line-up readjustments and a couple of years crafting their next moves, 2019 sees them finally release their highly anticipated third record ‘Beautiful Oblivion’. Have they struck gold or missed the mark altogether?

They have clearly taken their time away to really focus on their songwriting, and in turn have created plenty to fall in love with on this record. They pick things up exactly where ‘Headspace’ left off, only this time around they wade out a little further into experimental waters. Single ‘Drink About It’ takes their already immaculate formula and tweaks it, allowing it to ascend to dizzying new heights. Blending chunky distorted guitars with spacey synth atmospherics and unforgettable vocal melodies is their specialty, but it’s never sounded so divine. ’Rain’ does the exact same, boasting a chorus that’s so addictive you might need a prescription to wean yourself off listening to it. Seriously. You’ve been warned.

There’s songs that span the entire spectrum of heavy music, ranging from the disgustingly heavy all the way to gut-wrenchingly emotional. ‘Tapping Out’ is one extreme, boasting bone-crushing guitars and nightmare-inducing vocals, all woven together into a sonic sledgehammer that you’ll willingly keep smashing into your own face. The tear-inducing sadness spilling out of ‘Your Sake’ is the polar opposite, utilising reverb-soaked piano to make vocalist Tyler Carter’s passionate and pained vocal delivery hit you directly in all the most tender places.

The way they blend different elements together is truly admirable, fusing their influences together like no other. ‘Downfall’ is a prime example of this, blending ruthless low-tuned riffing with an enchanting chorus melody that connects like a Tyson hook to the jaw. There’s also the pop-djent stylings of ‘Find Forever’, the hip-hop drenched groove-fest ‘Without You’ and the humungous garage-flavoured title track ‘Beautiful Oblivion’ to sink your teeth into.

The only real question mark on the entire album is ‘Flexin’’. The band, admittedly, knew that it was going to cause a bit of a stir, acknowledging all the chatter that surrounded the single release in a social media post. They referred to the track as the black sheep of the record, but the only reason it’s that way is because it feels out of place. It’s an R&B heavy track, boasting electronic drums and chart-worthy vocal melodies, but the leap from the rest of the album to this track is too significant. It’s not that it’s a bad song, because it isn’t, but it doesn’t sit well with the flow of the rest of the record.

On the whole, ‘Beautiful Oblivion’ is yet another solid effort from the band. The music is unlike anything anybody else is doing in their genre, cramming so many genres together that they’ve essentially created a new one of their own. The entire band are like musical chameleons, continuously changing their colours to suit their environment, somehow managing to do so in perfect synchronisation.

As great as the music is, it’s hard not to focus all your attention on the compelling and seductive vocal tones. Tyler has an incredible voice that’s far more powerful than he gets credit for, and this album really flaunts what he’s capable of. He’s able to take his vocal chords a multitude of places, conveying different emotions and utilising different styles, all of which sink into the music like a warm knife to butter. This is the first Issues record where his vocals have played the lead role, and he’s stepped into it with class.

All in all, ‘Beautiful Oblivion’ is superb. It sounds huge, is crammed full of catchy anthems, and, most importantly, it shows that they’re still growing. There may be some weak moments, but the strength of the high points massively overshadow the areas where this record is lacking. Issues are very much a band that stand out from the crowd, and this record serves as audible proof that they still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

DAVE STEWART

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