Issues – ‘Headspace’

By Mark Johnson

Since their first EP in 2012, Issues have endeavoured to do something different. Whether it’s mixing poppy, R&B vocals with downtuned, heavy guitars, or keeping our nu-metal memories alive with scratching samples and screamed vocals, the band have tried a variety of methods to make themselves stand out. Putting so many components together can be a little confusing and their debut self-titled album strayed too close to being a gimmick rather than a sustainable sound. ‘Headspace’ is built on the same experimental premise, but the execution is worlds apart, making this a much more cohesive record that ties together their widespread sound into one complete package.

Album opener ‘The Realist’ highlights one of the key evolutions of the band’s sound. Sky Accord’s funk-inspired bass lines offer huge amounts of groove that when combined with the intricate snare patterns and ghost notes of Josh Manuel’s drums, tie the whole album together. As shown wonderfully on ‘Flojo’, this groove-oriented backbone leaves the rest of the band free to experiment with scratching samples, heavy breakdowns and multi-faceted vocals without losing any cohesion.

Tyler Carter’s ability to transmit raw emotion through his voice makes each song deeply compelling. From the haunting verse melodies of ‘Home Soon’ to the impassioned chorus of ‘Coma’, Carter mixes his R&B style, pop vocals with quick runs that border on rapping, and no matter what he puts his voice to the execution is perfect throughout the album. By way of balance, Michael Bohn’s aggressive screams reinforce the heavier moments of the music, counteracting the melodic breaks. Bohn evem shows his melodic side on this record, something unheard of to this point, and his clean vocals have a unique rasp to them that adds a fresh new tone to the mix.

For all the additional melody and funk-infused bass work, the band still manage to retain their heavy side. ‘Blue Wall’ shows them at their heaviest, the track dominated by Rebollo’s powerful riffs and djent-style arrangements. Although Issues have invested time in building maturity in their songwriting, they do maintain their charm and quirky character. ‘Young and Dum’, with its tongue-in-cheek lyrical message and questionable spelling, shows the band’s comical nature, even though behind this lighthearted veneer is one of the most well-structured songs on the album.

‘Headspace’ sees Issues perfecting their vision of infusing heavy music with R&B vocals, funk-inspired bass and bags of groove, to present a perfectly rounded package that’s coherent yet never seems to cross the same path twice. It proves that in the hands of excellent musicians and songwriters you can experiment with seemingly incompatible genres and styles and still yield exceptional results. ‘Headspace’ isn’t just an album at the top of its game, it’s created a completely new one and it would be no surprise to see other aspiring bands trying to learn the rules so they can seek to replicate this superb formula.

MARK JOHNSON

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