Written by: BL on 16/02/2014 18:08:40

Atlanta, Georgia's Issues' debut self-titled album is a refreshingly eclectic mix of metalcore, nu-metal, post-hardcore, pop-punk, pop, R&B. Yeah that last part may need some getting used to if you are not familiar with clean vocalist Tyler Carter's penchant for soulful harmonies and ultra pop sensible hooks - comparisons with Jonny Craig would not be that far off the mark. To combine such outrageously mainstream chart topping material with heavy pseudo-djent metalcore rhythms seems like heresy in the face of more conventional approaches, but Issues somehow gets the balance just about right. The result is miles slicker and more polished than their previous EP "Black Diamonds", not to mention surprisingly original in the face of their oversaturated scene.

Production-wise, Kris Crummett's handling of this album sonically is immense. The instruments feel sufficiently weighted and carry a cutting edge tone that gels well with the electronics and samples throughout. An opener like "Sad Ghosts" also gives a clear indication that Issues have matured their sound respectably and added some much needed depth. The transitions between the syncopated metalcore riffing to pop choruses feels more organic than ever before and there's less inclination to bolt on stop-start sections entirely. Another greatly improved aspect of the album is that Tyler's clean vocals are more often than not found on top of heavier guitars like on "Mad At Myself", which makes for a nice switch-around compared to what most other bands are doing. While the album as a whole emphasises the vocals primarily, guitiarist AJ Rebollo does enough to vary up the assortment of chugging rhythms and fiery low riffs to not let the guitars feel like an afterthought despite their largely straightfoward usage. Though that said, there is still an opportunity for actual lead guitars to further liven things up a bit more perhaps, a task sort of covered for by an impressive array of record scratching and synths from Tyler "Scout" Acord who gives songs added flavour.

Tyler Carter had always been an outstanding vocalist in this scene and beyond, and here his vocal melodies are still as ever a delight. He is unmistakeably the best part of songs like the aforementioned "Mad At Myself" and "Never Lose Your Flames", and the shamelessly sugary "Late" (your mileage will definitely vary on that one). The choruses on most tracks are of a superb standard but here, they are dangerously addictive and will haunt your head for days and weeks. Huge choruses aside, "Stingray Affliction" has a remarkable solo refrain whilst screamer Michael Bohn's dynamic interplay with Tyler on "Life Of A Nine" shows that Issues is still undeniably a strong two frontmen team with some of the best songwriting the band has demonstrated to date. Tyler's rapping antics do raise some sharp eye-brows here and on the beat-laiden "The Langdon House", though in a more pleasantly surprising form. Another surprise comes in the form of "Tears On The Runway Pt. 2" which features beautifully elegant guest vocals from Nylo. An initial confusion with a lack of a "Pt. 1" aside, it's a superb arrangement that blends the right amount of emotion and sentimentality into the usual mix. These traits are shared with the wonderful closer "Disappear (Remember When)", a song that makes great use of a gospel choir and some of the most memorable hooks on the whole album.

"Issues" is at its heart a pop/metalcore album that fully embraces the kind of R&B a lot of people may be used to automatically shunning, or not appreciating because either it doesn't suit their expectations of the genre, or is just not their kind of cake. Some polarising of its intended audience is probably bound to occur, but when it does strike you on the same chord, you will find this album massively entertaining and full of replay value. And even if not quite perfect, the band has now found a new solidified identity likely to become a frontrunner. One could and perhaps should expect big things to happen for Issues this year.

Download: Life Of A Nine, Never Lose Your Flames, Disappear (Remember When)
For the fans of: Woe, Is Me, Palisades, Emarosa
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.02.2014
Rise Records

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