An Important Moment For Heavy Music
The terms "game-changer" and "next-level" get thrown around a lot in the modern day music scene and can lose a fair bit of emphasis and meaning as a result. What really defines the terms? What constitutes as truly unique in a rapidly more schizophrenic music world?
Of course, that's ultimately up to opinion.
So, in this particular writer's view, they define as describing a record that's something truly innovative and forward-thinking, not fearing to push the boundaries while offering something fresh, exciting and special. And through all the hype and the hugely impressive leaps and bounds that Issues have made in a very short space of time (still crazy and very inspiring to think the band only formed in Summer 2012), their massively-awaited debut album finally emerges to take on this very definition and it feels bloody great to be able to say.
Issues is not an album you can fully digest in one listen, it reveals more and more of itself on every repeated listen, there being so much going on across its twelve distinct tracks. Essentially, the band have taken their instantly ear-hooking sound as demonstrated straight from the off on the Black Diamonds EP and injected steroids. Each track, just like each of the band's six members, offers something different for the listener and creates a genuine rollercoaster of a listen. The band are certainly not afraid to experiment and flirt with genre boundaries at every corner and there are moments where it's pretty fearless. Using the word 'risk' though would be wrong to do because the band pull it all off (a gospel choir!) and it's totally refreshing to hear. It doesn't play it at all safe and shines bright in doing so.
Dipping into the album, we get hip-hop flavours (Life of A Nine/The Langdon House), a turntable-based interlude straight out of the turn of the millennium given a 2014 twist (Old Dena), beatdown-heavy mosh glory (The Settlement), beefed up cuts of top 40 chart pop (Late), skate-punk pace (Never Lose Your Flames) and a five-minute hugely emotional shape-shifting closer that will rank as one of the year's best and features one of the best endings to an album in quite some time (Disappear (Remember When)). And that's only to skim the surface, each member brings a whole array of different sounds and moods in their approach, within Kris Crummett's expert production, that give the songs a forward-thinking identity. None fit directly into any one genre of music; the album is as firmly rooted in heyday nu-metal as it is emotionally-charged post-hardcore, pure pop, brutal metalcore, acrobatic R'nB and beat-laden hip-hop.
Turntable specialist and programmer Scout Acord holds these elements of the album together perfectly. The all-out nu-metal scratching of Sad Ghost, for example, moves into the dark '90s rap-style atmospheres of 'The Langdon House' or the lifting pop synth melodies of Mad At Myself seamlessly. Frontmen Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn nail the multi-vocal attack that front and voice the album's sound while guitarist AJ Rebollo's riffs are as shape-shifting and unpredictable as the vocal lines of the former. Rhythm section Sky Acord and Josh Manuel (this being the first release with the band the latter's featured on) carry all this along expertly too, just as unusual and eclectic and bringing a low-end groove that's wall-shaking at times. It's six people who fit together perfectly in their extreme differences.
The lyrics reflect the songs they inhabit in terms of eclecticism too and this adds to the exuberance of the listen. Opening with back-to-back songs of relationship breakdown (the first from Michael and the second from Tyler) the album veers off into an array of different areas including anti-bullying (Stingray Affliction), psychosis (The Langdon House), self-belief (Personality Cult) and hugely poignant and moving focuses on divorce and the loss of loved ones (The Settlement and Disappear (Remember When) respectively). With every member contributing lyrics in at least some form, it emphasises the importance of dynamic this band possesses, they're a true unit in the vein of Slipknot or Linkin Park and it places them head and shoulders above so many contemporaries.
This is a record that a so many hundred words review doesn't do justice as to how densely and impressively thought-out it is and ultimately you'll have to absorb yourself in all its schizophrenic glory.
One thing for certain though is that there'll be plenty more digging it than those who don't. This stands as a very important record for modern music and deserves your time and attention.