Issues Return with New Single “Tapping Out”

I’ll be honest – with three years passing since their last album and the loss of vocalist Michael Bohn in 2018, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that Issues were hanging it up. What a treat then to receive new music in the form of single “Tapping Out” last Friday.

I’ve been a fan of Issues since their inception in 2012 when the band formed from the ashes of Woe, Is Me’s first fallout. While the Black Diamonds EP showed their potential, it was 2014’s self-titled debut album that has remained a summer staple of mine. Full of infectious hooks from Tyler Carter and a manic blend of pop, electronic and metalcore, Issues is the kind of album you can let down your guard with and have a good time.

“Tapping Out” feels like it has the potential to tap back into (no pun intended) that kind of energy – something that felt lacking from the band’s 2016 follow-up Headspace. For over a year, fans have wondered what this band would become with Bohn’s absence, and unsurprisingly, Carter holds his own here atop a track as heavy as any the band has written. Sure, the screaming is nearly gone, but those drop-D tuned guitars provide a nostalgic crunch that keeps your head nodding.

It’s clear that Tyler and company have some bones to pick, and it’s likely that the as-of-now unannounced third album will dig deeper into those feelings. Regardless of what’s to follow, it’s exciting to know that Issues are still here and still capable of writing the kinds of songs that make you want to turn up the volume and roll down your windows. Take a listen to “Tapping Out” below and hear for yourself.

You can download “Tapping Out” here.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Review: Issues – Headspace

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Ever since their inception in 2012, Issues have marched to the beat of their own drum. Call it metalcore if you have to, but Issues’ brand of rock draws from a variety of influences that don’t necessarily make sense on paper. Nevertheless, the band’s concoction of R&B, soul, nu metal, pop and whatever else sounds good in the moment have vaulted Issues near the top of the scene mountain at the arrival of their sophomore release.

When reviewing the band’s self-titled debut, I addressed Issues’ need to commit to a sonic identity in order to avoid being a flash-in-the-pan gimmick. In my estimation, the band was at their best when leaning either heavy or light – everything in between seemed to muddy the waters.

So it should come as no surprise that Issues’ new album, Headspace, is more varied than ever. It’s also going to be a huge hit.

You can buy Headspace on iTunes.

You can buy Headspace on iTunes.

Instead of whittling down to one particular thread to follow, Headspace is a melting pot of instruments and influence. At times, Issues is creating some of the most accessible music you’ll hear from this scene. At others, they’re pushing themselves as far down the metalcore rabbit hole as their abilities will allow. Most of the time, though, Headspace is trying something completely new, resulting in wide range of outcomes.

When Issues is at their best on this release, they’re allowing their pop persuasions to guide the way. “COMA” opens with the signature guitar crunch the band often relies on, but sheds nearly all pretense by the track’s massive chorus. Here, Michael Bohn drops his screams in favor of a gritty sung delivery that serves as the perfect volley for Tyler Carter to bring down the house. With a dose of passion, Carter crafts his best chorus to date, singing, “I want to be all you think about / Anything and everything you dream about / As if I had it all figured out / I want to be the one you can’t breathe without”.

“Home Soon” follows a similar suit with some of the band’s poppiest instrumentals so far. Carter’s vocal transitions to falsetto and back are otherworldly and pair perfectly with Bohn’s own pendulum swings from light screams to cleans. “Hero” and “Someone Who Does” also find a new, smoother flow for a band that has relied a bit too heavily on coarse guitar riffs to carry the band’s transitions in the past.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Blue Wall”, the heaviest song Issues have ever written, feels misplaced and comes across as forced aggression. Still, the band deserve credit for tackling a topic like police brutality head on, with Bohn sounding pleasantly passionate while screaming, “Empty your clips on the victim / And then you look the other way”. You might argue that the song’s angry demeanor fits the subject matter, but it’s this Jekyll and Hyde routine that makes you wonder if one of these sides of Issues wouldn’t be better served as a side project.

Unlike the band’s debut, though, Issues seem to find an acceptable middle ground with much more efficiency. “Lost-n-Found (On a Roll)” comes across as a pleasing Underoath tribute with Carter and Bohn’s back and forth vocals atop rolling guitars. “Yung & Dum” manages to add a dash of country influence to the band’s mix without coming across as cheesy (for the most part). Still, Bohn’s screams feel out of place on a track that features a fiddle.

Where the band falters the most on this release are tracks that re-hash old tricks. “Rank Rider” and “Flojo” sound like b-sides from Issues, failing to latch onto the unique progression that makes most of Headspace a step in the right direction. Here, our attentions are distracted by awkward guitar riffs and record scratches that make the songs sound hollow. Thankfully, these in-betweeners are becoming fewer and further between.

Things end on a high note when Headspace closes with another new trick. A spacey and stimulating interlude leads into “Slow Me Down”, the best example of where the band could excel going forward. Laced with perfect programming elements and emotive keys, Bohn and Carter have never sounded better as a duo. Bohn’s explosive clean vocals on the track’s pre-chorus make you wonder if Issues should drop the screaming altogether, even before Carter blesses the chorus with syrupy vocal runs as he belts out, “Slow me down / I’m burning out of control / So far from heaven now”.

The individual talents of Issues, along with their willingness to experiment without bucking current trends, make Headspace a satisfactory step forward. Even with its flaws, the album is still effortlessly catchy, even when addressing deeper subject matter. Issues continue to be a fascinating outlier, refusing to cave to their detractors’ demands or fall in line with the crowd. It’s all just noise to a band that’s happy to keep making their own.

3.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Issues – Issues

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Before you’ve even read a word of this review, you’ve likely already made up your mind about Issues. The Atlanta-based metalcore newcomers are undoubtedly one of the most polarizing scene bands in recent memory, and there’s a good chance you’re reading this to confirm a stance that you’ve already taken.

In truth, there may not be a conclusive answer about the aesthetic legitimacy of Issues just yet. But does their self-titled debut full length at least offer us a conclusive answer about who the band is?

Once again, the answer is a bit tricky. Their debut Black Diamonds EP picked up where the core members left off after their departure from Woe, Is Me, with a dash of nu-metal and hip hop elements thrown in for good measure. Issues is a whole other animal, rife with influences from post-hardcore, nu-metal, R&B, hip hop and pop, all blended together in a furious mix. The results are quite conflicting.

At their best (“Sad Ghost”, “Stingray Affliction”, “Never Lose Your Flames”), Issues find a wheelhouse for combining their sounds in a way that sounds fresh, exciting and pleasing to the ears. At their worst, (“Late”, “Life of a Nine”, “Personality Cult”), the band sounds over processed, amateur and pandering to a few too many audiences.

The rest of the time, Issues is somewhere in the middle – not necessarily heavy, but too aggressive to come across as strictly pop. Instead, they waver back and forth, never putting their foot down, inevitably leading to awkward transitions and corny breakdowns that seem to only come as a reminder that the band is signed to Rise Records.

To say that there’s a little something for everyone on Issues would be a bit misleading. Instead, the final product is more akin to the idea of too many cooks in the kitchen. Tracks like the R&B/pop-rock inspired “Tears on the Runway Pt. 2” transition awkwardly into the faux-heavy sound of “The Settlement”.

Other tracks like “Late” have the gall to revive the Nintendo-core sound that we all agreed to forget ever existed, while “Old Dena” brings back the uninspired nu-metal DJ interlude courtesy of Tyler “Scout” Acord. These moments almost parallel the feel of any number of mixtapes your friend made for you in high school.

So Issues is bad, right? Well, not totally. Whether you like his style or not, the consensus on clean vocalist Tyler Carter seems to be a relatively positive one. Even in the midst of the most convoluted moments on the album, Carter is able to right the ship with some of the catchiest hooks and fantastic melodies you’re likely to hear this year.

Take “Mad at Myself” as an example – the track is a messy one, filled to the brim with the aforementioned over-compensating genre-blending. However, Carter’s croon is undeniably memorable as he delivers one of the best choruses on the album. Even as he sings atrocious lines such as “I got this old girl, I know she’s trying to play me / She’s like a Honda, these days I drive Mercedes”, you’ll find yourself singing along once you’ve recovered from a heavy facepalm.

As the album wears on, Carter begins to outshine screamer Michael Bohn on nearly every track. Bohn starts off ferocious on opener “Sad Ghost” with the lines “Standing in front of this bed with some matches, watch it burn / I’ll pray my body burns, too”, and has scattered moments to shine. Unfortunately, so many of the songs cater to Carter’s pop/R&B style that a large number of his screams feel forced into place.

So what’s the consensus? Issues excels by attempting fresh new sounds, and the band deserves credit for trying something different, even when it falls flat. There are moments in which the band sound polished enough to stand alongside metalcore giants like A Day to Remember or Of Mice & Men.

The other side of the coin includes all of the usual suspects. Issues often comes across as cheesy, both in its lyrics and its sonic execution. There’s room for experimentation in this genre, but not by experimenting with everything at once. What results are a few gems when everything works right and a few duds when it all comes crashing back to reality.

If nothing else, Issues is fun and will have you singing along to its syrupy hooks well into the summer. If the band wants to stick around and rise above the rest of the now incomprehensively large pack, they’ll need to pick a sonic identity and stick to it.

For now, it seems fitting to consider their debut the good kind of bad. Or maybe the bad kind of good. How’s that for ambiguity?

3/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.