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.

Advertisements

Review: Blessthefall – Hard Feelings

There’s something to be said for sticking to your guns. The metalcore scene, once overpopulated with lookalikes, has begun to thin as today’s scene bands explore new (and old) heavy music territory. As the era of brutal breakdowns and guttural screams begins to fade, here stands Blessthefall – purveyors of a once exploding genre and perhaps our lasting example of its excellence.

You can buy Hard Feelings on Apple Music.

In the years to come, Blessthefall’s narrative will be told as one of consistency. In 2009, Witness shrugged away the naysayers after their original vocalist fled and crafted an early playbook for the coming decade’s melodic metalcore. After 2011’s Awakening failed to expand on that effort, 2013 brought Hollow Bodies, arguably one of the genre’s finest releases. With 2015’s To Those Left Behind, the band once again tweaked their formula, remaining one of the scene’s revered acts.

All that to say, Blessthefall has had a strong run. With over a decade in the books, it’s fair to feel fatigued with the idea of another similar sonic serving, especially in light of the band’s recent signing with Rise Records, a label intertwined with the genre’s success. But Hard Feelings seems to usurp that notion – it’s an album that sounds every bit like the Blessthefall you’ve always known, but is chock full of both nostalgia and new tricks that keep you on your toes.

Album opener “Wishful Sinking” quickly unveils new electronic programming and synthesizers that match the band’s glossy new neon visual aesthetics. Just as the expected breakdown hits at the 3:30 mark, the track’s tight production jumps the shark with sharp, glitchy cuts that make you reach for the rewind button. When’s the last time a breakdown made your ears perk up? As the moments we once lived for grow tired, Blessthefall has uncovered something new.

On “Feeling Low”, the band borrows Saosin’s signature guitar squeal to breathe new life into their riffs. It’s a track that harkens a past era of post-hardcore while still managing to feel fresh thanks to a delightfully sing-able chorus, tight production, and a new take on Blessthefall’s aggressive technical prowess.

These juxtaposing concepts particularly pervade the album’s back half, with tracks like “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” and “Sleepless in Phoenix” serving as pulsing, upbeat tracks that never defer to an unnecessary heavy crunch. Yes, there are still breakdowns, but the bulk of the band’s music forces you to key in on new features and ideas that have shifted the balance. Frankly, the band’s melodic moments are more frequent and far more compelling.

For all of the subtle tonal shifts across Hard Feelings, nothing stands quite as stark as vocalist Beau Bokan, who has officially delivered his best performance. No longer structured as the soaring medicine to bassist Jared Warth’s scalding screams, Bokan is free to test new waters. Take “Sakura Blues”, where Bokan delivers a quiet opening verse at a lower register while gracefully inserting his falsetto. It’s a simple exercise in theory, but it makes his driving chorus all the more compelling and offers another welcome progression to the band’s sound.

Tucked neatly inside of all of this, and easily missed, is the band’s strongest trait of all. Hard Feelings explores a variety of moods and emotions, aggressively tackling messy life circumstances and relationships, but its default mode is one of hope. From the cry out for relief on “Keep Me Close” to the familiar pang for family and love on “Welcome Home”, the band leaves the door open for resolution. Bokan’s daughter Rocket adorably joins her dad for the album’s final refrain of, “It’s not living if I’m not living with you”.

With that kind of closing, it’s almost possible to imagine Blessthefall riding into the sunset with Hard Feelings as their swan song. If that were to be the case, the band could hang their hat on over a decade of output that guided the course for a scene during its heyday, standing as one of its most respected acts. But let’s drop the conjecture – on its own, Hard Feelings is a worthy addition to the Blessthefall catalogue, a shift in sound that feels fresh and authentic, and further proof of the band’s commitment to its craft.

4/5

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.

Blessthefall to Release “Hard Feelings” on March 21

Only a few short days after announcing their signing with Rise Records, Scottsdale, Arizona, metalcore act blessthefall have given us a release date for their sixth full-length album and dropped a new single. Hard Feelings is set for release on March 21 and the music video for “Melodramatic” can be viewed below.

For their latest effort, blessthefall hit the studio with Tyler Smyth, with additional production from Matt Good and Howard Benson. “Melodramatic” leans heavily on the band’s melodic side, with singer Beau Bokan leading the charge. Still, as the track gives way to its bridge, we’re offered a signature blessthefall breakdown.

We’re excited for more music to come. In the meantime, you can check out pre-order options for Hard Feelings at the Rise Records webstore.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: PVRIS – All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

“Two years gone / Came back as some bones and so cynical”

The opening lines of “What’s Wrong”, an early single from PVRIS’ sophomore album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, provide a quick and distressing synopsis. By all accounts, this album should mark a joyous occasion for the fast-rising electropop trio, but vocalist Lynn Gunn shies away from celebration, choosing to bare her broken heart instead.

That heavy honesty, coupled with the band’s refined execution, has resulted in something that somehow manages to surpass the immense hype that preceded it.

You can buy All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell on iTunes.

PVRIS took the scene by storm in 2014 with the release of White Noise – an absurdly fantastic debut that set the bar high for such a young band. From the moment those songs went on the road and the trio’s fan base ballooned, it was clear that PVRIS were never ours to keep. This was music that deserved to be heard on the biggest of stages.

I don’t know if All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is the album that will take them there, but it succeeds in nearly every way as an improved version of PVRIS. Surprisingly, All We Know doesn’t stray completely from guitars, drums and rock influence, even as the songs themselves have appropriately evolved toward a more fully realized pop sound. It’s just good music, plain and simple.

That richly melodic background creates a haunting palate for Gunn to create contrast as she reflects on the pressure and confusion that comes with nearly immediate fame and exposure. During the second verse of “What’s Wrong”, she continues her descent, singing, “When did I get so pitiful? / Just a goddamn corpse in a centerfold / You got my back against the wall / Now I can’t ever get comfortable”. And later, she distressingly declares, “I don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable”.

Like many others in the revived genre, Gunn uses the jubilant glow of synthpop to explore dark themes, but the naïve ambiguity of White Noise fades away here. Instead, Gunn opts for a straightforward approach with some clever turns of phrase thrown in. On what could easily have become a late summer dance anthem, Gunn uses the billowing chorus of “Same Soul” to inject hollow regret into a famous Gotye line, belting, “I’m just a body that you used to know”.

Themes of shame, remorse and confusion permeate All We Know, spanning across a soundscape of synthesizers and drums that elevate tracks like “Heaven” and “Anyone Else”, building on the foundation laid during the band’s debut. Even so, aggressive elements remain – “No Mercy” is the heaviest song the band has written and closer “Nola 1” floats atop a slick guitar lick and deep, pulsing bass from Alex Babinski and Brian McDonald. It’s a delicate balancing act that never seems to tip the scales in one direction across the album’s 10 tracks.

On White Noise, Gunn was a firecracker, letting her vocals bubble over into a growl during the crescendo of nearly every track. On this sophomore release, she’s found her voice, usurping expected restraint with commanding vocals that make use of her range and power without spilling into yells or screams. During the chorus of “Winter”, Gunn harkens to old bangers like “Smoke” and “Fire” as she sings, “Can you burn a fire into my flesh / Cause your love’s so cold I see my breath” with a powerful and controlled delivery. It’s that kind of rapid progression and growth that makes the future of PVRIS increasingly exciting.

During the opening moments of “Half”, Gunn sings, “Some days I feel everything / Others are numbing / Can never find the in-between / It’s all or nothing”. Her personal battle speaks volumes about her character. Gunn is brave to share her struggle and wise to ponder the fleeting fulfillment of fame. As she does, PVRIS have come even closer to crossing the mainstream threshold. When their rise reaches its peak, which could very well be sooner than later, it would seem that they’ll be prepared.

4/5

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.

Reflecting On: The Devil Wears Prada – Plagues

The Devil Wears Prada are the last band I can remember discovering in a magazine. For most of my youth, I was exposed to new music through a variety of print publications – Alternative Press, Spin, HM and many others. As a communications major and journalism nerd, the fading medium remained valuable to me even as new and exciting forms of online media began to blossom.

You can buy Plagues on iTunes.

On a particular summer day in 2007, I flipped through the new issue of Alternative Press and landed on one of those one-page features dedicated to up-and-coming bands. The RIYL section mentioned Underoath and I remember the write-up talking about how the band formed after the members were collectively inspired by The Changing of Times. I laid down the magazine, booted up my dinosaur of a laptop and navigated to the band’s MySpace page where I streamed “Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?” Soon after, I purchased a copy of Plagues at Best Buy.

I share this story because it’s the last time such a series of events would unfold in my life. It makes me miss the excitement that younger version of myself felt in those moments of discovery. It also reminds me how much fun I had in the fall of 2007 listening to that album.

The Devil Wears Prada were my first peek into the new wave of metalcore bands that had sprouted in the wake of my favorite band’s influence. While there are certainly a number of similarities between Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada, Prada were anything but a carbon copy – they were soon to be the flagship band for a burgeoning sub-genre.

Of course, growing pains were part of the process. It’s easy to poke holes in Plagues – the horror movie synthesizers, vocalist Mike Hranica’s spastic screeches and growls, the cheesy, br00tal breakdowns. Nevertheless, early signs of technical gifts were evident, particularly in Chris Rubey and Jeremy DePoyster’s guitar work and Daniel Williams’ drumming. Additionally, Joey Sturgis’ production style found throughout the album would soon spread like wildfire, making him the most sought after producer in the scene.

While Plagues would be far from the band’s best work (hand that designation to Dead Throne or the Zombie EP), it laid the groundwork for a sub-cultural shift across the Warped Tour scene and helped make heavy music decidedly cool. Not into having your bones rattled from bass drops and drop-D tuning? Just wait until DePoyster’s croon pierces through the speakers. The fleeting moments of melody across Plagues are impeccably placed and impossible to ignore. To this day, no one has been able to achieve that balance quite like The Devil Wears Prada.

Personally, Plagues offered a welcome soundtrack to a period of transition in my life. Having just moved halfway across the country to a new city with no acquaintances, Plagues proved to be a valuable friend and a fitting backdrop to my own wrestlings with faith. Behind the bright neon t-shirts and goofy song titles was a surprising amount of depth for such a young band. Plagues speaks to the fleeting nature of our existence and the danger of letting it slip away.

That commitment to conviction would prove to be a cornerstone that set The Devil Wears Prada apart from many of their contemporaries. Soon, the band’s intense focus on perfecting their craft would gain them acceptance in the greater metal community, allowing them to share the stage with heralded acts like Killswitch Engage, Slayer and Slipknot. In hindsight, Plagues was much more than a fleeting stab at cultural cache – it was an early chapter of a band with a lot more to prove.

I guess it makes sense to me that a band I discovered through my old school methods would become a torchbearer for a new generation of bands in the scene. It also makes sense that The Devil Wears Prada wouldn’t be content with the ground explored on their early work, which was certainly powerful in its own right. For the band with the silly name and cool haircuts, the best was yet to come.

Still, I can’t help but reflect fondly on those days, flipping through Alternative Press and with Plagues blasting in the background, ushering in a new phase of my own musical journey.

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.

PVRIS Release New Song “What’s Wrong”

“I don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable”

With that line, Lynn Gunn closes one of the best choruses of 2017 so far. “What’s Wrong” is a glimpse of everything we hoped we’d find on PVRIS’ upcoming sophomore releaseAll We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. A startlingly dark and and open look inside a band facing more pressure than they deserve, the track is an eerie synthpop masterpiece – instantly catchy and poignant.

Since they burst onto the scene in 2014 with White Noise, PVRIS has been labeled by fans and industry folks alike as the next big thing. With “What’s Wrong”,Lyndsey Gunnulfsen assures us that she has not sold her soul, but that doesn’t mean that the ensuing fight has been a joyride.

Take a peek at the band’s new music video below:

All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is set to drop on August 4 on Rise Records. Although we’re still nearly two months away from its release, it’s hard not to be excited for what’s to come.

What are your thoughts on the new track? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Palisades – Palisades

47_1_palisades_high

Whether you’re a national restaurant chain, a digital news outlet or an indie rock band, re-branding can be a gamble. Do you risk alienating your core consumer base in favor of a new identity? In the best-case scenario, these kinds of shifts can not only enlarge an entity’s platform while maintaining their original audience, but also provide an honest representation of the brand in its current form. Such appears to be the case with Palisades.

The New Jersey rock act spent their first two releases on Rise Records attempting to force fit their electronicore leanings into a rather insincere and cluttered package. By the time the unnecessarily-salacious Mind Games dropped in 2015, it was hard to view Palisades as anything other than a gimmicky party favor, even as the band showed signs of real talent.

You can but Palisades on iTunes.

You can but Palisades on iTunes.

After one listen, it’s no surprise that the band decided to self-title their latest release. Palisades is not only their best record, it’s a welcome left turn for a band once affixed on bad girls and party fouls. Along with a complete sonic overhaul, Palisades feels, dare we say, thematically genuine.

The EDM influences and siren-y synthesizers that were once the band’s calling card are now completely absent. Instead, Palisades pulses ahead as a straightforward rock record with traces of nu metal and post-hardcore sprinkled in. The production is slick and airtight with crunchy guitar tones and rattling drum patterns pushing the tracks forward without the needless, clunky breakdowns the band relied on in the past. The back-half of “Hard Feelings” even finds Xavier Adames busting out a quick guitar solo that melds nicely into the mix.

In keeping with the upgrades, vocalist Louis Miceli stands out as most improved. With former bass player and backing vocalist Brandon Reese out of the equation, Palisades now rely solely on Miceli to deliver – and that he does, channeling his inner Chester Bennington throughout the record. On Palisades, his voice transforms to a powerful roar, displacing his various tedious deliveries from past albums. Miceli still finds time to scream on this album, but those moments are far more reserved and natural.

With a much more credible sound firmly in place, the band have allowed themselves to expand their subject matter beyond the banal as well. Surprising opener “Aggression” tackles gun violence with Miceli belting a chorus of, “Can we disarm the loaded gun? / Can we survive what we’ve become? / The hate is slowly choking me / American aggression for free”. It’s a stark progression for a band that sprinkled gun cocking samples onto their previous album.

All of these improvements might merit little discussion if the songs weren’t all that good – but they are. They’re really, really good. “Better Chemicals” is a diverse rocker with a pounding chorus that gets stuck in your brain, while a new and improved version of last year’s “Fall” feels like the best evolution of the band, even tastefully implementing programming elements without ramming them down your throat. New bassist Brandon Elgar joins Miceli during the song’s re-worked bridge, resulting in an explosive moment that may top anything the band has ever done.

“Memories” grooves hard as a track that highlights Palisades’ newly discovered nu metal bent with a delightful verse-chorus transition. And speaking of hooks, “Hard Feelings” is a triumph. The decadent melody behind Miceli’s simple lines of, “I’ve got some hard feelings I’m working through / I’ve got some hard feelings I could put on you” blends perfectly with the grinding guitars that power this energetic track ahead.

You wouldn’t have trouble getting almost any song on Palisades stuck in your head, but this time around, you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Sure, a few of the tracks start to blend together upon repeated listens, and save for some scattered candid moments, Miceli’s lyrics still have room to grow, but overall, the album is a forceful step forward for a band that seemed to be flirting with irrelevancy.

If this self-titled venture is the definitive sound that the band has proclaimed it to be, Palisades very well could have found a niche that might propel the band to new heights. Whatever the case may be, the band is clearly coming into their own at just the right time, making this is one re-branding effort that was well worth the risk.

4/5

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.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #4 PVRIS Break Out

pvris-2016-promo

Fresh off the heels of 2014’s smash debut album White Noise, PVRIS wouldn’t have been faulted for following up quickly and capitalizing on the buzz. Instead, the band spent an immense amount of time on the road honing their live performance and building an even bigger audience. The wait for what’s next is almost over.

Last year, PVRIS released a new deluxe edition of White Noise, complete with new single “You and I” – a hint of what may be to come. On their debut, PVRIS toed the line between dance pop and post-hardcore ambience, but the trio may be wise to capitalize on their pop sensibilities. Lynn Gunn has become one of the most exciting figures in the scene, and during the past two years of touring, has become an even more potent vocalist.

PVRIS undoubtedly feels the pressure that rests firmly on their sophomore release. It’s been several years since a band from the scene has had a true chance at crossover dominance, and PVRIS feels more primed than any band since Paramore to make it happen. Whether they break through to the mainstream or not, we can be certain that their follow-up will be built on the idea that practice makes perfect.

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: The Devil Wears Prada – Transit Blues

The Devil Wears Prada - Chicago June, 2015

Once you’ve reached the summit, what’s left to explore? With the release of the Zombie EP in 2010 and Dead Throne in 2011, The Devil Wears Prada shed what was left of the trendy neon-core label that was attached to the band, becoming a full-fledged metal powerhouse, sharing the stage with the likes of Slayer and Slipknot. It was a worthy transition for a hardworking band that had clearly pushed themselves to the top of the modern metalcore heap.

In recent years, the band appeared to be attempting to shift the narrative once again with the experimental and industrial 8:18 and last year’s trippy and aptly titled Space EP. While those releases still eclipsed the offerings of many of their peers, they lacked the bite that had turned The Devil Wears Prada from pedestrian to prodigious just a few short years ago.

You can buy Transit Blues on iTunes.

You can buy Transit Blues on iTunes.

Maybe a short walk in the wilderness was all that the band needed. Transit Blues finds The Devil Wears Prada returning to form with a vengeance.

Album opener “Praise Poison” encapsulates everything that had been missing within the track’s first 30 seconds. Rattling drumsticks give way to a vicious guitar riff from Jeremy DePoyster as Mike Hranica makes his opening statement of, “I heard the sound, the shout proclaimed / Now I’m here to praise, praise poison”.

It’s the kind of moment that takes your breath away – a moment most bands spend a career trying to capture. The Devil Wears Prada are familiar with this kind of gravity inducing hysteria, displaying it previously on tracks like “Danger: Wildman” and “Mammoth”. Hearing it happen once more is like being introduced to the band again for the first time.

Oddly, Transit Blues seems to draw its influence and passion from the mundane. Throughout the album, Hranica vocalizes his discontent with monotony, whether it be while endlessly traveling on the road or while struggling to find inspiration in everyday life. Hearing this kind of struggle displayed with such force and might sends a wave of sobering terror and awe rushing toward you. It’s the kind of discontent only the best metal bands can instill.

On songs like “Daughter” and “Lock & Load”, the band displays a knack for sludgy guitar tones and paced aggression to counter the moments that rattle your chest. On “Worldwide” the band rediscovers the melodic sensibilities that always added a unique depth to their music. DePoyster is no longer called on to interrupt with a clean response to Hranica’s cries – here the two work together to create something much more compelling. The duo’s cooperative lines of, “It’s nostalgic and quiet but louder than silence / I want to get lost in you, Tokyo” sound like the next logical step for the genre as a whole.

Likewise, “The Condition” takes advantage of the band’s many strengths, allowing the quiet moments to amplify the fury to come. DePoyster’s gentle opening lines coupled with a keyboard set the stage for Hranica’s bellows of, “Every light is red tonight / Every day, a useless fight / Burdened by obligation, this life will be named ‘The Condition’”. It’s a complex track that uses patience and gentle interludes to create unease – something the band attempted but failed to use to effect on 8:18.

The most discussed track on Transit Blues will certainly be “To the Key of Evergreen”, a song that harkens back to the band’s older days with blistering guitars, dreamy synthesizers and an ambient interlude that channels the band’s deepest Underoath influences. Hranica even reaches deep within his frayed vocal chords to unleash a few of his once familiar deep roars.

Those looking to complain will point to tracks like “Home For Grave Pt. II” and “Flyover States”, which find The Devil Wears Prada dimming the lights for the atmospheric feel that pervaded their recent offerings and find the band delivering more delicately and despondently. In the flow of the record, these serve as small eyes in a greater storm.

Transit Blues may not quite match the madness of Zombie or the wrath of Dead Throne, but it’s certainly a statement of the band’s intent and a welcome return to noise. If the dull racket of boredom is what reignited the fire, we should all feel grateful for a few short uneventful years.

4/5

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 – Headspace

16_1_issues_high88

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.