ALBUM REVIEW: ISSUES – ‘HEADSPACE’

7 stars

American metalcore band, Issues have gained a solid following in the four years they have been active through a combination of solid live performances and a genre-defying blend of influences. Following the success of their self-titled, debut release in 2014 they have been working hard touring with the likes of Beartooth and Sleeping With Sirens. After hitting the studio earlier this year their second release was announced to be release on May 20th.

The album opens with ‘The Realest’ throwing straight into some amazing slap bass work reminding me instantly of a hybrid of Snarky Puppy and TesseracT. Moving through Home Soon we get offered the big hooks they are known for, both simple and repetitive. This track shows a wide vocal diversity from both vocalists, teasing at how far they can push their voices.

‘Lost-n-found’ shows us a slightly different style, starting aggressively. This song is one of the weaker tracks on the album and the gang chant and consequential key change actually made me cringe slightly. By now they’ve established a fairly obvious formula already for the album; aggressive verses with a sing a long chorus. ‘Yung & Dum’ doesn’t really improve on this with the questionable lyric “Throw your hands in the air, go stupid like you just don’t care”. A fun cameo from American Singer-Songwriter Jon Langston, adds a fresh feel however.

After a rocky couple of tracks, ‘Made To Last’ works well to grab your attention again with solid vocals and wild guitar playing. This is the first hint and some background production and with some twinkly synths it starts to add a bit more depth to the album. Flojo brings some scratching on the decks, giving the track a nu-metal feel, which I love. The track has a jumpy groove reminiscent of early Hacktivist work / Twelve Foot Ninja and is definitely one of the stand out songs on record. We get shown the cleaner side of the guitar playing in Hero, juxtaposed cleverly alongside Flojo.

The biggest single release lately ‘COMA’ is a very focal track on the album and rightfully so. It’s got a meaty riff, very interesting and surprising vocal hooks with nice harmonies thrown in. With some excellent yet subtle background ambience it is obvious why it was chosen as the single.

The instrumentation is very pretty in ‘Rank Rider’; placed beside some phenomenal and hectic distorted guitar is an fantastic indicator of what the guys were going for with this album. “Ain’t nobody got time for that” is a bit of an uncool hook but it kinda works in their favour because you won’t forget it. ‘Blue Wall’ is very impressively written, by about 20 seconds in it had already stood out. This track is genuinely huge; I can imagine it going off live when they play this. There hasn’t been any news of this as a single release but it is the best track on record by far. ‘Someone Who Does’ is the polar opposite; aside from the fanfare at the end sounding pretty intense it’s not really a stand out track; it’s not bad but it’s not got anything jumping out at you.

‘I Always Knew’ is a simple little instrumental track hinting at some things that are built on within the reprise of Headspace. ‘Slow Me Down’ takes the themes of the previous track and develops them into another quality track Issues are likely to release as a single. The production leading into this is a well thought out concept and is a fairly ambient and pleasant way to wind down the album.

For a band that have had a lot of international success from their debut, there was quite a lot of pressure on Issues to deliver with Headspace, and they definitely have. The album feels like a collection of well-written, yet different tracks put on a record. There is a slight lack of a constant theme, but I suppose when you draw influence from as many places as they do that can happen. It’s far better to have 13 tracks that all sound different to one another than to put out an album rinsing one style to death. My only criticism would be that gang chants stopped being cool in 2011. It’s also quite a slow starter, but when it gets going it’s got some excellent concepts and ideas that develop into some technical, very interesting material.

If Justin Bieber had an album produced by Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (Periphery) it would probably sound a bit like this, and I reckon that’s a good thing. 7/10

Written by Fred Whatmore

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