Following a debut album has to be an incredibly challenging endeavor for musicians; especially one that was beloved by fans and really defined a signature style for the artist. Coupled with the unrealistic expectations that fans have for the follow-up, let alone the bands, there’s a reason the sophomore slump exists. After introducing a relatively new and unique sound that mixed metalcore with R&B and nu-metal elements with their own self-titled debut, the Atlanta, GA natives Issues are now set to release their much anticipated follow-up, Headspace, on May 20th. With such anticipation, the underlying hope was that the album would continue to see them push the boundaries of metalcore further which leaves us with the following question: Does it live up to the hopes of fans or ultimately fall into the abyss of sophomore slumps?
Headspace see’s the band once again mixing together a multitude of genres that on paper don’t feel like they should be mixed together. Unlike their debut, the genre fusing is done in a more cohesive and well crafted way.. At the forefront, it would have been easy to play it safe with this release, but it seems Issues are never content with staying within defined genre boundaries or in their own comfort zone. Unclean vocalist Michael Bohn steps into uncharted waters and sings for the first time on the record which creates a new dynamic when combined with Tyler Carter’s catchy R&B hooks to add a refreshing and unique layer to their overall sound.
The album opener, “The Realest”, sees a combination of the expected R&B hooks and metalcore riffs with some jazz influences breathing new life in the track throughout. Bassist Skyler Acord shines throughout, injecting his influence loudly in the song which has a rare moment consisting of a bass solo that is jazzy and bouncy backed by some scratching from Scout. Issues makes perhaps their boldest move on the album with the track “Yung & Dum”, which utilizes country and bluegrass elements to truly make it standout. With the subtle, but distinguishable mandolin in the backtracking combined with metalcore riffs and infectious hooks, they’ve created a completely unique sound that ultimately fits the bands own personality.
Tyler Carter continues to captivate with his infectious R&B choruses. Songs “Lost-n-Found (On A Roll), “Slow Me Down” are packed with emotion and feature some of Issues’ catchiest and biggest choruses. Lyrically, the album sees the band taking a more emotional and personal approach this time with their subject matter. “Blue Wall” tackles the hot topic issue of current police ethics and brutality in America; which has led to some divided opinions amongst fans. The guitar riffs provided by guitarist AJ Rebollo see a much needed improvement and offer a welcome change from the open-string, palm mute, power chords that seemed to be prevalent on their debut which make his prowess and talent as a lead guitarist much more evident this time around. Skyler Acord’s talent as bassist is another one of the albums highlights as he provides bouncy and noticeable bass lines throughout that continually leave a strong impression with the listener.
Where their debut album saw them in the early stages of experimentation causing some of the tracks to feel out of place, Headspace sees the results of progression, maturity and more time to work on the album pay off. There is no sophomore slump to be found here as this is an improvement on nearly all aspects over their debut. Combing rhythmic and bouncy metalcore riffs, R&B hooks, DJ scratching and so many other unique genre elements, the culmination is a satisfying fusion of genre-bending music. This is further exacerbated by the bands own refusal to conform to any set genre boundaries and is ultimately the biggest factor in helping Issues separate themselves from their peers. Taking risks in life offers no guarantees and with this release, the pay off is sure to be big. Be sure to pick up Headspace on May 20th via Rise Records.