While Issues’ collision of metalcore, pop and R&B may have seemed like a baffling decision initially, it’s certainly worked in their favour. Their brilliant self-titled debut in 2013 took them from a mere Woe, Is Me offshoot to an act encroaching on the genre’s top table, no mean feat considering how tremendously glutted said genre is. But where a flash in the pan success story is becoming increasingly common, Headspace sees Issues planting their feet firmly in the ground.
Though while Headspace succeeds as a sophomoric effort, it comes with a catch. Whereas their debut was consistently great, this one is less great and more consistent – still good, but with very few highs that reach the limits that they have in the past. Even so, this is an album with its fair share of choice moments, and still sees Issues excelling in the areas they always have, namely by trying something different and a lot more colourful than their peers. The sizzling bass licks of The Realest make for an early album highlight, and the subtle waves of horns that back Someone Who Does add some real depth and body. Perhaps the biggest left turn though comes in Yung & Dum, not only with its backing layers of fiddles, but also with the cameo from country singer Jon Langston lending his deep, baritone pipes for surprisingly effective results.
But the most notable change comes in the vocal dynamic between Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn. Carter remains the vocal powerhouse he always is with his uber-slick Timberlake-isms on Hero and impeccable rap cadence that opens Someone Who Does, but Bohn’s contributions are a bit more varied this time around. Screams do still play the main part of his vocal repertoire, and still display tremendous potency – the whirlwind rage of Blue Wall is enough evidence of that – but Headspace also features more clean contributions too. Admittedly these can be rather hit or miss, like on Coma‘s interpolation of A Great Big World’s Say Something, but if nothing else they paint Issues as one of the bravest and most interesting metalcore bands currently doing the rounds.
Away from that, the rest of Headspace sees Issues explore the various avenues they established on their debut. And apart from a couple of forgettable tracks – Made To Last is fairly one-paced all the way through, and Rank Rider mostly feels like generic scene metalcore – they do a pretty successful job of sticking to a formula, but still making it sound interesting. Flojo has an almost nu-metal bounce that rides of golden age hip-hop style turntables, while the especially wild drumming of Lost-n-Found (On A Roll) is elevated by its huge chorus. There’s a lot less thrown into Headspace than its predecessor, and while that streamlines it a bit in terms of an overall listening experience, it also suffers from being slightly less interesting as a result.
But even Issues at their least interesting is more compelling than most of what the genre is currently churning out. While Headspace doesn’t spark the same thrills as the band’s debut, its strength is still something to be commended, and there are plenty of moments that show a band who are nowhere near done with evolving their sound. And thankfully, this is nowhere near the ‘difficult second album’ it could’ve been.
For fans of: Hacktivist, Of Mice & Men, I See Stars
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Headspace’ by Issues is out now on Rise Records.