Review Summary: Issues is and is not for everyone.
I would presume that with Issues there was never any pretense about their approach to music; these dudes are bonafide genre whores. Since their EP “Black Diamonds,” Issues have written songs that mix post-hardcore and metalcore with radio pop, R&B, and EDM in interesting albeit potentially tacky ways. The main difference that separates this self-titled with the “Black Diamonds” EP is that Issues seem to have matured; this has not occurred only on a musical level, where they are now blending the varying styles more fluidly, but also lyrically, where they seemed to have moved past some of their grievances onto more focused witticisms. However, this self-titled is a blatant mixture of stereotypical genres and their tropes, where each member of Issues has their comfortable role to play. Despite how well they fulfill those roles, the members of Issues are still playing on borrowed time.
In their attempt to combine genres, Issues possess at least a few strengths. For one, the vast amount of sounds included on this album create a unique atmosphere for each song and despite the many breakdowns that are featured, each song has a fresh feel that obscures some of the established genre clichés. There are many instances where the focus on atmosphere and tone leave their sound scattered all throughout the musical spectrum, including tones and melodies like that of Fear Before (ex: the verses of “The Langdon House” and the first minute of “Personality Cult”) to djent riffs and low-end guitar riffing reminiscent of the Deftones. Issues adorn the metal template with pop hooks that are in the same vein as Lady Gaga or Pitbull (ex: “Late”) and the R&B of Justin Timberlake. Additionally, each member of the band is highly skilled and never lack in their contributions to the overall quality of each song. There is an emotional and cathartic energy present that transcends some of the superficial qualities of the metal and EDM influences that Issues have on this record; there are endless amounts of nuances in each song, which really add a genuine touch to the format of the tracks. Tyler Carter also provides many highlights, varying his style from his falsetto to a more aggressive yell; all of which make his performance quite enjoyable and unpredictable. And surprisingly, AJ Rebollo proves formidable for being the only guitarist and creates many interesting melodic sections that supplement both the rhythm and lead duties.
What is ultimately the most unfortunate aspect of this album is that the music is at odds with itself: Whether or not the members of Issues recognize it, the sheer amount of styles they have attempted here on this record are going to be hard to replicate again albeit a third or fourth time. Moreover, trying to include clean vocals into the genre of metal is not a difficult task because many listeners of metal are accustomed to that style and approach. Yet, trying to fuse metal with R&B, EDM, Hip Hop, and Post-Hardcore is very hard to do tastefully. Upon first listen, the music can be jarring due to the fact that the members of Issues are attempting the synthesis of at least two or more genres in each song; this is impressive but also unfocused. Certain songs sound like mash-ups or two different versions of the same song (ex "Late") because the conversion from radio pop to metalcore cannot be made smoothly. The selection of songs that Issues have crafted for this release also seem to not relate on a thematic level; at times the songs are very shallow and basic in tone while other tracks are heartfelt and passionate. Ultimately, it appears that Issues have a problem with their consistency; not only in their ability to sound like the same band but also in their direction. For example, you could consider the odd the transitions from tracks like “Mad At Myself” to “Life Of a Nine" which in this case includes a transition from a sugary R&B hook, that is not dissimilar to a Justin Bieber track, to the Nu-metal riff that begins “Life Of a Nine." In the end, each song has a metalcore template that is being slowly forced out and replaced by something that sounds like Tyler's side project. There are sections of the album where it is easy to see harsh vocalist Michael Bohn taking a backseat to the crooning and energetic Tyler Carter, who has more to offer in terms of technique and who is featured more frequently.
It is safe to say that Issues have crafted something that both differentiates and diminishes the quality of their creativity; while they have achieved a fairly successful fusion of many styles they have also pigeonholed themselves into being that
band; a gimmick. It is somewhat ironic yet perhaps totally intentional. And honestly, whether or not Issues have longevity as a group or if they care has very little to do with what Issues’ currently has to offer, which is a fun record that proves one axiom true: Issues is and is not for everyone.