Headspace Review

artist: Issues date: 06/02/2016 category: compact discs
Issues: Headspace
Released: May 20, 2016
Genre: Metalcore, Nu Metal, Djent, R&B, Pop
Label: Rise Records
Number Of Tracks: 13
Continuing to indulge their eclectic array of inspirations, Issues' follow-up album, "Headspace," improves upon their root metal/pop R&B fusion sound but wanders aimlessly in regards to its other genre attempts.
 Sound: 5
 Lyrics: 5
 Overall Impression: 5
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overall: 5
Headspace Featured review by: UG Team, on june 02, 2016
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Sound: In the grand scheme of things, the two albums Woe, Is Me released didn't make much of an impact in the American metalcore boom years ago, and yet from its short history of manically-changing lineups, to the remarkable amount of hate they've garnered, they've essentially succeeded in sticking out in the scene. In 2012, founding WIM members Tyler Carter, Michael Bohn, Cory Ferris and Ben Ferris would re-congregate to form their new metalcore iteration, Issues, and while the Ferris brothers would end up leaving before recording anything in order to create their own metalcore band, the WIM-echoing Cursed Sails, Carter and Bohn cultivated Issues to sound different than their WIM days. Along with some hints of nu-metal turntablism (which was destined to be rebuked by many), the most defining sound for them was Carter's pop/R&B singing style that helped the band capture attention in an extremely polarizing fashion - many loyalists lauded the unique mashup of metal and pop, and others thoroughly reviled Carter's processed, Justin Bieber-esque singing style. But when taking into consideration other metalcore peers, from the soul/R&B-inspired Jonny Craig, the boy band voices of Kellin Quinn and Matty Mullins, or the autotune-abusing Kyle Pavone, both responses to Issues' fusion sound were more exaggerated than need be.

Now on their sophomore album, "Headspace," Issues attempt even more change in their sound. Aiming more for melody this time around, Carter's R&B singing gets even more of the spotlight (see the Aaliyah-inspired harmonies stacked in "Hero"), and Bohn does a fair amount of singing throughout the album along with his harsh vocals. More importantly, their baseline metalcore/pop R&B hybrid comes off smoother and more melody-accommodating, where instead of utilizing a headstrong mashup of WIM-brand metalcore riffs with off-kilter moments of R&B production as heard in their debut self-titled album, Issues take their instruments into softer gears. The dreamy post-rock guitar melodies in "Home Soon," "COMA," and "Rank Rider" cooperate much better with Carter's singing style, and paired with chug rhythms that are more spatial compared to their previous album, these songs wield somewhat of a prog-metal/djent influence. "Headspace" also has its heavier moments, like the more stark metalcore cut of "Blue Wall," and the post-hardcore rush of "lost-n-found (on a roll)" (which also throws in a pop-by-numbers, half-step-up modulation at the final singalong chorus), but their attempts to thread the needle between heavy and melodic flop big, where Carter's poppy voice clashes inelegantly with the gruff metalcore riffs in "Made to Last" and "Flojo."

Though the baseline sound of Issues expands for the better in "Headspace," Issues also attempt to decorate that with many other different genres flavors, which ends up being the album's biggest vice. While the Mogwai-esque post-rock interstitial track of "I Always Knew" fits the other post-rock stylings of the album, Issues' also invests more in the nu-metal aspect of their sound, and while the full commitment to the dated style in the opening "The Realest" actually fits the mold well (Skyler Acord's slap-bass ought to please anyone who's down with early Incubus or 311), the extensive amount of Scout Acord's turntable scratchings thrown into songs doesn't fit with the primary sound of the album. Other moments of mashing genres together come off even more bizarre and grueling, like the ugly synthetic brass melodies shoehorned into "Someone Who Does," or the metalcore/country fusion effort of "Yung & Dum," which, along with featuring guest vocals from bona fide country singer Jonathan Langston, further encumbers a pop metalcore cut with a fiddle solo and mandolin sections. // 5

Lyrics: With an increase in the pop/R&B aspect of Issues' sound, it's no surprise that the lyrics in "Headspace" have gotten somewhat mushier compared to their previous album, with Carter crooning over the trials and tribulations of long-distance love (in "Home Soon"), salvaging lost love (in "Made to Last"), and going fully overwrought Casanova in "COMA" ("I wanna be all you think about / Anything and everything you dream about / As if I had it all figured out / I wanna be the one you can't breathe without"). Bohn's harsh vocals attempts to balance out the mushiness, bringing the "take no shit" side of things in the manipulative relationship in "The Realest," and cutting off a gold-digger in "Rank Rider," and most substantially are his socially-conscious lyrics, covering a broken home upbringing in "Someone Who Does," police brutality and systemic abuse of power in "Blue Wall," and dealing with depression in "Lost-n-Found (On a Roll)." However, both Carter and Bohn also hit some weak lyrical points by banking on done-to-death moments ("Throw your hands in the air / Go stupid like you just don't care" in "Yung & Dum") and co-opting other iconic hip-hop moments ("I grew up a fuckin screw up" in "Flojo" cribs off of Notorious B.I.G.). // 5

Overall Impression: One can describe Issues' uninhibited genre fusing as "Mad Libs" songwriting - while a template is there, the random inspiration that gets shoved into the mix makes for a result that's interesting if only based in its nonsense. One can also compare this genre jumbling to the earlier likes of Iwrestledabearonce or Falling In Reverse, but in contrast to those examples being clearly more tongue-in-cheek about it, Issues fancy themselves innovators for it, which is an exaggeration to say the least. While they've grown their primary sound of a metal/pop R&B hybrid for better in "Headspace," Issues' continued spitballing of genre mashups renders the album misguided, and their attempt to masquerade its lack of direction as trailblazing is nothing short of delusional. // 5

- Sam Mendez (c) 2016

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