01. Sad Ghost
02. Mad At Myself
03. Life of a Nine
04. The Langdon House
06. Old Dena
07. Stingray Affliction
08. Never Lose Your Flames
09. Personality Cult
10. Tears on the Runway, Pt. 2
11. The Settlement
12. Disappear (Remember When)
The union of metal and pop music is a polarizing thought, but it is certainly not a new development. Modern metal acts such as Scar Symmetry utilize simple song structures and highly accessible melodies for a more subtle blend, but there acts that are more straightforward in their intentions. Devin Townsend Project‘s albums Addicted! and Epicloud were both praised for the smart and seamless amalgam of pop and heavy metal, even after publicly citing Nickelback as a key influence. The Dillinger Escape Plan have even dabbled in overt pop-worship for years as well.
We’ve seen proof that the style can be pulled off with finesse, should the best aspects of both genres are utilized; there’s nothing inherently wrong with using downtuned guitars to write catchy and heartfelt music with soaring vocal hooks, so long as you do it with some intelligence and creativity. Issues is one such band that openly embraces the “pop metal” tag, but ultimately fails at creating a fun or interesting listening experience on their self-titled debut.
Issues acts as a marriage of metalcore, electronic dance music, and modern R&B. Each genre has its own place and time, but brought together as we hear it on Issues is a messy combination of the worst tropes each has to offer. On the hardcore end of the spectrum, we’re treated with uninspired djenty staccato rhythms and bland chord progressions. At best, on tracks like ‘Life of a Nine‘ and ‘Sad Ghost’, Issues approach nu-metal during their heavier moments. Elsewhere, turntable scratches, saccharine keyboard melodies, and autotuned vocals so egregious that it’s frustrating come in abundance.
‘Mad At Myself’ is the worst offender of this, sounding like a Jason Derulo track filtered through Asking Alexandria. Vocalist Tyler Carter is clearly a talented singer, but his voice is overly-pitch corrected and any soul or charm he would otherwise have is processed out of existence. A good pop record relies on a strong vocalist, and Issues somehow manages to fail with two of them, and that’s not taking into account the painfully juvenile lyrics. Album single ‘Stingray Affliction’ alone features puerile lines such as “Jager got you faded” and “Punk bitch walking tall like you got something to prove” while proclaiming in the song’s chorus, “no, I don’t want to be tough.” Ironic, considering that much of the album utilizes tough-guy hardcore lyrics that border on diss-track subject matter.
The most damning part about Issues is that, ignoring the production choices and banal lyrics, the songs themselves just aren’t strong enough to overcome the album’s many faults. ‘Tears On The Runway pt 2’ and the strong closer ‘Disappear (Remember When)‘ both come close to haunting, but their odd structures and few-and-far-between good ideas leave them lost in the waves of mediocrity, and their gimmick simply can’t keep them afloat. The worst thing a record like this can do is fail at being catchy. Thus is Issues.
This is music that was seemingly created for the sole purpose of being trendy and commercially friendly among Rise Records’ post-hardcore fanbase, and it will surely succeed in spades. Issues is admittedly an ambitious record that does take a few chances, but that certainly doesn’t stop it from lacking in both style and substance, and quite frankly, from being a cringe-inducing record. After all, this is a band that covered Justin Bieber on the dreadful Punk Goes Pop series. I think that speaks for itself.
Issues – Issues gets…