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Issues: The Kings of Combining Metal and Pop

Posted on December 03, 2019

Crowdsurfer for Issues

Photo by Samantha Carter

The world loves unique music. In fact, lots of people deliberately look for music that strays from the normal path. One of the most unique acts in the alternative scene right now is a rock band from Atlanta called Issues. Issues has an interesting sound where they combine complex guitars and drums that have a metalcore vibe to them with pop and R&B elements, most notably in their use of synths and catchy melodies. The band released their debut EP Black Diamonds in 2012 and the band has only been going up since then. After Black Diamonds, the band released their debut self-titled album in early 2014, an acoustic EP called Diamond Dreams, and their sophomore album Headspace in 2016. On May 3, 2019, Issues released their first new song in 3 years called “Tapping Out,” which led to an announcement of a new album coming later in the year. Issues’ new album Beautiful Oblivion was released on October 4, 2019, on Rise Records, and it’s has a sound that lots of fans didn’t expect. Issues took the metalcore/pop mashup sound and just elevated it. While keeping the heavy sound, the pop and R&B influences became way more prominent in this record, and the result was a cohesive masterpiece that is uniquely Issues and is nothing being played by other bands.

Tim Henson of Polyphia

Photo by Samantha CarterTim Henson of Polyphia

After the release of such a great album, I was thrilled to be able to check out their show at the House of Blues on Sunday, December 1, 2019. Issues was headlining, and they announced that they were playing the entire new album in full, and had some help from support acts Polyphia, Lil Aaron, and Sleep Token.

Sleep Token opened up the night in a very interesting way. The band is one that thrives on their anonymity, similar to the band Ghost, for those who have heard of them. Sleep Token is comprised of four members who wear black cloaks and masks. As someone who had no knowledge of this band prior to the show, I was pleasantly surprised by their performance and I am definitely intrigued to see what becomes of them and their work.

Lil Aaron performed next, and it was definitely quite the change. From Sleep Token, a rock band, to Lil Aaron, a rapper. I found his performance very enjoyable and full of energy. He bounced around the stage and just looked like he was having a great time. the crowd caught his infectious energy as well, with the whole front row screamed the lyrics back to him.

Polyphia went on next, which was another genre change after Lil Aaron. Polyphia is a mostly instrumental metal band that is made up of four insanely talented musicians. The complexity in their music is something that so many musicians work toward. I was in awe of the guitarists playing their riffs and ridiculously hard solos, and couldn’t help but be captivated by the music.

Tyler Carter of Issues

Photo by Samantha CarterTyler Carter of Issues

However, I was even more captivated once Issues took the stage. The band started off their show with the first track off of their new album Beautiful Oblivion called “Here’s To You,” which is quiet at the beginning and becomes a heavy hitter about a minute into the song, making it a great opening track for their record as well as their show.

The band went right into the second track from their record with hard-hitting second single “Drink About It.” This is my favorite song on the record, and I loved hearing it live. Feeling the ground shake vigorously while the crowd accompanied vocalist Tyler Carter with the lyrics was something I’ll never forget.

Immediately after, Issues wasted no time and jumped into the songs “Never Lose Your Flames,” and “Hero,” two older songs that are always fan favorites. Following “Hero,” bassist Skyler Acord played a super cool bass solo on a bass with glowing neon green bass strings, which I loved! The band then attempted to play their next song but ran into some technical difficulties.

AJ Rebollo of Issues

Photo by Samantha CarterAJ Rebollo of Issues

Issues pushed through the difficulties and played the lead single off of Beautiful Oblivion called “Tapping Out,” which is also the first song that was released after the departure of the band’s second vocalist Michael Bohn in early 2018. “Tapping Out” features a heavy riff with Tyler Carter’s catchy melodies guiding the song.

Luckily, the technical issues fixed themselves after “Tapping Out” and Issues was able to go forward with their next song “Stingray Affliction,” which is one of their bigger songs off of their debut album.

The band went back into playing the album in full by playing two of my favorites off of the new album called “Without You” and “Rain,” respectively. Both songs really showcase the unique blend of hard rock and pop that makes Issues the band that they are.

But even hard rock bands write softer songs, and Issues played their ballad off the new album up next. The ballad, called “Your Sake,” is a very somber song describing Carter’s love life and coming out as bisexual in 2015. The vocalist told Alternative Press magazine about the song, saying:

Emotionally, the song “Your Sake” was a deep and very honest song. It really just came out of me and came together. I wrote the song about the women whose hearts I broke before I really came to terms with who I was and came out.Tyler Carter, vocalist

Tyler Carter of Issues

Photo by Samantha CarterTyler Carter of Issues

It was so amazing hearing this live and seeing the fans so emotional, with some of them even crying, which just made the experience that much better. At the end of the day, though, this is a rock show, and the band just turned the volume up to 100 after the emotional ballad by playing their song “COMA,” which is their second most popular song. All I saw the entire song was just heads and hands in the air jumping up and down, signifying the fans were into it just as much as the band was.

The next three songs the band played were off of the new album and were called “Downfall,” “Second Best,” and “Get It Right,” respectively. All three were crowd favorites, with the fans singing every lyric at the top of their lungs.

Those three songs were just a warm-up, though, because the next song “King of Amarillo” got the old fans hyped up. That song caused the crowd to make the biggest mosh pit of the night, with the pit taking up almost the entire floor at the venue. The energy didn’t stop when the song ended.

Issues played their song “Flexin” next, and the fans were going absolutely crazy for it. It’s a nice little groovy track that is pretty different from the stuff Issues has released in the past but the fans seemed to love it and were all clapping and dancing to the track.

The band jumped right into the track “No Problem (Keep It Alive),” the eleventh track on Beautiful Oblivion and I loved watching everyone clapping along to this song, especially during the bridge.

Tyler Carter of Issues

Photo by Samantha CarterTyler Carter of Issues

Issues closed their main set with my second favorite song on their new album, the title track and last song on the album “Beautiful Oblivion.” Closing the main set with the last track on the album worked so well with the theme of the tour, and really helped bring the album to life live.

For the encore, the band decided to play two songs instead of just one since they had to cut a song earlier in the set due to technical issues. The song they cut earlier was played during the encore instead and was called “Find Forever,” the third track on Beautiful Oblivion. Playing the set in this altered order was special to Chicago, with bassist Skyler Acord saying “when I say this is only for Chicago, I mean this is ONLY for Chicago. We appreciate y’all.”

Before the last song in their encore, the vocalist grabbed a bottle of alcohol and went up to each band member and poured some alcohol in each of their mouths. This was great to see because it really showed that the band was having fun with what they were doing and they just like to have a good time putting on a show for their fans.

The last song Issues played was their biggest hit called “Mad At Myself” and seeing that live was something special. This song garnered the second biggest mosh pit of the night and one of the biggest singalongs I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The last chorus of the song, the entire band stopped playing and just walked to the front of the stage to listen to the fans sing, and I could hear their voices echo through the entire venue, so much so that I got chills. Giving the fans that experience was a great way to end the show.

Tyler Carter of Issues

Photo by Samantha CarterTyler Carter of Issues

Overall, I was super impressed by all of the bands that played Sunday night, and I’m looking forward to hearing them all live again. Issues, in particular, was a band that I was super fascinated by. The way that they pushed through technical issues to still put on a fantastic performance for all of their dedicated fans is something that I really admire. Their drive, dedication, and performance ability are out of this world, and I highly suggest seeing these talented musicians live the next time they return to Chicago. Until then, you can stream or buy their new album Beautiful Oblivion on all of your favorite music platforms.

Tim Henson of Polyphia
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