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For wide-ranging metallers Issues, success comes with a price

The music’s heavy, the emotions more so.

The song sounds just like the feelings it’s attempting to express, frustration and alienation conveyed through the kind of raw-throated shouts that demand a handful of Sucrets afterward, the brutality of life on the streets echoed by punishing, recoiling basslines and muscular guitar that growls like an engine being revved.

Eventually, though, a measure of sanctity is found by the song’s once-forsaken protagonist, this solace conveyed in a bright-sounding chorus where vocals and hopes become elevated alike.

The tune’s “Lost-n-Found (On a Roll)” by Atlanta kitchen-sink metallers Issues, whose hard musical core is candy-coated in a pop, R&B and hip-hop shell.

 

It’s one of the more stirring numbers on the band’s latest record, “Headspace,” its lyrics addressing the plight of a teenager abandoned by his parents after coming out as gay.

“Obviously in the South, it’s still very close-minded,” says Issues singer Tyler Carter, who handles the band’s clean and rapped vocals. “We have a lot of people, 18-year-olds, who are still in school, who get kicked out of their houses for coming out to their parents.”

Carter encountered one of these kids at a thrift shop operated by Lost-n-Found Youth, a charity organization in Issues’ hometown.

“They basically house homeless LGBT youth,” he says, recalling a visit to organization’s secondhand store. “I met this kid there. I wrote this song about his life on the streets, how he was found and helped to recover.”

The song’s a powerful one in terms of both sonics and sentiment, a snapshot of a young band growing up in sound and message alike.

It’s one of the highlights on an album of bounce and bark, the band’s knotty, metallic riffing leavened by radio-friendly hooks and body-moving grooves. The wide-ranging record doesn’t defy genres so much as span them, the band taking an Alfred E. Neuman-worthy, “What, Me Worry?” approach to forging disparate sounds into a cohesive whole.

Though Issues was fairly recently formed in 2012, they’ve already dropped a pair of full-lengths and an equal number of EPs, their self-titled, 2014 debut landing in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart.

Since then, Issues has practically lived on the road, maturing on stage, toes to the fire.

“Headspace” reflects as much: It’s an equally life-affirming and topical record, where songs about being young and joyously reckless are paired with tunes about police shootings and the challenges of trying to maintain relationships while touring constantly.

The album’s a candid record, sometimes uncomfortably so.

“If it’s a personal song, then it needs to be personal, it needs to have the story really portrayed in the song so people understand exactly where you’re coming from,” Carter says of the band’s decisions to hold little back lyrically on their latest record. “You’ve got to really tell it all.”

Singer Michael Bohn, who contributes both gruff and more melodic vocals to the band, did just that on “Someone Who Does,” a song that addresses his struggles with an absentee father.

“I had just recently gone through some stuff with my dad and I was really bitter about it,” Bohn says, “Basically, in the studio, I just started venting, saying everything that was on my mind, like, if I could say it to my dad, in a sense. I just needed to get some stuff of my chest, same with Tyler for some of these songs.”

For Carter, this stuff included coming to terms with the band’s increasingly hectic lifestyle, which threatened to consume the group in the aftermath of their successful debut and the newfound demands that came with being a band on the rise.

“When we started headlining all over the world, that’s when it started to actually take a toll on us,” Carter explains. “You think that it’s going to be all fun, ‘We don’t have to go home, we’re good, we can work.’ We didn’t realize all that flying, that lack of sleep and that adrenaline, it becomes overwhelming, and it really becomes physically and mentally draining. I never really understood anxiety or panic or lack of sleep until I got put right in the middle of it. But, at the same time, it’s exhilarating. That was the hardest time of our career, and I think it will forever be the hardest time of our career.”

But that time is over, and “Headspace” reflects as much: Ultimately, it’s a celebratory record, the sound of a band realizing its dreams even if a few nightmares had to be endured beforehand.

“I never even knew if I would even get to this point,” Bohn says. “When I was a kid, I didn’t know how far I would go. There’s so many people trying to be a successful artist, it’s like, ‘Why me?’ You kind of think, ‘Am I ever going to make it? Am I ever going to be successful at this?’ But you stick with it. You bust your ass. You make stuff happen.”

Read more from Jason Bracelin at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com and follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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