Words & Photography by Felix Bartlett
Its 2014, I’m just weeks away from sitting my GCSE’s, supposedly one of the most important exams of my life. Am I home hitting the books hard? No. I’m up in London queuing outside Koko at 11am hoping to catch a glimpse of tonight’s entertainment walking past the venue before the show commenced later that day. Of Mice and Men’s show at Koko, London was arguably one of the best gigs of my youth and most influential. Most of my oldest and closest three friends were met at this very show, but apart from friends this show opened my eyes to a new branch of music. I was young, naïve and spent my time listening to the likes of Parkway Drive and Slipknot, but this concert had a surprise in store for me with newcomers on the scene Issues supporting. Having only released their self-titled album months prior excitement was in the air as previous members of Woe, Is Me lead this new and exhilarating band into the metalcore scene through the combination of metalcore, nu metal and pop.
Times have changed however, I am no longer a struggling teen desperately trying to pass his GCSEs whilst powering through the dreaded emo phase. Issues as well have had some noticeable changes with a brand-new album, sound and member formation. With original core members Michael Bohn, Ty “Scout” Acord and Ben Ferris having departed from the band I was left wondering whether the band could pull it out of the bag and continue to deliver their unique blend of music. Five years on I re-join Issues at the Camden Underworld with supports from Lotus Eater and GroundCulture, to catch them on the road once hoping the performance tonight lives up to the astounding show I witnessed all those years ago.
Issues’ new album ‘Beautiful Oblivion’ leans more into pop than previous albums, leaving me wondering how well this would translate when played live. After having the underworld torn apart by Lotus Eater eager fans began to pour in eagerly awaiting Issues triumphant return to London. Skyler Acord (Bassist) entered the stage to be met by a sea of screaming fans as the intro sample to ‘Here’s to you’ begins, followed by the entrance of AJ Rebollo (Bassist/Vocals), Josh Manuel (Drummer) and Tyler Carter (Vocals). I wasn’t sure what to expect when listening to Issues’ new album prior to the show, however, the bands new sound translated extraordinarily well in a live setting, with Tyler’s mix of melodic and heavy vocals blending together better than ever before. Flowing straight into ‘Drink about it’ the band debut to London arguably one of their best songs on their new record, Skyler and AJ worked in unison to deliver the bands signature fusion of multiple genres, accompanied by Tyler’s strikingly high vocal range.
Things really begin to kick off when the first few chords of ‘Stingray Affliction’ are plucked, splitting the crowd into two circular mosh pits, heating up the iconic venue. Although Issues’ recently released album proved to be a stellar success live, it couldn’t compare to the band’s older hits, with the likes of ‘The Realest’ and ‘Slow Me Down’ proving to be the highlights of the night. An overbearing worry that hung over my head whilst waiting for Issues to perform however, was the obvious fact that the band have lost a number of key and influential members since the last time I saw them perform, with the band’s unclean vocalists Michael Bohn and Ben Ferris (keyboardist/synthesiser) departing from the band. Nonetheless Tyler’s handling of unclean vocals proved to be exceptional, with his performance being comparable and, on some occasions, surpassing Michael Bohn’s originally recorded unclean vocals. Ending the show on ‘Mad At Myself’ set this in stone with Tyler proving his talent when handling unclean vocals leaving many fans, including myself hoping to see Issues on the rise to fame once again.
After five years, two albums and a string of EP releases I entered Issues show at the Underworld feeling as though I was about to witness a soft reboot to the bands career, leaning more towards the route of Bring Me The Horizon. However, I was proven wrong, and instead was shown how far the band have come, despite the challenges they’ve faced throughout their career. It’s clear from the performance tonight that this isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of a new chapter for Issues with a bright and successful future ahead of them.
By Felix Bartlett