Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
Written by: MIN on 29/01/2017 13:23:01
Few hardcore bands today are as disputed and infamous as the Pittsburgh, PA-based quartet Code Orange. The former ‘kids’ have been lashing out at several popular metalcore bands and have previously been noted for proclaiming that they don’t like to tour with “bargain bin fucking deathcore bands”. But whatever your personal opinion on Code Orange and their statements might be, I’m here to talk about the band’s music. Interestingly, in the very same interview that the aforementioned caption stems from, vocalist/drummer Jami Morgan talks about the band’s wanting to make their world meet with the rest of the world – and if there’s one thing that Code Orange has always been good at, it’s implementing different sounds and genres into their music. On this account, “Forever”, the band’s third LP and debut on Roadrunner Records, doesn’t disappoint.
Right off the bat, the album’s title-track reaches for your throat with a thick, crunching riff which lets you know the band still wears the mantle that ”I Am King” put on them. The rhythm section pounds away to the off-beat and sporadic guitar, and before you know it, it suddenly leads you nicely into the following stomper, the album highlight “Kill the Creator”. With even more breaks and tempo-changes, the Meshuggah-like precision almost strangles you as it gets progressively faster, just before it dissolves into a smooth, static pulse - only to start all over again a few seconds later. The song slowly fades out to the sound of haunting guitar chords that – you’ve probably guessed it – abruptly obliterate into distorted noise.
Although the band might have switched from Deathwish Inc. to Roadrunner Records, Kurt Ballou is still the man behind the album’s stellar production, and the guy makes the first few songs literally feel like you’re being chased through a horror movie. Unfortunately, the thing with horror movies is that something ridiculous more often than not ruins it: a thin plot, teenage ignorance, too much gore, you name it. In the case of Code Orange, it’s when the killer is just about to deliver his death blow, but decides to throw in a bad pun just before he strikes. “Real” is actually an awesome song and contains one of the band’s fastest riffs and drum-patterns, and everything from the buzzing guitar to the deep bass lines in the song’s break work – right up to the point where someone yells ”This is real now, MOTHERFUCKER!”. It truly is an awkward moment which causes the rest of the song to fall flat on its face.
From here on out, the cuts are pretty hit or miss. “Spy” feels like the band working more on their image and exterior than on the song’s actual content as it contains some fire-breathing vocals yelled over an effective but ultimately boring and generic stoner riff. “The New Reality” and “No One is Untouchable” are decent hardcore offerings, but fail to impress when compared to the band’s better outings. ”Hurt Goes On” starts off pretty well; it feels like the band has been inspired by touring with Deftones, as the electronic beat highly reminds me of something off said band’s album “Saturday Night Wrist”. But the lyrics, ”I want to hurt you mentally”, and the sudden switch into an industrial goth party throw me off, causing the song to never become anything more than an interesting expansion in sound. “Ugly”, however, is a pleasant listen within the record’s weaker half, as it nicely juxtaposes riffs, lush atmospheres and memorable hooks, showcasing a less aggressive side of the band.
But the album’s real surprise is “Bleeding in the Blur”. When first released as a single, it was hard to accept due to its grungy feeling and clean vocals. But after several sit-throughs, it’s turned out to be one of the album’s strongest songs with its dark melody and catchy, well-written chorus. It contains the nerve and atmosphere that I love about Code Orange while still managing to be accessible, even featuring a gorgeous bass-driven bridge that leads straight into an excellent guitar solo before it returns to the chorus.
Simply put, “Forever” doesn’t have the consistency that the band’s previous outings do. Too often the material feels bland, despite the band's attempt at continuously mixing many genres while also trying to make some of their songs more accessible to a wider audience than they previously have. Sometimes the band is flexing muscles for no apparent reason, and at other times they’re too subtle, waiting in the dark for the right time to attack. Still, rest assured: when Code Orange successfully strike, it’s a critical hit that’ll have most other hardcore bands gaping at their prowess.
Download: Forever, Kill the Creator, Bleeding in the Blur
For the fans of: Harm’s Way, Full of Hell, Helmet, Nine Inch Nails
Release date 13.01.2017