Code Orange


Written by: AP on 29/12/2020 14:18:09

Code Orange Kids did not want to be known as hardcore kids anymore, so in 2014, the band dropped Kids from their name, embarked on a new journey as Code Orange, and landed their most praising reviews yet for their sophomore outing “I Am King”. The band has not looked into the rear view mirror since, and with their gazes fixed on the horizon, their reputation has evolved from mosher’s choice to one of the most innovative and unpredictable proponents of heavy music around. It should come as no surprise to anyone then, that their fourth and latest offering “Underneath” is as eclectic as it is sure to alienate, and even dispel some of their earliest fans altogether. So if you thought Code Orange might double back to some good old fashioned karate pit fodder on “Underneath”, having reached a limit for experimenting on their previous outing “Forever”, you are in for serious shock and awe.

The album is a clash of influences, a study in extremes that burrows ever deeper into the rabbit hole the band has been exploring since the aforementioned “I Am King”. That the opening track here should be called “(deeperthanbefore)” thus feels very appropriate, and once this inferno of electronic noises and guitar clang has culminated in an ear-shattering scream from leading man Eric ‘Shade’ Balderose, the only thing to do is to brace yourself. “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole” lives up to its name, too, as Code Orange are not content with simply finding their own niche — they intend on tearing it apart. This first song proper actually provides one of the few vestiges of straight-up, metallic hardcore punk, but like everything else on “Underneath”, the five musicians push their ideas past the envelope to produce their most pulverising track yet. Of particular note are the jarring stoppages that intersperse the breakdown and not only catch the listener off their guard, but also lend it even more brutality. In general it is precisely this idea of more that defines Code Orange’s latest offering — for better or worse. In fact, drummer and vocalist Jami Morgan sums it up pretty well when, in “You and You Alone”, he seethes:

It’s killing me / every line that you scribble on the page / In trying to be / An amalgamation of everything you’ve seen.

I have of course taken his words out of context in order to underline my point, which is that the record is both excitingly diverse and frustratingly haphazard. Across the 14 tracks packed into it, the group dabbles in a dizzying variety of inspirations, embedding hard dubstep in the vein of Skrillex into chug sections that could have been written by Hatebreed (“You and You Alone”), unleashing cacophonies of extreme noise à la The Dillinger Escape Plan (“Cold.Metal.Place”) amidst industrial metal bangers that remind me of Nine Inch Nails (“The Easy Way”), channeling some Slipknot here (“Last Ones Left”), and roping in anthemic, early naughties nu metal there (“Autumn and Carbine”). Compared to its eccentric predecessor, “Underneath” is an even more bonkers piece of music that seems to amplify everything on Code Orange’s palette, making the heavy bits heavier, the catchy parts catchier, and the genre mashups more puzzling than ever. There is so much going on at any given moment that it becomes exhausting in the end.

This Pittsburgh-based outfit has always been vocal about their not wanting to tread water nor to be pigeonholed, and they certainly put some weight behind their philosophy on “Underneath”. It is practically impossible to think of another band that sounds like Code Orange despite the fact that they source their inspiration from far and wide. Hell, the group hardly sound like themselves between one album and the next. But while their unbridled creativity is without a doubt an asset for the five musicians, it also means that their music is always straddling a tightrope between ingenuity and chaos. My final verdict on “Underneath” is thus likely to be seen as contentious, as where others have bestowed untold plaudits upon the record and placed it at or near the top of their albums of the year lists, my grade book notes that it sticks out in too many directions to paint a coherent picture and, in spite of multiple standout moments, it ends up confusing rather than amazing me.


Download: Swallowing the Rabbit Whole, In Fear, You and You Alone, Last Ones Left
For the fans of: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Full of Hell, Nine Inch Nails, Vein
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.03.2020
Roadrunner Records

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