Album Review: Forever - Code Orange
By Benjamin Irons
Formerly Code Orange Kids, the Pennsylvania 4-piece have outstayed their welcome as hardcore’s novices as they break into the big time with their latest record Forever, under Roadrunner Records – their debut on a major label.
Art and layout design by Kimi Hanauer.
The jump from the underground scene to the limelight in the years prior to earning their major-label calibre can be owed to the success of their last record I Am King (2014), which, although was still a learning curve for them, pushed all sorts of boundaries for a hardcore record at that time. What with its cataclysmic, sludge-fest of distorted riffs and overly violent arrangements, the band became famed for defying the strict conventions of their field and, in turn, reeled in a whole new crowd of metal fanatics that had been hungering for a heavier-than-heavy sound. Excessive touring with the likes of Touché Amoré, Slayer and Deftones later spread the word from across the pond, and they quickly secured themselves a global fan base. Within just a couple of years, the band had soon become the emerging faces of American hardcore, and the heavy metal movement respectively. As a result, the “Kids” in their name could not have felt more inappropriate, even if they were still in their early twenties.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that their newest entry Forever be met with much the same acclaim. Title track “Forever” proceeds with a distorted, Billy-the-Puppet-esque monologue before off-loading sluggish riffs and distressed vocals, and switching between tempos before culminating into a brutally lethargic outro of heavy-handed chaos that Code Orange are known for. “Kill the Creator” then explodes brashly into a breakneck opening passage, upping the ante with gut-punching throbs in the mid section and a crowning verse of pure white noise – and not the ambient type.
"Kill the Creator" video directed by Brandon Allen Bolmer, who's influences include English graphic designer Storm Thorgerson and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.
Their most obvious transfer to their major-label comes to the fore on the single “Bleeding In the Blur”. Guitarist Reba Meyers takes the lead on this track – as well as on the closer “Dream2” – as they take a momentary departure from their usual, abrasive sound, to offer up something a little bit more radio-friendly, which, personally, is no great shock when you consider their shift to a more standardised code of conduct at Roadrunner. However, to put it bluntly, the track is much too tame for a hardcore act, never mind for just Code Orange, and, hence, seems a little ill fitted for this type of record. The same goes for the equally passive “The Mud”, which is remarkably uncommon for a band that nurture high-energy, animated sets when performing live.
But, just when you thought they’d shown their sensitive side, they give no quarter and restore their violent form on “Spy”; awash with a rugged structure of shrieking guitars and lumbering instrumentation that feels right at home. But power through the swampier textures on “Ugly” and “No One Is Untouchable” and you’re greeted by a dormant intermission on “Hurt Goes On”. Though, this is one of the more successful attempts at "toning down", and it channels a kind of Nine-Inch-Nails-esque, atmospheric palette of unnerving frequencies and disturbing monologues that read like the most intense, claustrophobic, nightmare scenario– “I want to hurt you mentally”.
Forever is a clear step up from their sophomore full lengths (Love Is Love/Return To Dust (2012), I Am King (2014)), but it’s not their most ground-breaking. Sonically, there are parts of the record that allude to the idea that they’ve been softened or conditioned by label demands. This is evident on tracks like “Bleeding In the Blur” and “Dream2”, which are both embellished in clean vocals and feature almost none of the hallmarks of their accustomed sound. So for a band like Code Orange, who made their name by being deliberately anarchistic in their sound, it’s almost not worth toning them down. Howbeit, the record is still heavy, and what's more it has certainly opened the floor for the crew from Pittsburgh to show their truer colours and surely land a spot amongst metal-crossovers’ upper crust. That I’m sure they will achieve.