Album Review: Code Orange - Underneath
Artist: Code Orange
Review by Steve Jenkins
There comes a time in every bands career when their artistic passion and direction takes them on a path that will either skyrocket them to success or see them revert back to square one. Code Orange are a band that have started from humble beginnings in the hardcore scene, gradually evolving into one of the most unique and celebrated bands since the early days of Slipknot. Taking elements of 90's alternative metal, nu-metal, industrial and of course the roots of their foundation, hardcore. The Pittsburgh natives are on a mission to take the heavy music world by storm whilst rattling some cages at the same time, and Underneath is proof that their bark is as big as their bite.
The introduction to this album is called "(deeperthanbefore)" which is basically a haunting and uncomfortable slow build leading into the first track and already released single titled "Swallowing the Rabbit Whole." This song is simply crushing with some of the most intense and chaotic sounds we've heard from Code Orange to date. Everything from the breakdowns, pinch harmonics, industrial glitches and merciless vocals really make this a standout early on in the album. Next up is "In Fear", which features more sick and twisted moments and experimentation from the band, an extreme and relentless couple of tracks on offer at the beginning of the release much like their previous album Forever. But, things do get a bit more exploratory moving forward.
As Underneath progresses, so does Code Oranges sound with detailed precision and attention focused on groove, rhythm and measure. Clean vocals are utilised more also, which indicates a shift for the band toward a new era so to speak, but by no means does it come across as either offensive or unnecessary on the album. Everything Code Orange does, they do for a reason and there's a wonderful balance of brutality and calmness throughout. It's also clear that the band are looking long term with their ideas which will definitely open up some new and exciting avenues for them for many years to come. Using their influences and artistic ideas seem to be working incredibly well for Code Orange whilst still maintaining that cathartic hardcore sound. It's certainly hard to describe the combination of elements on Underneath and narrow it down to a specific genre or musical style, which in my opinion is a win-win for Code Orange as they won't be compared to other bands as much anymore, instead they have created their own unique sound. It's powerful, extreme and innovative all at once.
With the natural progression and songs like "Bleeding In The Blur" from the previous album easing listeners into that clean vocal style that Reba Meyers does so well, makes for less of a surprise when you hear the next single "Sulfur Surrounding." This track features plenty of clean vocals which will probably be a more featured component for the band as their career goes on, but I also feel that it's best used sparingly to make it seem more special. "Erasure Scan" brings back the discord and chaos with two minutes of just absolute hardcore insanity. The electronic time signatures mixed in with the cascading drums and frantic guitars are harsh yet calculated, reminding me of The Dillinger Escape Plan at times.
The production on Underneath is masterful and captures Code Orange so well in every single aspect of their core sound. The heaviness, the rawness, the crazy tempo changes, the vocals, are all mapped out extremely well. Musically, in this heavy music scene there aren't too many bands out there pushing the boundaries and breaking barriers on an artistic level like Code Orange are doing right now. You could say they are polarising, but with their experimentation and continuation of growth, 'Underneath' is a incredible representation of successfully building upon the foundation they've laid for themselves. With menacing and memorable moments that showcase the band’s advancement, this album offers just enough experimentation to keep things fresh and dynamic without compromising any of the heaviness their former releases possessed. Code Orange are the future, and the future is here.
Rating: 10 out of 10.
Underneath is out March 13th via Roadrunner Records.