ALBUM REVIEW: Code Orange – Underneath
Code Orange frontman/ringleader/director of chaos (whichever way you want to refer to him as) Jami Morgan has regularly, from behind his drumkit between songs, called for what can diplomatically be referred to as new blood to come in and dominate the heavy music scene, to burn their gods down perhaps. Morgan and company are a competitive force, with no interest in playing nice for the sake of it. They want the world, and everything that’s in their way is something to be destroyed.
The reason we bring this up is it helps us understand the mindset this band operates in, for those of you reading this wondering what the fuss is about. They have no interest in using half measures, no truck with just getting by creatively. The first time you hear this album, especially if you’re using headphones, you will almost certainly feel like you’ve been inside a tumble dryer set to its most nonsensically long setting. If we told you that there is a lot going on, we would still be underselling it.
(Deeperthanbefore) is an ominous, creepy intro piece that absolutely recalls Slipknot in all the right ways, stuffed to the gills with glitchy noises designed to rile, to induce unease and create what Peep Show’s resident crackhead Superhans would call “a powerful sense of dread”. Giving way to the absolutely gargantuan rollercoaster of chaos that is Swallowing The Rabbit Hole, a song that will make you want to charge down dark corridors with strobe lighting looking for your next kill, this is an utterly feral, savage to the point of psychotic opening gambit. Shade Balderose’s horrifying distortions of noise mixed with his absolute dragon of a growl seem designed to inflict maximum suffering throughout. You will work them out after about ten listens. They will still hit you in the face with the same venom every time.
Around track five, Who I Am, just when you think you have been beaten down into a broken pulp, you are blessed with something that resembles a singable chorus, and not for the only time on this record, especially in the case of mid-album double whammy Sulfur Surrounding and The Easy Way, which repurposes the lyric from 2018 standalone single Only One Way. Reba Meyers makes a serious case for this albums most valuable player, her delivery improved and her riffs just hit new levels of crushing throughout. If they aren’t playing the title-track live until they retire, a trick is being missed. Her voice also raises the stomping Alice In Chains-evoking Autumn and Carbine into even greater heights.
Electronic programming assistance for this album was brought by Chris Vrenna, a man who has collaborated with basically everyone who has ever used a synth or keyboard in heavy music, and his guiding hand is most definitely felt hardest on tracks like Erasure Scan and Underneath, which also possess the album’s biggest vocal hook. The band also worked with Nick Raskiuleincz, a man who’s CV is a who’s who of incredible artists such as Alice In Chains, Rush and Ghost to name but three. Will Yip also returns, continuing his long running association with the band. The soundscapes on this album often make you feel like your being stabbed in the ear from every possible angle with every possible bladed article that exists on this planet. Take a bow, all.
Underneath is an indecently thrilling, punishing-yet-utterly exhilarating ride that makes its illustrious predecessor seem like a children’s tea party in terms of its approach. The level of ambition is dizzying, synthesising so many elements of sound to continue forging a path that their peers, not just in hardcore, will spend the next half decade trying to emulate. To borrow one of the most apt lyrics “you’ve got it all figured out, until you’re drowning in it.” There will be those who love hardcore who utterly denounce this album, but this will not bother Code Orange one tiny ounce. They will not be constrained and will not blunt their creative axe for anyone or anything. It’s their world and it turns out Code Orange may well be forever.
Standout Tracks: Swallowing The Rabbit Hole, The Easy Way, Back Inside The Glass, Underneath
For Fans Of: Slipknot, Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative
Written by: Louis Tsangarides