Seemingly all finished hassling Deafheaven’s George Clarke for being attractive and neatly dressed and Nails’ Todd Jones for defending himself against disrespectful foreign journalists, the mainstream gatekeepers of metal blogosphere set their sights on Pittsburgh, PA post hardcore act Code Orange, who supposedly had the audacity to meld their punky, thrashy hardcore attack with the light industrial and clean singing elements of that most hated of heavy subgenres: nu metal.
Firing up “Forever”, Code Orange’s new LP, their third overall and first on metal institution Roadrunner, will have you wondering (not for the first time or the last) what the hell the detractors were talking about (what happened to you, AV Club, you used to be cool). There’s definitely a heavy (VERY heavy) groove element in Code Orange’s arsenal but there’s nothing “nu” here, especially given the dexterity of multi armed madman Jami Morgan behind the drum kit, who also serves as the band’s principal vocalist.
Morgan’s vocals call to mind Zack De La Rocha at his most incensed, shades of his pre-Rage gig in seminal hardcore band Inside Out. Morgan’s not the only mouthpiece here though, with all four members of the band sharing stick time, but none more pronounced than guitarist Reba Myers on attention grabbing standout “Bleeding In The Blur”. Is this nu metal? Sounds more like post grunge/stoner kings Helms Alee to me, and it’s awesome, fitting well within the band’s established parameters but offering something completely new to chew on after three straight tracks of pummeling agro. Code Orange here, and elsewhere on the record, meld screams and singing in a wholly organic and welcome fashion, think The Dillinger Escape Plan or Every Time I Die, not radio play whoring active rock bullshit. Not here, not this band.
Haunting spoken word passages on synth tinged noise nightmare “Hurt Goes On” strengthen the Rage Against The Machine connection for me, followed by more of Myers’ masterful singing on challenging, prog leaning closer “Dream2”. Most of the record is pit ready thrash though, so if that’s all your here for then you won’t be disappointed at all, from stop/start blitzkrieg “Kill The Creator” to relentless, lumbering crusher “Spy”. Another fun surprise? The full on techno-fied jackhammering of “Mud”, clearing up any confusion the uneducated may have had about why Code Orange are on tour with Youth Code.
Code Orange was never not going to have an uphill climb in the eyes of most hardcore elitists when transitioning from Deathwish to 90’s metal mecca turned Nickelback factory Roadrunner, but this release (alongside Kvelertak’s “Nattesferd”) signal a comforting return to form for the once invincible label, recalling a time when they released records as dangerous, innovative and influential as the major label GlassJaw and Slipknot debuts within less than a year from one another.
As for the band themselves, “Code Orange is forever!” is as catchy a mosh pit battle cry as any, but the record “Forever” definitely makes it a more than believable proposition. I’d love to be talking about these guys in 20 years the same way I talk about Converge and Napalm Death now, and if their current songwriting skill, acrobatic instrumentation and fist pumping bravado are any indication, I will be.