That Code Orange presents itself as a united front is not necessarily unique; look through the annals of music history and you’ll see countless combos across a plethora of genres pledging to take on the world, one song at a time. That said, not every act does it with such punishing precision as this particular Pittsburgh hardcore quartet. Forever, their first full-length for mega metal hub Roadrunner, tools the menacing approach they’ve been taking since first forming in 2008 as Code Orange Kids, the median age at that time being about 15. As the formal introduction to a wider audience, the lead-off title track to their major label debut is a tough and taut assault of discordant guitar chugging, pass-the- mic screaming, and femur-snapping beats. “We walk a path of re-creation,” multi-instrumentalist Eric Balderose growls self-referentially of the fine tuning, adding furthermore of the group’s incendiary battle plan: “four versus all.”
Code Orange keep things just as confrontational throughout Forever. “Real” savages listeners with detuned guitar trilling and the seizure-inducing blur of drummer Jami Morgan's double kick, while lyrically tackling “short term thinkers” that refuse to push the culture further. Later, the viciously bounced “The New Reality” finds the percussionist howl-rapping his proposed takedown of the old guard with a knife against their throats. This is supported by lead guitarist Reba Meyers’ death metal- informed, palm-muted riffs and Balderose’s brain-burrowing synth drone.
More than any other element on Forever, it’s Balderose’s shift towards these more electronic tones that push Code Orange into their latest phase. To be fair, he’s still offering up plenty of chunky six-string sounds alongside Meyers on crushers like “Spy” and 2014’s I Am King did feature its share of screeched sonics, but Balderose has become braver with his digital soundscaping. “Kill the Creator,” for instance, initially whips itself into a frenzy of double-time snare hits and palm-muted riffs, but it abruptly twists into a moody wash of ambiance arguably more suitable for the soundtrack of a gritty first-person shooter than a mosh pit. The multi-part monstrosity ends with a fractured stretch of white noise.
Though the album is grounded in metallic hardcore, single “Bleeding in the Blur” is an excellent side- venture that presents alt-rock gloom via a melodic-yet- dark vocal turn from Meyers and a comparatively conventional-though-cookin’ guitar solo from guest axe-slinger Arthur Rizk. While, lyrically, Code Orange are looking to obliterate the past, penultimate “Hurt Goes On” is an experiment in unsettlingly oscillated keyboard sounds and industrial-style explosions that conjures up classic Nine Inch Nails.
Awash in nocturnal, eerily moist guitar tones, deceptively low-key closing cut “dream2” has Meyers concluding the LP by once again setting the band apart from the general fray (“I’m just not you anymore, I’m just in a different place….I just can’t relate”).
While still comfortable razing speakers with violent rhythms and slash-and- burn licks, Code Orange’s latest also successfully colours outside the confines of metalcore. Only time will tell as to what comes next from the experimenters, but ten years into their career and still breaking boundaries, it’s clear they’re in it for the long haul. As they put it bluntly: “Code Orange is forever.”
-review by Gregory Adams