One of the most intriguing and unpredictable bands in metal at the moment, Code Orange is back with a brand new album and a brand new set of surprises. Formerly known as Code Orange Kids, Code Orange have grown both musically and literally since their first demo, Winter Tour Demo (2009). Starting off as a hardcore punk band not yet old enough to play most venues, Code Orange Kids have come a long way and evolved into a band that doesn’t really fit into any one genre. In 2014 Code Orange decided to drop the “Kids” from their name and released their second studio album and what I would consider their breakthrough release, I Am King. Infusing their hardcore roots with elements of industrial, groove, alternative, metalcore, grunge, experimental and even some doom, they have created a unique and very unpredictable style with limitless possibilities. Now they’re back with a brand new release, Forever and it’s a step even further into their ongoing musical evolution.
From what I gather, the overall theme of Forever is anger. Everything from the videos to the album artwork has a red tinge to it. Much like I Am King had a green atmosphere pointing to a theme of envy. Forever takes the aggression and brutality levels to a new high but at the same time, it has a very eerie vibe to it as well. It’s an emotional album, not only lyrically but also musically with strange, unconventional transitions, sudden stops, a variety of tempos and dramatic changes in atmosphere. Code Orange‘s wide range and variety of vocals add to the overall emotion and feel of the record as well. With three members, all with unique and very different styles from one another contributing to the vocals, the music can switch from brutal to beautiful at the drop of a hat.
Forever opens with the title track, a brutal and grisly soundtrack that pummels your ears with intense vocals by Jami Morgan (drums) and Eric Balderose (guitar). The opening riff has a bit of a Gojira vibe to it, groovy and heavy with a cool guitar slide for added effect. One of the first things I noticed on Forever is the guitar and bass tones, they’re dirty, aggressive and suit the music Code Orange is portraying perfectly. The next two tracks, “Kill The Creator” and “Real” keep the intensity levels up, however, we get a few new elements added into the mix. “Kill The Creator” features a sudden stop followed by an electronic pulse that erupts back into the song. I’m sure this effect makes for some explosive mosh pits. It also features a cool little interlude to end the song which has an uncharacteristically smooth transition. “Real” is a very cool track with a lot of industrial influence sprinkled over Code Orange‘s signature hardcore base. It’s a very groovy song with very unconventional transitions, more sudden stops and a lot of tempo changes. Definitely a favorite of mine on Forever.
“Bleeding The Blur” is where Forever starts to get really outside the box for Code Orange. This is where we start to hear their alternative and grunge influence come to life. It features clean vocals for the most part by Reba Myers (guitar) and has a very 90’s vibe to it. To be honest, I dig this song quite a bit, it has an almost Alice In Chains meets Mastodon feel that is well composed. However, it sounds very out-of-place on the record. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Code Orange, it’s that they don’t give a shit about the “norm” and expect the unexpected. One thing that does feel right is having “The Mud” follow “Bleeding The Blur.” “The Mud” sort of eases us back into the intensity that Code Orange delivered at the beginning of the record. This is where the emotional aspect really comes through. It’s another track with heavy industrial influence in the vein of Nine Inch Nails. It also features some very awkward feeling sudden stops that have become the Code Orange signature move at this point.
The half way track on Forever is, “The New Reality.” Easily another favorite of mine on the album. It’s the shortest song on the record but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in heavy. It’s pure Code Orange hardcore for the first half of the song. The second half switches to a very Meshuggah sounding section with the guitars and drums playing completely different time signatures that is executed beautifully. Really cool song overall. Track seven is another cool track entitled, “Spy.” A heavy song with a variety of tempo shifts, groovy riffs, electronic elements and a heavy Soulfly influence structurally. On “Ugly” Code Orange displays their nu metal and alternative influence. It has a very different vibe than the rest of the album. It’s another track that just feels out-of-place in my opinion. It’s a good song, well composed and catchy like “Bleeding The Blur,” but just doesn’t sound right on the album as a whole. This is especially evident with “No One Is Untouchable” being the following song. “No One Is Untouchable” turns the intensity back up to eleven with another sure to be mosh pit hit. It’s a short track but keeps a steady tempo for the most part with beatdown riffs, groovy drumming, and heavy vocals.
“Hurt Goes On” is another track with a Nine Inch Nails type of vibe to it. It features a spoken word intro with industrial electronic pulsing building momentum in a slow and eerie manner before exploding into an industrial metal style chorus. The song ends with the same creepy industrial section that started the song, sending a shiver up your spine. The closing song on Forever, ” Dream2″ is another track with a very eerie atmosphere. “Dream2” really doesn’t have much to it. It features a mellow but sinister guitar riff with equally creepy keys and clean vocals by Reba Meyers. It stops in the most awkward place before it really builds into anything. I believe the goal was to leave an unsettling feeling over the listener and it does on the second or third time hearing it. However, the first time I heard it I thought there was something wrong with my CD. Not the strongest closer in my opinion. Like I said, it has the right effect on the second or third time listening but honestly, I think it would have been better to just fade it out or have it digress.
Overall, Forever is a very strong album. The creepy and grisly atmosphere is continuous through the entire record and Code Orange did a great job of sticking to the “red” theme. For the most part, the songs are well composed and memorable. The sudden stops and at times awkward transitions scattered through Forever might upset some but I feel like it adds to the unpredictability of Code Orange. It also gives Forever an emotional and eerie vibe, leaving the listener in an unsettling state. A few songs felt out-of-place when listening to the album as a whole but are still good songs and stand up well on their own. The production by Kurt Ballou and Will Yip is just awesome, Forever is a crystal clear, great sounding album.
Forever was released on January 13th through Roadrunner Records and is available through the Amazon link in the sidebar. I enjoyed Forever quite a bit. There are moments I didn’t enjoy as much as others but when bands experiment with new and different sounds that is to be expected. There’s way more to like than dislike for me on Forever so I gave it a respectable 664/666 horns way up. Code Orange is not afraid to experiment and go against the grain. Their unconventional, genre-defying approach to writing has gained them a lot of momentum and it will be exciting to see what they do next.
Shawn “Short-Fuse” Carter