Hardcore can be a difficult genre to shake up in any significant way, its entrenched values strengthening its foundations and sense of identity but sometimes limiting what can be done and the impact that can be made. Shaking things up though is exactly what CODE ORANGE seem to have in mind, and without compromise. They’re not afraid to voice their opinion on the rock landscape in which they find themselves in, whether it be openly distancing themselves from “bargain bin deathcore bands” or directly calling out the likes of ASKING ALEXANDRIA for obnoxious rock star behaviour, and after dropping the “Kids” from the end of their moniker and releasing the powerhouse I Am King in 2014 their position is already enviable. With their signing to a newly reenergised Roadrunner Records, CODE ORANGE have a real shot here at making themselves known, and frankly with an album like Forever it’s hard not to imagine that happening with the force of a colliding planet.
Forever is indeed a hardcore record, but without sacrificing the aggression, brutish intensity and passionate vehemence that makes it so, its tropes and conventions are toyed with at every turn, either accentuated or subverted completely. The first listen is an absolute thrill ride, the listener quite simply strapped in, tossed around in wild different directions and told to deal with it. The joy of further listens comes not only in that maintained visceral high but getting inside those twists and turns and becoming part of the mayhem. The gauntlet is thrown down in spectacular style instantaneously with the title track, its opening unsettling throbs leading into an unstoppable scraping riff designed to make fists fly. There’s a sense of overt confidence that’s impossible to ignore, the band never shying away from giving everything to what they’re doing right up to the declaration that “CODE ORANGE is forever” before a pulverising breakdown.
Kill the Creator is savage and frenetic, a stomping groove twenty seconds in simply devastating and then being chewed up and disposed with within six seconds, but equally expands very much on the record’s more experimental side. Throughout blasts of industrial noise are abruptly but not randomly placed at points where you would usually be lulled into expecting a track to go somewhere else. Far from dissatisfying, it makes the juggernaut breakdowns and low end riffs all the more terrifying and awe-inspiring, enough power in these moments to cause eyes to roll into the backs of heads and bodies to shrivel under the weight. For every The New Reality or No One is Untouchable which are pure violent slogs recalling the brute force of where they’ve come from, there’s something like the thudding electronics of The Mud which are as dirty and downtrodden as its title, or the opening hits of Real shrouded in swirling black horror and its bulldozer main riff giving way to an almost NINE INCH NAILS-esque pulse as the track also manages to house Forever’s most rallying mosh call (“This is real now, motherfucker!”).
The most special moment in an album full of surprises comes in Bleeding in the Blur, the closest thing CODE ORANGE have ever had to a conventional single but still managing to positively reek of ever-encroaching darkness and a refusal to abide by the rules. Along with the ALICE IN CHAINS locked in a sewer feel of Ugly, a love of 90s alt rock comes to fore as Swedish death metal crunch collides with gothic pop noir, Reba Meyers’ clean vocals just one of many engaging voices the band have in their arsenal. Drummer Jami Morgan’s incensed yelp seems to incite violence and guttural growls emerge to punctuate heaviness, the climax of Bleeding in the Blur as the full weight of the band at their most deathly comes crashing back being one of the album’s most exhilarating points. The album itself seems to spiral downwards into more and more suffocating territories, Hurt Goes On building into a full on industrial dancefloor banger but with a hardcore attack before dream2 ends things on the eerie. It’s not a particularly long record clocking in at just over half an hour, but this is not a NAILS album charging in, tearing the place to pieces and getting out again in a frenzied blur. Instead, Forever is closer to 2008 French horror masterstroke Martyrs, where the passage of time becomes detached and abstract as all that remains is ceaseless beating and pain. It’s a record akin to waking up from a graphic and horrifying nightmare, only to discover you’re still covered in blood and need new teeth. CODE ORANGE have already made a dent in hardcore and more simplistic bands will continue to ape them, but Forever sees them steamrolling right to the front of the pack, and in 2017 the bar has been set outrageously high very early on.
Forever is due to be released January 13th via Roadrunner Records.
For more information on Code Orange like their official page on Facebook.