Code Orange — Underneath — Album Review

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Hardcore | Industrial | Experimental | Heavy Metal

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I believe that it was shortly after the release of their 2014 debut album I Am King, when I first heard about American hardcore quintet (plus a mysterious new drummer possibly) Code Orange. Formerly only consisting of four members, Code Orange offered a level of intensity I had scarcely heard of beforehand, and naturally this had me interested.

Things took an interesting new turn upon the release of their sophomore project Forever, which was released in very early 2017. This was my first proper dive into the bands music, and I enjoyed it enough to even see them live at the former Brighton venue The Haunt, further into that year.

One thing I had noticed about Code Orange from the very moment I knew of them, is that they channel rage and weave it into their music in a way that create something both enchanting and terrifying, like something you want to turn away from, but physically can’t.

But with the release of Forever, along with the band being signed on to Roadrunner Records, Code Orange also began to inject a lot of electronic experimentation into that album, and the resulting album was some kind of malfunctioning mechanical monstrosity.

As I both hoped and expected, this experimentation only increases with the bands latest project, Underneath.

For their 2020 album, the teasing began in the same year, with the first single being a title track, which came to us around mid-January. I was very pleased to hear that this track features the vocals of Guitarist Reba Meyers, continuing off from the likes of “Bleeding In The Blur”, and showing signs that Reba will have a lot more involvement than in past projects.

Upon the full album’s release, it was a relief to know that the vocals across the entire album are virtually a 50/50 split between Reba Meyers and Drummer/Vocalist Jami Morgan, as that seemed like the most ideal situation to come out of it, and while I really like Meyers’ vocals, there is no denying just how awesome Jami Morgans are as well.

Not only is there a split in vocal styles, but also in terms of musical mood. While Underneath is well-stocked with the kinds of unrelenting and savage bangers we’ve all come to know and love from the band, there is also a generous selection of more melodic tracks, with almost all of them utilising the more melodic vocal range of Reba Meyers.

I feel that this two-sided nature of the album really does do it a tonne of favours; each track feels like a nice departure from the last. However, the album simultaneously has an incredible flow and sense of transition from track to track. It is as consistent as it is musically diverse.

And despite not being completely hardcore focused this time around, Underneath still comes out on-top as the deepest, darkest, and most artistic project to date. It is incredibly exciting to discover the unique structure that Code Orange has built upon their hardcore foundations.

Thanks to the furthering of experimentation, which mainly involves making the album sound like it has a virus going through the whole thing, additionally makes Underneath some kind of musical nightmare sequence, full of the terror and confusion you would expect.

In terms of the albums concept, there are a few key concepts that this album might represent, such as the idea of hiding your true self away or being trapped in the confines of ones own anxieties, but all of what I have speculated does make the album feel like something I can bond closely with, as I am going through a lot of longing towards my own personal change.

While there were indeed a few tracks that took me slightly longer to become invested in than others, I am now writing this review at a point where I regard every track as one that at least contributes to the albums enjoyability and impact.

But what has honestly impressed me the most about Underneath, is just how much the band has grown since their debut. While I thought that 2017's Forever had absolutely crushed 2014's I Am King, Code Orange have once again topped their previous works. But this one feels especially important, not only for the band’s musical career, but the shape of heavy music to come. In other words, this album does really feel like the future of the genre.

Favourite Tracks: Swallowing The Rabbit Whole | In Fear | Last Ones Left | Back Inside the Glass | Underneath

Least Favourite Track: n/a

Roadrunner Records

10/10

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My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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