The Pittsburgh leaders of the new wave Code Orange are back again to refine heavy music!
Following up on their critically acclaimed 2020 record “Underneath” Code Orange has returned with their next leap in their sonic journey with the mighty “The Above”.
When the band first unleashed 2014’s “I Am King” it saw the band’s first attempt at carving their own sound in the landscape of the hardcore scene. The album was a huge milestone within the music scene but 2017’s “Forever” helped put them into the limelight. Joining the mighty Roadrunner Records & releasing one of the heaviest but also experimental albums in the last decade the band were on the rise & taking everything they wanted.
Unfortunately due to the pandemic 2020’s monolith album “Underneath” & its touring run didn’t even get to begin. So the band embarked on a series of groundbreaking live streams which again helped the band propel themselves more into the heavy metal consciousness. “Underneath” saw the band fully flesh out their mix of 90s metal, industrial, trip-hop & pop hooks to create the most diverse & phenomenal albums of the decade.
Now with “The Above” the group are back with a bang. Continuing their thematic journey into the human condition.
As album opener “Never Far Apart” creeps open like the soundtrack to a snuff film, duct tape rips merge with heavy sub-bass driving the song while vocalist Jami Morgan’s lull you in a sinister manner. Then in a surprising switch guitarist & vocalist Reba Meyers’s sultry tones push the chorus featuring beautiful keys creating a total contrast to the rest of the track.
As it builds, “Do it, do it, do it!” is repeated, filling you with dread as the band turns up the intensity. They unleash a groove-heavy riff that beats you over the head & doesn’t stop. It’s only the first track & they are already leaving the listener on the ground beaten & bloody.
“Take Shape” (feat. Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins) sees the band’s next evolution into dominating the rock world. Thunderous bass from Joe Goldman drives the verses. Morgan’s most emotive vocal performance also slowly pulls you in. As the track builds to the chorus the whole band releases in a huge explosion of distortion. With a catchy melody that instantly gets stuck in your head.
The band gives you a brief moment of calm as Corgan’s eerie but angelic feature starts to build the closing moments. “Spread your wings” say’s Corgan & that’s exactly what the band does. A hard hitting track that will be a live favourite.
One of the most surprising moments on the album “Mirror” is a pure delight. A mix of trip hop, acoustic ballad & grunge hit. Even with the layers of tones the band use to elevate the track it’s a very stripped back track that feels like a nice palette cleanse but also feels like it could be the biggest track for the band. Merging genres this track has it all. Creepy atmosphere but also pure beauty with Meyers solo vocals on the song.
A track like “Splinter The Soul” really showcases what Code Orange are capable of. With a track like this they will firmly become this generation’s Slipknot or Fear Factory. The ability to write heavy, brutal tracks but still keep a form of pop sensibility helps them create tracks that stand out but also blur the lines of genres. A huge chorus makes this track up there with one of the bands catchiest & hardest hitting.
Code Orange also shows that their harcore muscle is always ready to flex, “Grooming My Replacement” is a pure display of the chaotic metallic style that they have been crafting & harnessing since the bands inception is now a sharp tool that can dissect you at any moment. Also writing one of the heaviest breakdowns in the band’s history is a feat as they already are the kings of spin kick moments. True punishment with this one.
Title track & album closer “The Above” feels like the biggest track the band have designed so far. The band are slowly becoming the new Nine Inch Nails of this decade. The use of synths & beats drive the first half of the track. Setting the tone & mood as Morgan’s impeccable singing really creates a mental picture.
Max Portnoy’s hard hitting drums pounce in taking you by surprise, while guitarist Reba Meyers, Dominic Landolina & Eric “Shade” Balderose lead riff punches through, as the track climbs the whole band come together for a hypnotic & flowing track. As the track ends it feels like the perfect closing moment to an album that has taken you on the most epic music journey you will ever experience.
Code Orange will always be a band who’s pushing progression. Each record they are able to shape themselves into the strongest version they want to create. By doing so they have the ability to become one of the most diversified bands of the modern times.
As a group they do exactly what they want & play by their own rules. Which means the band yet again have been able to give the listener an album full of moments that you didn’t know you needed but somehow once you hear it you wonder why has it has been missing all your life.
“The Above” is a genre bending album that has raised the bar for everyone to catch up. Meaning Code Orange are becoming the biggest band of the next decade & will prove that this is Code Oranges world.
Review Joseph Mitchell
The Above is out via Blue Grape Music on 29th September 2023