“The bar has been set astronomically high for Code Orange’s contemporaries, none have yet been able to come within touching distance of ‘Forever’ and I sincerely doubt any band will come close to Underneath.”
WORDS BY GEORGE DOHERTY
After much anticipation Code Orange have released their second album on Roadrunner Records and fourth total: Underneath. The follow up to 2017’s critically lauded album Forever (that saw the Pittsburgh hardcore group land a Grammy nomination and a vastly widened profile), Underneath marks another superhuman leap forward in the progression of Code Orange. Again working with producer Will Yip and bringing in Grammy nominated producer and drummer Chris Vrenna, the already eclectic fivesome have pushed the boundaries of their musical ability, and those of heavy music on the whole, further than they have ever been pushed before.
Underneath cycles through many different flavours, from the haunting balladry of Sulfur Surrounding and title track Underneath to the unrelenting venom of Erasure Scan and Cold Metal Place Code Orange demonstrate that they can perform all manner of heavy music better than any other band. The development of Code’s ability to write hooks and choruses has come on leaps and bounds since Forever, with tracks like Who I Am and The Easy Way sounding ready to fill arenas the world over.
Since 2014’s I Am King Code Orange albums have always done a good job of communicating a sense of horror to the listener, whilst the horror elements in Forever and I Am King are quite clear cut (think Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Underneath evokes a deeper kind of psychological horror. From the opening seconds of (deeperthanbefore) keyboardist Eric ‘Shade’ Balderose channels The Shining score with deep droning synths that seem to weigh heavily on the listener’s chest. Underneath produces an almost Lovecraftian horror, as though it consumes the listener without any real thought, as though it’s just doing so to survive; something that is tapped in to by now frontman Jami Morgan on tracks like Swallowing the Rabbit Whole where he growls:
“You’re staring in to your new God’s soul, I’m swallowing the rabbit whole”
Code Orange clearly know they’re the best band on the planet in the year 2020 and are happy to lean in to it, again evoking this idea on the single Sulfur Surrounding with vocalist and guitarist Reba Meyers snarling “You wanna see it through God’s eyes, so I’m coming”.
Upon the release of Forever and the subsequent The Hurt Will Go On EP Code Orange were knocking on the door of a club that includes Nine Inch Nails, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and any other band that have pushed the boundaries of what was possible in heavy music. With Underneath, Code have taken a battering ram to the door of that club, barrelled all the way through it and smashed through the opposite wall to where they now stand alone as the single most vital and forward-thinking heavy band in decades. The bar has been set astronomically high for Code Orange’s contemporaries, none have yet been able to come within touching distance of ‘Forever’ and I sincerely doubt any band will come close to Underneath. Put simply, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe this record and no amount of hyperbole can truly do it justice, you simply have to hear it and experience the first truly great record of the decade.
FOR FANS OF
Nine Inch Nails | Type O Negative | Slipknot | The Dillinger Escape Plan | Converge