From their teenage metallic hardcore beginnings as Code Orange Kids, to their stylistic shift to groove-heavy metalcore and subsequent name change, to their continuous appearances on high profile festivals and tours, Code Orange have positioned themselves as one of the extreme metal acts to watch. Regardless of how one might feel about their persona and change in sound, it is impressive to see a band so young climb to such ranks in such a short amount of time.
It seems like all eyes are fixated on this Pennsylvanian quartet, especially after the release of the critically-lauded I Am King. Their drastic sonic shift between Love is Love/Return to Dust and I Am King is proof of the band’s volatile nature, making it nebulous as to where they would venture next. So, naturally, their third full-length release, Forever, quickly became one of the most anticipated releases of the new year after it was announced. Now that it is here, it is sure to rake in potential new fans and simultaneously divide the old ones.
On one hand, Forever builds upon the chunky metalcore and nu-metal undertones of I Am King and pushes them to new, bludgeoning highs. The title track is a perfect example as it storms right out of the gate and attacks the listener viciously. Pummeling, groove heavy riffs, short breakdown bursts, upward pick scrapes and menacing harmonics all converge into one massive beatdown of a track. Cuts like “Real” cycle between cacophonous bursts of angularity and chugging devastation, while tunes like “The New Reality” capitalize on rhythmically jarring, mosh-worthy, sludgy lurches that bands like Disembodied pioneered. When Forever wants to be vicious, it’s pretty damn vicious.
On another hand, Forever pulls out some interesting surprises that may have some listeners taken aback. “Bleeding in the Blur” scales back the breakdowns and the dissonance in favor of a gritty, chorus-heavy alternative metal anthem that could very easily make its way to the radio-waves. Another interesting moment on the record is the closer, “dream2”. This melancholic, sprawling track ditches any kind of metallic or aggressive tone in favor of creeping, atmospheric guitars that come across like a stripped-down shoegaze tune.
But sometimes the surprises Forever dishes out aren’t for the better. “Kill the Creator” has a wealth of stellar riffs that range from angular beatdowns and atmospheric splendor, but are unfortunately spliced together with annoyingly random bursts of harsh noise and ambient soundscapes. Thought it is an admirable feat to try and make a track as multifaceted as possible, it unfortunately comes across as cluttered and try-hard. The band employ a similar technique, though not quite as jarring, on the song “The Mud”. Here the band weave together elements of industrial with their caustic blend of breakdown heavy metalcore. But unfortunately these industrial moments rear their head rather randomly and disrupt the flow of the song, rather than enhance it.
The industrial vibe makes an appearance again in the track “Hurt Goes On”, which is arguably one of the album’s weakest moments. The track has a rather lifeless and one-dimensional electronic dirge that carries throughout the track, and is accompanied by some very cringe-worthy lyrics. It’s an interesting turn of events for sure, but its inherent cheesiness makes it hard to take seriously.
When Forever works, it works. The testosterone-fueled, piss and vinegar attitude and thick, grimy riffs definitely shine on the album’s most aggressive moments. Even the more rock-oriented numbers and dreamier moments have their place on this record. But some of the band’s experimentation seems forced, making some of the songs feel somewhat choppy. It has been an admirable feat for Code Orange to navigate the extreme music waters in the way that they have been, but it appears that there are still some growing pains.
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Label: Roadrunner Records
Favorite Tracks: “Forever”, “Real”, “Bleeding in the Blur”, “The New Reality” and “Spy”
For Fans Of: Disembodied, Harms Way and Will Haven