Code Orange specialise in dark music. What that mostly translates to on record is doom-influenced hardcore with sludgy riffs and dissonant guitar stabs, but it is by no means limited to that. On 2014’s I Am King, fresh from dropping ‘Kids’ from their name, Code Orange showed they had aspirations away from hardcore by incorporating elements of shoegaze and post-punk on songs like ‘Dream in Inertia’. Now signed to Roadrunner, Forever is Code Orange asserting themselves as the self-proclaimed “thinners of the heard”. They’ve peddled a self-righteous, more-hardcore-than-thou line in interviews, directly attacking bands like Asking Alexandria who they see as somehow lessening the value of the harder end of rock music. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, it’s hard to deny they’re not making a case for themselves to be genre torch bearers on Forever.
Code Orange have never shied away from experimentation and on Forever this manifests itself in some of their most erratic song structures. The first three tracks are all turbulent exhibitions of the palette of sounds you’ll be hearing for the rest of the record. Take second track ‘Kill the Creator’, which slingshots in tempo between pure, screw-your-face-up sludge heaviness to breakneck hardcore and back again, stopping altogether for a short dark-ambient interlude, bursts of harsh noise or some samples of jangly guitar towards the tracks close. This shouldn’t work on paper, but the songs seem cohesive in their erraticness. The brief interludes allow for the riffs to hit harder when they drop back in and, more importantly, assist in creating the macabre, grisly atmosphere that separates Code Orange from any other hardcore band.
There are still these sudden switch ups later on in the record, but they tend to be toned down in favour of more cohesive ideas for songs rather than a collage of disparate sounds and tempos. ‘The Mud’, for example may feature an extended dark ambient interlude in the middle but it’s also one of the heavier and more claustrophobic tracks on the record, and so the interlude serves as a breather before throwing you straight back in. On the other extreme there’s ‘Bleeding in the Blur’, which is easily the closest thing to a traditional single on the record and a welcome moment of melody. It evokes something guitarist Reba Meyers may have written for the band’s dreamy pop punk side project Adventures, but filtered through the Code Orange sound palette.
Meyers also takes centre stage on closer ‘Dream2’, the quietest song on the record despite it repeatedly teasing a huge drop only to back away from it every time and then cut out in the middle of a line. This is the one time having a cut out actually hurt a song because at least the others actually cut out to something. It’s a limp ending for an album as abrasive as this, but Code Orange thrive on saying ‘fuck you’ to most things so at least it’s on brand.
Words by Jack Hollis