By Andrew Willoughby
As a genre, hardcore punk has been relatively stagnant for the past decade. Only two or three acts have brought anything new to the table as of late. One of those bands is Code Orange, although they’d likely prefer to smash the table to tiny pieces.
Since their debut record in 2012, Code Orange has been one of the loudest, most aggressive and in-your-face acts in the punk community. With each release, they seem to get more and more intense.
This remains true with their third full-length album, “Forever.”
With the album’s first line, “When hands are caught in my brother’s pocket, I’ll burn my gods down,” Code Orange makes their message clear.
Nonconformity and anti-fascism are major themes throughout the album’s 35-minute runtime. The track “Kill The Creator” speaks volumes of today’s political climate. Although lines such as “You’ve misused your influence / You’ve confused our congruence for cluelessness / Now it’s your turn to pay for it” and “Out with the old, in with the new means / The death of your bully mentality / The death of your mentor hypocrisy / The death of your political strategy” may not be directly referencing the current President of the United States, but they certainly fit in with the voice of his loud opposition.
Since their inception nearly 10 years ago, Code Orange has just about perfected the breakdown. In a world overpopulated by generic and cliché breakdowns from metalcore and post-hardcore bands, Code Orange manages to make theirs feel particularly fresh and hard-hitting, especially on “Real,” “Mud” and the title track.
The guitars throughout the entirety of this album are some of the heaviest, yet catchiest hardcore has to offer – even on quieter songs such as “Bleeding in the Blur.”
Next to guitars, what stands out on this album the most are the vocals. The band has three vocalists who each seem to have an equal amount of playtime. The group’s growls and throat-shredding screams could no doubt put most modern hardcore acts to shame. The one issue is most of the time, it’s hard to tell their voices apart.
Code Orange experiments more than ever with this new album. The jarring time signatures, abrupt beginnings and endings to songs and the implementation of much more electronic instrumentation than previous efforts are what make Code Orange stand out the most amongst their contemporaries.
Some purists of the genre haven’t taken much of a liking to this album, primarily because of a few standout tracks. “Bleeding in the Blur,” “Ugly” and the two closing tracks “Hurt Goes On” and “dream2” see a departure from Code Orange’s usual sound. However, tonally, they fit in perfectly with the rest of the record.
Expecting a band to continually pump out music that sounds the same is just unrealistic. A band’s music needs space to experiment and mature as their band members do. I applaud them for moving out of their comfort zones and making something fresh.
The most glaring issue with “Forever” is its ending. The second-to-last track “Hurt Goes On” starts out slowly with a simple booming bassline on top of vocals reminiscent to early Nine Inch Nails. At the halfway point, the vocals rise in urgency and the distorted electronic instrumentation picks up. Finally, the track explodes with the album’s catchiest and heaviest guitar riff.
This would be the perfect ending to the record, but after comes “dream2.” It’s by no means a bad song. It would just feel more at home towards the middle of the album, especially with its abrupt ending, literally cutting off vocalist Reba Meyers mid-sentence.
Despite its few issues, Code Orange came through with a third fantastic record. Any fan of heavier music will no doubt enjoy at least a few tracks, if not the whole thing.