By Leander Gloversmith
Ever since Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids) unleashed 2014 sophomore effort I Am King – an album which marked a quasi-rebirth for the Pennsylvania quartet, dropping the ‘Kids’ from both name and sonic stature – the band have been touted as the vanguard for a new heavy.
Uncompromising, and at times dramatically obnoxious (see: the blares which summon the album’s eponymous opener), I Am King was the sound of a band in a state of feral revelry, basking in their own scattergun ferociousness. Toying with elements drawn in equal measure from metal, hardcore, sludge, post-hardcore and beyond like there were no rules (Psst – there aren’t, pass it on), in one fell swoop Code Orange ascended from Ballou-core acolytes to A New Hope; a band who could successfully combine ‘metal’ and ‘core’ without being that thing.
But with great power and all that, and toss in a label move from underground tastemaker Deathwish to metal institution Roadrunner, and it’s a chunk of weighty anticipation sat atop I Am King’s follow up. Was that album’s unexpected bucket of Molotov cocktails a moment in time, a happy accident that its makers could not repeat?
Code Orange have, above all, proved to be anything but predictable and formulaic, their almost ADD approach to songwriting and carefree genre-mashing perhaps too genuinely spontaneous to come up trumps a second time.
Fortunately, within moments of Forever’s titular opening salvo, such questions are firmly answered, any doubts firmly assuaged – and you’re wearing the bruises to prove it: Lightning can strike twice, and it would appear that son of Lightning is out for blood.
Forever roars into gear from its first moment, its title track, ‘Kill The Creator’ and ‘Real’ tearing at your throat like a triumvirate of rabid wolves, the surround-sound melodrama defying you to find your bearings inside Code Orange’s sonic abyss. Truth be told, on initial listens one could be forgiven for finding the album’s jagged shapes and jarring shifts a challenge to navigate – for make no mistake, Code Orange are throwing the kitchen sink at you this time out.
But, for all its bludgeoning immediacy, Forever’s true majesty reveals itself to those that persevere, as repeat listens see the band’s undeniable musicality rearing its head, the quartet’s songwriting savvy seemingly irrepressible, no matter how intense and urgent their apparent need to also exorcise every ounce of distaste running in their veins through their grinding and pulsing, slurring and screaming instruments.
Indeed, It only takes one listen to the Nirvanaian undertones of ‘Ugly’ or the urgent drive of the already acclaimed ‘Bleeding In The Blur’ to realise that these aren’t big venue metal/hardcore anthems – Anthems – written by fluke. Code Orange could have made an absolute barnstormer of an alternative rock album and crossed over, far beyond the threshold of Very Aggressive Music – but, they didn’t.
It’s truly that conviction, coupled with a glaring ambition to twist the borders of metal and hardcore and their many cousins into bold, eccentric new shapes that forms the concrete foundation of Forever’s ultimately irresistible appeal. For what’s more, as the album’s closing couplet of ‘Hurt Goes On’ and ‘dream2’ dip deftly into Reznor territory and Chelsea Wolfe-cum-shoegaze respectively, you begin to get the feeling that Code Orange have barely begun to scratch the surface. Perhaps Forever is not Code Orange’s Jane Doe Moment, but go just a few rounds with it and you’ll know for sure that they have one in them.
The future’s bright… You know the rest.