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‘Underneath’ is a glitch-ridden hardcore apocalypse that sits in equilibrium

‘Underneath’ is a glitch-ridden hardcore apocalypse that sits in equilibrium

‘Underneath’ is a glitch-ridden hardcore apocalypse that sits in equilibrium
March 24
13:00 2020

Deep inside the underbelly of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Code Orange arises once again as one of the premiere U.S. hardcore acts to serve up another glitch-ridden dose of hardcore punk and metalcore. The group has always flirted with the traditional elements of the American hardcore scene, which can be traced back to the 1980s, but gravitates toward having punchier production more telling of modern practices in the studio.

This knack for the sound of hardcore titans in the vein of Converge, Integrity, and Black Flag has remained in Code Orange’s DNA since its inception around 2008, but didn’t really start making ripples within the hardcore scene until around 2012 with the release of its debut studio album, “Love Is Love / Return to Dust,” still under their past moniker of Code Orange Kids.

Along with “Love Is Love / Return to Dust,” Code Orange’s next studio album, “I Am King” would find the band embracing a massively abrasive style of hardcore that put an emphasis on disorienting song structure and heavy metal riffing. It was evident the band had a good grasp on its influences, but wanted to bring something refreshing to the table. Ironically, this would be found in the generic sea of radio rock / metal.

Code Orange released its third studio album titled “Forever” in 2017, which found guitarist Eric “Shade” Balderose putting more of an emphasis on electronic program, so other guitarist Reba Meyers would have to carry the guitar on her back. The band’s heaviest tracks were as heavy as they ever were, but they also began to contradict that with streamlined radio-ready tracks like “Bleeding in the Blur” that called upon the sounds of Nine Inch Nails and other industrial outfits. Bassist Joe Goldman and drummer / vocalist Jami Morgan would find themselves continuously pushing their rhythms in frantic, bewildering directions.

In 2020, Code Orange is now over a decade old, so where does it go from here? The band decides to put out their most streamlined, apocalyptic release yet with “Underneath.”

In the past, Code Orange went for a more conventional album runtime which packed many shorter tracks with some longer performances as the centerpieces. “Underneath” finds the band stuffing all their ideas into one package, which can be a cool experience from time to time, but it can also harm the album’s flow.

The first five tracks are a summation of Code Orange’s whole career up to this point and contain some of the most exciting music of the band’s whole career. Intro track “(deeperthanbefore)” provides a passage of ambience before hitting you with a blast of bloodcurdling screams that would do well in a horror film filtered through the matrix.

“Swallowing the Rabbit Hole” plays with disheveled verse structure through tape glitches, throwing the listener off the timing of the song. It contains no shortage of breakdowns and will easily become a crowd favorite at shows.

“In Fear” and “You and You Alone” are riveting companion pieces which hold the most exciting breakdowns on the whole album, weaving in and out of pure sonic absurdity and clean-cut hardcore punk in its raw and traditional form. After these three tracks bat you over the head for 10 minutes, it smoothly transitions into the smoky and almost sensual “Who I Am,” a straightforward and immaculately produced radio-ready metal song with Reba Meyers taking lead vocal duties.

These ideas would be recycled in less creative and ambitious ways as the rest of the album plays out. It’s not to say the remainder of the album is bad, but it’s evident the cohesion loses steam. Too many tracks are bundled together with similar tracks.

“Sulfur Surrounding” and “The Easy Way” are duller versions of the style of “Who I Am,” while “Erasure Scan” and “Last Ones Left” are pleasant enough metalcore but provide nothing but filler. Worse yet, they’re all back-to-back.

The main point is this album could’ve done with some trimming, as their earlier albums were brisker in nature. The 14 songs presented have some of Code Orange’s best ideas to date, yet it feels like it’s trying to pack it all into one song, so the interesting, disorienting nature of the tracks come off as more of an ingenuine gag.

I won’t say the album is a dud, though. Code Orange has found a way to appeal to mainstream metal audiences without selling out. The nature of the band’s performances and ethos still point to a fully kinetic hardcore outfit that will continue to strive for a type of punk that can be listened to in a motorcycle club or the bedroom of an angsty teen. “Underneath” might not be the best-sequenced album, but it continues to prove why Code Orange will become a household name in the homes of modern hardcore punk aficionados.

Final rating: 3/5

Featured Illustration: Kylie Phillips

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Nick Lawrence

Nick Lawrence

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