From the moment that Code Orange dropped the “Kids” from their name, the band has established itself as a prominent voice in the heavy music world. Transitioning from VFWs to proper sized venues and stadiums, Code Orange has never forgotten their roots. The support slots on their upcoming headline tour feature some of the most popular rising stars in hardcore. After celebrating the “end of an era” at the 2019 edition of This Is Hardcore, the band focused on their much anticipated followup to Forever. A mysterious marketing campaign with puzzles and cryptic, short videos have led to Underneath.
The album opens with ominous intro (deeperthanbefore), which is prominently featured in the beginning of the band’s stellar music video for “Swallowing The Rabbit Hole”. Holy hell is this song a pummeling opening statement, complete with crushing breakdowns and glitchy madness to keep you on your toes. Eric “Shade” Balderose’s slow transition to handling more of the programming/synth duties have given the band a more unique identity amongst the heavy music scene. The layers in the mix are so complex, I’ve picked up on little things here and there with a creepy girl’s melodic singing in my right ear or little glitchy synths dancing across the stereo spectrum.
“In Fear" starts off with in my opinion, the sounds of a robot having a nervous breakdown. The chugging chorus will definitely become a favorite of the band’s rabid fanbase to scream in unison live, and the ending breakdown is one of the heavier things I’ve ever heard Code Orange unleash thus far. The industrial flavors that the band began to incorporate on 2017’s Forever have expanded tenfold and provided a gloomy aesthetic that ties the album’s 14 tracks together. Whether ripping a crushing breakdown or drudging through a beat heavy melodic passage, it never feels out of place when shifting from one side of the spectrum to the other.
Jami Morgan has handled both drums and vocals throughout the entirety of Code Orange’s existence, but it appears he’s ditching the drum set in favor of the microphone as indicated in the band’s newest music video. Morgan has always been a great vocalist, and it will be great to see him stomping around a stage adding to the already established chaos during a Code Orange set. It remains unclear if Morgan recorded the drums on Underneath, or if the mystery member seen in the video took over. The drums alternate between chaotically technical to restrained and beat heavy, providing a solid rhythm section with bassist Joe Goldman.
As Code Orange have proved in the past, a band so crushingly heavy has the ability to penetrate the mainstream. The band previously performed their hit “Bleeding In The Blur” live at an NXT TakeOver wrestling event in Brooklyn, and I predict similar success with “Who I Am”. Guitarist/Vocalist Reba Meyers continues to be a standout with her crushing riffs and contrasting vocal delivery. The haunting melodic vocals on “Autumn And Carbine” or the title track and first released single “Underneath” really emphasize the catchy hook and pair well with Morgan’s distorted barks.
Morgan’s vocals alternate between the trademark distorted bark we’re accustomed to along with more dynamic and creepy spoken word passages, as well as a standout performance on “The Easy Way”. Morgan’s gruff yet melodic singing on the track Is something I feel would typically be reserved for Reba and is a welcome addition to the band’s diverse arsenal of sounds.
While many bands in the heavy music scene are already exhibiting traits of being influenced by Code Orange, Underneath is a categorically indescribable feat that future bands will strive to achieve. The typically criticized arc of heavy bands forgoing their brutal sound in favor of radio rock casts a dark cloud on many a band. Code Orange have found a way to be fantastic at all of those things, creating their own unique identity. Underneath will be released this upcoming Friday the 13th via Roadrunner Records.