Pittsburgh’s hardcore slug-fest Code Orange, formally known as Code Orange Kids come swinging, stabbing, and slicing through with their brand new Roadrunner LP debut, Forever. Still sticking with the theme of desolation, an immense level of aggressiveness, and an everlasting thirst to destroy everything in their path, Code Orange has once again proven that the Thinners Of The Herd are here to leave their mark once again.
From several single releases, teases, and finally a sold-out record release show in Code Orange’s hometown, Forever arrives, and feels more like a continuation of their sound from their 2014 release, I Am King, but with some additional tweaks and bonuses. Every record contains the same producer, Kurt Ballou whose previous works include Converge’s All We Love, We Leave Behind, Kvelertak’s Meir, and Nails’ You Will Never Be One of Us, just to name a few in the past five years of his career. As Ballou has been working with Code Orange since the very beginning, he knows the in’s and out’s of their sound, allowing Forever to fully prosper and become ultimately fruitful for Code Orange.
Opening with the self-titled track, “Forever” is a rambunctious and untamed mosh-pit of sudden breakdowns, pounds of distortion, and a bone-shattering mix of both percussion and guitars that from the first moments, Forever appears to be completely unrelenting in both strength, but also tenacity. From the first quote of the apparition like voice as it reads, “When hands are caught in my brother’s pocket, I’ll burn my Gods down,” to the screams of Jami Morgan who also doubles as Code Orange’s drummer as well. There are also additional vocal performances from Reba Meyers, Code Orange’s guitarist, who was once the band’s bassist a “long, long time ago,” and from Eric Balderose who helps out on adding some of the technical touches with synthesizers and guitar.
As the hydra of vocalists move together, they have distinct changes in their vocal approach which keeps each track feeling entirely different and fresh. As “Forever” reigns as the first-look into Code Orange’s massive destruction that is to come, the following track, “Kill The Creator” almost seems to blend in seamlessly.
Starting off with a rapid-fire assault of machine gun styled instruments, Code Orange breaks the action down but keeps that same level of intensity as they continually switch from breakdown to breakdown, shouting in unison to, “Kill The Creator,” almost as if a warning call to all those who oppress. This is of course before Code Orange launches into one of the dirty jam sessions where the guitars play off of the bass, and the percussion keeps this heavy, but steady flow into the following, “Real.”
From the intense power struggle Code Orange presents between lyricists, the band is also known for showing that same amount of potency with their instruments as well. An instant pit opener, “Real” brings about a simple, but sudden shift in where Morgan can launch a full-frontal assault in both vocal delivery and in the percussion aspect where he rains fire upon using double bass hits to obliterate, along with the guitars shredding in unison in this grind-core fashion; it is pure bliss in thirty seconds. The chemistry put together on Code Orange’s Forever is going to be the highlighted aspect here this time around, as any band that has been together nearly ten-years should, they play perfectly together and create these moments where everything is pure chaos, but still somehow manageable and still able to be an easy passage way into their best release thus far.
“Real” also has a section that if anyone listens to, it will continually stick into your head without a doubt. After the chaos of Code Orange gradually speeding up and grinding down, Morgan has a moment where his voice and the guitars from Meyers and Balderose are the only thing present, Morgan then shouts in complete anguish, “This is real now… Motherfucker.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Code Orange jumps into a flurry of a brick wall where the guitars rumble, the drums lay heavily on the crash cymbals, and the bass line from Joe Goldman creates a deep growl, all of this is shortly abandoned however and switched up on “Bleeding In The Blur” to more of a melodic and ballad style of track.
Meyers is going to be the leading factor here, and this track is more of a straight up rock track than a genre-blending hardcore track. The switch-up is a welcome change as stated before, it keeps the music from feeling monotonous and gives Code Orange a chance to come from left-field.
Code Orange also implements some synthetic chords into their music, and the track “The Mud” has this drooping, almost flopping synth hits that segue Code Orange back into their comfort ground. Forever does indeed take some intriguing turns and finds a way to rework the sound that Code Orange had established, instead of erasing that sound, they work with it and build off it with “The Mud”’s second half where it becomes a sludge-fest of writhing guitar squeals and a large focus on these syncopated rhythms where the instruments start to shift together and create a fantastic use of free space.
As Forever continues on, there is an intense amount of excitement with each incoming track and “The New Reality” is another song that really brings the rising pressure to new heights. While the shortest track featured on Forever, it is still able to bring in an outstanding rhythm section that can slowly pulverize, but also gradually start to sprint into this non-stop punch-fest with every instrument ripping apart their surroundings. Amazingly, Code Orange’s brilliance works well with the destruction around them, and this can also be said for the track that follows, “Spy.”
A not-so-subtle build up on the percussion aspect by Morgan leads “Spy” into the frenzied shark tank of slick guitar progression, bass grooves, and an unforeseen bombardment by Code Orange around the half-way mark that quickly creates a “jump off the stage into people,” attitude. “Spy” is an extremely diverse track that floats in a sea of variety on Forever. Almost every single track on Forever manages to switch its tone to either adapt to more of a brutal style, or dial back on one aspect and let the differences shine through. While entirely experimental, Forever does not entirely change Code Orange, but on the places where they do switch the formula, it is ultimately for the better.
The last four tracks on Forever are completely different from each other, “Ugly” is more in touch with “Bleeding In The Blur” as it is a track that does not try to melt off any faces or break any bones. Instead, it acts as a progressive piece in moving Code Orange closer to the edge of Forever. It has an interesting mix of both hardcore elements and soft rock elements that transform “Ugly” into a lovely different breed of animal. It gets the mood set for the last true atom-bomb tracks on Forever, “No One Is Untouchable.”
Angry, distraught, and furious, “No One Is Untouchable” uses Morgan’s vocals as he screams, “Dreams will die, blue will burn. But when the cards drop, You’d be the first one to go running.” There are also the other vocalists, Meyers and Balderose and even possibly Goldman that seem to be shouting something along the lines of “Thinners Of The…” but it is unclear as the constant chaos surrounding their voices makes it nearly impossible to tell exactly what they are shouting. Then almost as quickly as “No One Is Untouchable” comes into frame, it disappears and is instead replaced by “Hurt Goes On” which sounds eerily similar to the break in “Kill The Creator” which is only on the track for a few seconds before falling back into extreme mayhem.
“Hurt Goes On” is more of a spoken word track for the first half where Morgan describes, “You’re just a rat in a world full of snakes, I’m just a dog in a cage; waiting to pick you to pieces.” The entire time there is a huge focus on the atmospheric side where Code Orange channels crashing bass drums and some synths before having the full band come into transparency, almost re-envisioned by the wall of sound that hits. “Hurt Goes On” has a somber piano chord ending that trails off into the final track of Forever.
“Dream2” is a final touching stone for Meyers’ vocal performance to shine through and create this great amount of tension within her voice and her lyrics, “I’m just not you anymore, I’m just in a different place.” She then continues on this path until hitting the final rephrase where she states, “I’m just not you anymore, I’m just in a different place. Just wanted so much more, I just can’t relate. I just can’t rel…” until her voice is cut off and the once angelic singing is replaced by a demonic, pitched-down voice that leaves Forever on a sinister cliffhanger. Forever is a bone-crunching addition to their discography and leaves an excited look for what’s next in the future of the Thinners of The Herd.