Code Orange
Underneath


4.0
excellent

Review

by hung0ver USER (18 Reviews)
March 13th, 2020 | 188 replies


Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Yeah, if you like your metal without all the trimmings, probably give this one a miss. Everyone else: sink your teeth into what's Underneath.

Code Orange really aren't everyone's cup of tea. Beginning life as Code Orange Kids, their debut release under this name, as well as their sophomore record I Am King were ultimately fairly run of the mill, if excellently brutal and highly atmospheric metalcore records. Blending elements of hardcore, grunge, shoegaze and a generally brutal and hazy aesthetic, these early records set up the band as the frontrunners of a metalcore revival that's brought bands like Vein, Jesus Piece, Sanction and more recently Loathe to the forefront of the underground hardcore/metalcore scene.

Whilst Code Orange don't share a huge amount of DNA with some of the bands clearly following in the wake of their earlier work, they are pretty indisputably one of the young new bands that kickstarted hardcore's willingness to go back to 90s musical aesthetics and resurrect them in all of their somewhat dated origins. After I Am King however, Code Orange did something a little uncommon for metalcore and hardcore outfits - and I mean this in the kindest possible sense - they decided to shake things up a little. Hardcore has a reputation as a genre of not being overly determined to innovate or push boundaries, not out of a lack of talent, but rather from a place of positioning musical brutality and emotional expression over pushing the envelope. This is something I love the hardcore and metalcore subgenres dearly for. The sheer consistency of output of some bands, like Terror, or the exhilarating thrill of meshing together some altogether unoriginal ideas to create a head-crushing releases, such as Knocked Loose's most recent record, are commendable things in themselves. But as I've mentioned briefly earlier, Code Orange have very little interest in this perfectly valid approach to making heavy music.

As a band, they're not immune to missteps. For all the critical acclaim Forever got, the back end of the record was a little lacklustre, the mixing slightly underwhelming when compared to records like A Different Shade of Blue, and the 2 track The Hurt Will Go On EP was messy and suffered deeply from a lack of context to make the nu-metal revivalism click. Even this new record perhaps could have done with an edit; at 47 minutes long, it might outstay its welcome on a few later tracks. That said, Underneath, though not without its own flaws, is potentially Code Orange's most interesting and boundary pushing effort yet.

A lot of people have derided the Pittsburgh group's resurrection of nu-metal and industrial metal ideas, and there's points on Underneath, and on previous singles like 'The Fiend' or 'The Hunt' where this criticism is pretty valid. At times, the pastiche of these 90s ideas just doesn't do enough to merit its own resurrection, with 'Autumn and Combine', arguably the record's weakest track, a very clear example of this. The track feels altogether a little predictable, and a bit mid-tempo for a band so apparently concerned with smashing musical boundaries of extremity and genre. But on this new record, these moments are surprisingly few and far between, and whilst the record's use of glitchy electronic effects will likely piss off metal purists and hardcore aficionados alike, Code Orange effectively create an atmosphere wherein there is absolutely no telling where they're going to take you next.

Take the more aggressive, riffy sections of 'Sulfur Surrounding', the title track, or even the oppressively dense electronic noise that closes out the penultimate song, 'A Sliver'. The band's willingness to bounce from idea to idea, whilst maintaining sonic coherency is really quite impressive, with melody giving way to walls of noise without a moments warning, making the softer songs still pretty exhilarating and interesting cuts. The hook writing here is really strong too - 'The Easy Way', a reworking of an older track, 'Only One Way', is a fun remix of an older melodic idea, and perhaps the band's best earworm to date, although the song is a little on the long side. On these tracks, where the band plays with ideas lifted straight out of the Nine Inch Nails playbook, the threat of brutality and sonic violence keeps the songs from being what many have condemned them as - derivative of a long-dead musical trend. Those cynical about Code's attempts to revisit industrial and nu-metal ideas will likely reject this experiment on the basis of this slight lack of true originality, but by reworking and chopping up these ideas, the band successfully breathes life into the long exhumed corpse of 90s alt-metal.

This record isn't just Code Orange's most experimental, but also in parts their heaviest, not least in part due to the sheer variety on display here. When tracks like 'Back Inside the Glass', 'You and You Alone' or 'Last Ones Left' come lurching out of the darkness, the breakdowns, riffs and vocal assault on display are made even more impactful by the fact you're never quite sure whether the band is going to let off the gas or slam the pedal firmly to the metal. Again, the use of electronic effects and glitching, at least from a slightly subjective point of view, really enhances this guerilla approach to heaviness. Again, people with a slightly more purist approach to metal may find these distorted interruptions and skipping effects either tiring or a little unnecessary, but they do enhance Underneath's persistent atmosphere of unpredictability. The album is especially rhythmically dynamic in its heavy moments, with the relentless stomp of 'In Fear's hook, or 'Swallowing the Rabbit Whole's vicious grooving later passages really put the band's mastery of rhythmic variety on display. Some of the record's softer or more mid-tempo moments could do with a little of this rhythmic variety themselves, but this point is largely nitpicking generally strong songwriting. It's not just a meatheadedly heavy record, rather, it thinks about how best to take a riff or idea, and mess with it to make it more interesting than a dime a dozen china-symbal-prompted beatdown.

Perhaps the rumours of Code Orange's musical innovation have been greatly exaggerated. It's not metal's answer to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come, throwing in totally new ideas and sounds, and I think most fans of this record could concede that a lot of the component parts here aren't groundbreaking. However, the way they're combined and presented most certainly is something fresh. Eclectic, dark, compelling, and most importantly, a breath of fresh air for metal and heavy music more generally, Code Orange's real success here is not really sounding like anyone else across this 14-track record. Whilst the way Code Orange have gone about it isn't to everyone's taste, from their overly-tough-guy branding to some valid gripes about their eccentric production and use of old genre tropes, Underneath is undeniably something new. And in metal's current state, that's a good thing on its own.



Recent reviews by this author
Gulch Burning Desire to Draw Last BreathPoppy I Disagree
Origami Angel Somewhere CityShow Me The Body Dog Whistle
King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard Infest the Rats' NestRough Hands Moral Terror
user ratings (493)
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Beware NO TWINKCORE here, real metal only goddamnit! (they/she) (5)
"Staring into your new god's soul"...

PostMesmeric (2.5)
Code Orange prove that they just can't stay on task....



Comments:Add a Comment 
hung0ver
March 13th 2020


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Couple of typos in this one - sorry about that, my thoughts on this record aren't totally settled and so the review got reedited quite a bit, and some things will have inevitably slipped through the cracks - I'll be revisiting this in a bit to tidy up any mistakes, but obv all feedback is 100% welcome. Code are a bit of a controversial one, and I've tried to acknowledge the record's flaws as much as possible. As much as I subjectively adore this record, it might not be entirely deserving of some of the crazy praise some outlets have been giving it, although I do stand by my opinion that this thing is one of the most interesting metal releases of recent years. Excellent record, but not without flaws.

goblinilbog
March 13th 2020


1077 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very solid review. You can definitely hear the NIN influence in a significant number of songs, as well as some Slipknot and even grunge elements creeping in.

chilledpunkrock
March 13th 2020


113 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If there's one welcome change of pace, the songs don't just feel like a random assortment of riffs and electronics shoved together in whatever order like they did on Forever. Maybe they're actually improving as songwriters?

hung0ver
March 13th 2020


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yeah this really shows up Forever as a pretty one dimensional record. Loved that thing when it first came out, but later cuts like Ugly, The Mud and Spy didn't really stand the test of time all that well. A lot more going on here, even if it occasionally borders on too much for brief moments, and gives the record way more staying power.

Comatorium.
March 13th 2020


5056 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Lol sure but no

robotmagician
March 13th 2020


1328 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

can you just delete the whole last paragraph

goblinilbog
March 13th 2020


1077 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ugly, The Mud, and Spy are actually my favorite songs on Forever

backthonyairtano
March 13th 2020


7 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Solid review, really liked your analysis of this new sound. Absolute banger of a record, going to be one of my favorites of 2020.

Ashtiel
March 13th 2020


1470 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

in response to recent concert cancellations, they'll be doing a livestreamed full performance on March 14th at 9pm EST on twitch for those interested:

https://twitter.com/codeorangetoth/status/1238520392123404289

Pikazilla
March 13th 2020


29821 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Album is poop. Quite possibly the worst core release I've heard this year so far.

bigweinerdon
March 13th 2020


2682 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only a few good songs on here. Their softer tracks are borderline terrible

Wildcardbitchesss
March 13th 2020


12196 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

worse than loathe pika?

Pikazilla
March 13th 2020


29821 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Loathe were pretty boring imo. But A Sad Cartoon was sick.



This, on the other hand, is laughably hideous. If I could 0.1/5 this bitch, I so would.

Trebor.
Emeritus
March 13th 2020


59872 Comments


NOW that's what I call a ratings chart

JeetJeet
March 13th 2020


12223 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol I usually can never predict what Pika is gonna like/hate, but I knew for sure he'd hate this one

JeetJeet
March 13th 2020


12223 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I dig a couple of songs off this but as a whole its a nah for me.

Pikazilla
March 13th 2020


29821 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Let's see if we can get the average below a 3 lmao

Wildcardbitchesss
March 13th 2020


12196 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I genuinely have no fuckin clue how forever has a 3+ average.

Both of these records are dogshit

ghostboobs
March 13th 2020


124 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^because forever is full of ignorant mosh riffs and rules

naughtcturnal
March 13th 2020


2684 Comments


I'll just leave this here
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SpVa-x7YndY



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy