Code Orange



by PostMesmeric USER (88 Reviews)
March 18th, 2020 | 272 replies

Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Code Orange prove that they just can't stay on task.

To a degree, I can understand Code Orange’s mindset right now. It’s not uncommon for a band to be dissatisfied with their current direction, desiring to stretch their limbs into a more introspective field to their craft. And yeah, the writing was on the wall. Their 2017 album Forever earned Code Orange a lot of exposure. It was a critical darling that drew in many new fans to the Pittsburgh metalheads’ filthy, brooding world. It was, by all accounts, the band’s breakout. It put them on the map.

However, anyone can tell you that success is taxing. Code Orange were bound to explore new sounds on their follow-up LP. It was inevitable. But Code Orange’s spontaneous EP of extras, The Hurt Will Go On, was the siren alarm. It was the band proudly announcing their future, haters be damned. Safe to say, it was a controversial release. Some were thrilled at the group’s brutally extravagant aesthetic, but others found it to be obnoxious and atrociously mishandled. Regardless of which side of the fence you stood on, following up on such a divisive release was going to sound like either a triumphant unfolding of wings or a straight-up death knell. So Underneath is upon us, and best hopes/worst fears confirmed. It’s exactly what everyone expected it to be.

Even for those who find Code Orange’s blaring use of metal and electronics to feel pressing and claustrophobic, it doesn’t take long for the spontaneous samples and interruptive shifts in tempo to just get on your nerves. “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole” has the intensity of a metalcore anthem, but so much of that industrialized electronic noise coats that intensity, leaving a drenched, soggy mess that never reaches a full-on peak. It’s also what makes “In Fear”, “Erasure Scan”, and hell, pretty much Underneath’s entire aesthetic so aggravating: these constant shifts, these glitched-out breaks in audio (that honestly sound like a CD skipping), they don’t settle into anything whole. It’s like a musical act switching songs mid-show and just not even mentioning it. So many of these moments cloud what would otherwise be interesting moods and some pretty ferocious vocals from drummer Jami Morgan. There’s just so much going on in Underneath’s angrier, more frenetic moments that it’s difficult to stay focused. Code Orange take so much time and put in so much effort to throw whatever they can at the listener, that it doesn’t congeal into anything necessarily intense or imposing. It’s just distracting.

This conviction to the band’s aesthetic makes the more successful tracks all the more surprising. When Code Orange nail it, they really make their style work, against all odds. Despite its rampant noise, “Back Inside the Glass” is a roar of metal song, filled to the brim with suffocating anger and an oddly sensible use of distorted, noisy production. “Last Ones Left” is a pit-pleaser from start to finish, in spite of its lack of any real invention, and even tracks like “The Easy Way” have a sort of straight-ahead charm to them (even if it crawls back to Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine at almost every opportunity). There’s a ton of potential in the sound of Underneath. It’s just utilized in a pretty standard – and here’s the big red flag for the band - a remarkably safe way.

But nothing screams “safe” like the softer tracks. When Code Orange slow things down, things take a severe hit. The mellower tracks are blatant capitalizations on accessible radio-friendliness, and they’re just not that fun to listen to either. The approachability of “Bleeding in the Blur” has obviously gone to the members’ heads, because Underneath is so chock full of tracks that sound like imitations of what was already a pretty middling formula from their arguably infamous track from Forever. “Who I Am” almost shamelessly draws from the book of Nine Inch Nails, while “Sulfur Surrounding” sounds like one of the softer cuts from All Hope Is Gone-era Slipknot. “Autumn and Carbine” is easily the worst offender, and as a result, the worst track on the record, dashing between the template of “Bleeding in the Blur” to the book of nu-metal cornerstones Korn. But even that track, with its slithering groove, suffers from the indecisive moods and tonal start-and-stop that plague the more intense tracks. These songs’ quality isn’t really the fault of Reba Myers' vocals, which take command for a large portion of these tracks. Her voice is fine, albeit a bit one-dimensional, but across songs that run the radio rock playbook (from the uninteresting 90’s alt-rock throwback “A Sliver” to the totally sanitized title track), don’t expect to really fall in love with it. Like many tracks on this album, there’s potential, but it often goes unfulfilled.

What Underneath does fulfill is Code Orange’s ambition to carve their own path and redefine their sound into something even Forever couldn’t signify, but with that ambition comes a whole host of new challenges that I’m hesitant to believe the band is equipped to tackle. Between glimmers of true energy like “Back Inside the Glass” and “Last Ones Left” are so many flickering flames that just can’t collect into something truly focused and fully on-task. Underneath is such an indulgent record, filled to the brim with sounds, styles, and shifts. It’s admirable, I’ll give them that, but it’s all so unfocused. Without that focus to show us, Underneath is going to leave such an unclear footprint moving forward, but for better or worse, I don’t think the band really care. More power to ‘em, I guess.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 2.5

After so many listens, I was dashing back and forth with this record. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes I hated it. Took a long while to fully collect my thoughts, so constructive criticism is welcome.

Thanks, all.

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off


I was gonna post my review on this, but you basically took the main points of what I was going to say and wrote it out. So I probably won't end up posting it.

Great review, man!

March 18th 2020


Good review. Jury is out on how much I like this still.

Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0

"It’s like a musical act switching songs mid-show and just not even mentioning it" i had a similar thought.

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

oddly enough I found most of the glitchy breaks and samples on this better executed than Forever, immersive at some points even. I guess that's due to them going all-in on the industrial noise and technological horror or whatever was the intent with this album.

I haven't listened to I Am King or Forever since this came out, so it's hard to compare at the moment, but I'm enjoying Underneath for what it is. sure isn't breaking any new ground, but I think Jami's vocals are improving with each release and Reba's raspy leads are always nice.

honestly still digesting the album but praise aside, they've taken this combination of sounds about as far as it can go considering how overwhelming it gets at points, and I hope to see some more radical change with...whatever comes next.

good review either way, pos'd

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

No joke, after reading the interview Morgan did about this album, I think I like it ever so slightly more.

March 18th 2020


Better than expected, but not that amazing either

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0

Some of these tracks are genuinely dreadful. Who OK'd Who I Am it sounds like a low rent Slipknot song

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 1.0

This is straight up unlistenable tbh

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I found this to be much more enjoyable than forever. Yeah transitions are kinda shaky sometimes (see swallowing the rabbit whole) but record is way more coherent when it comes to incorporating these industrial elements.

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.5

This album has slowly grown on me. I can completely understand people hating this since some of the glitchier moments made me go wtf? When first hearing them. But this album flows pretty well for me

March 18th 2020


"metal fans"

March 18th 2020


This is my first album by this band and to be honest, I have with this just too much fun.. together with Loathe's new album, these are my favorite albums so far this year.. I must say that I don't understand the cold reception that this album has received on this site

March 18th 2020


this band sooks

March 18th 2020


"I must say that I don't understand the cold reception that this album has received on this site"

See my above quote

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 3.0

"Who OK'd Who I Am it sounds like a low rent Slipknot song"

That's probably exactly why it was OK'd tbh

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

This album is a prime example of less is more. They're trying to do too much here

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 1.5

Orange is the new cack

March 18th 2020


You just know Fantano gave it an 8 because he personally interviewed Code Orange

March 18th 2020


Album Rating: 5.0

Not a perfect album by any means but I believe this will be one of the most impactful metal releases of the decade. I had a good time listening start to finish and the production is immaculate.

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