March 9, 2020 Code Orange – Underneath (Album Review)
The Grammy-nominated Code Orange has taken the music world by storm, much in thanks to 2017’s breakthrough hit album, Forever. But now they are set to deliver its highly-anticipated follow-up, Underneath, which arrives Friday, March 13, 2020, thanks to Roadrunner Records.
Formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2008, Code Orange, who were also briefly known as Code Orange Kids, has been consistently building an immense buzz for themselves over the past decade. It all started with their 2012 full-length debut, Love Is Love/Return to Dust, an album that cleared the way for the release of 2014’s I Am King and the aforementioned, chart-topping Forever. Winning over the likes of Rolling Stone and Revolver, and, more importantly, building themselves a die-hard fan base, the quintet has cemented their name by touring alongside the likes of the Deftones, Killswitch Engage, Every Time I Die, and Terror, among others.
And now Code Orange—Vocalist/Guitarist Reba Meyers, Guitarist/Vocalist Eric Balderose, Guitarist Dominic Landolina, Bassist Joe Goldman, and Drummer Jami Morgan—are prepared to issue their full-length follow-up to the phenomenal Forever, the 14-song Underneath. Produced by the band’s own Morgan, along with Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Stone Sour) and Will Yip (Lauryn Hill, Movements), the album also features mixing by Balderose along with Yip.
At just over one minute, Underneath’s introduction, “(deeperthanbefore),” provides a suitably ominous build into the album’s genre-defying maelstrom, and his atmospheric tension flows straight into first proper track, “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole.” A brutally frustrated banger peppered with pinch harmonics, with this single/video we ride a downward spiral into an incendiary wonderland, straight into the raging “In Fear.” Twisting, turning, and ultimately going haywire with Industrial twinges and cut-aways, these moments are then juxtaposed against Meyers’ aggravated howls that rush into lulling harmonies. Simply put: tracks such as this show more experimentation in three and a half minutes than many bands exhibit in their entire careers.
Next up, frenetic bass and drums deliver “You and You Alone” to the ears. A brutal stomp that fits the band’s Hardcore billing, here they explore the weakness of sheep who allow themselves to be molded by everything around them, those that are just waiting to genuflect to a stronger personality. Then, discordant guitar meanders into “Who I Am,” an electronically dusted, grungy Alt Rocker that, sounding more Alice In Chains than Hatebreed, shows the band’s impressive range.
“Cold.Metal.Place.” spits a guitar dirge and a pummeling beat before it begins to rain into “Sulfur Surrounding,” a track that in some senses echoes “Who I Am.” At times balladesque and in other moments an Alt Rock-influenced midtempo rocker, this is the more emotional side of Code Orange, a new facet that eventually culminates in some of the album’s finest melodic guitar work. Next, leaning heavily on the band’s Industrial influences, “The Easy Way” thrums before exploding into an infectious rocker that will have fans singing along en masse at the band’s ferocious live shows.
Lest you accuse the quintet of being too radio-accessible, “Erasure Scan” returns to the slaughtering slam, a brutality that continues into “Last Ones Left,” a punctuated attack on the senses that builds toward a cinematic climax. All this before the quintet return to that grungy feel with “Autumn and Carbine,” a catchy groove that paves the way for the full-throttle blast of “Back Inside the Glass,” a cacophonous attack of sound. Meanwhile, the ominous chaos of “A Sliver” harnesses the band’s cinematic qualities to a craft a bleak wave of emotion, a man who is fading into the ether with each passing day.
Somehow managing to combine everything that came before, album namesake and closer, “Underneath,” presents undeniably infectious choruses that remind us that until we are tested, we never truly know what we are made of. A perfect conclusion to a collection that implores its listeners to look inward and ask themselves what truly lies beneath the facade that they show to the world to survive. An epic finale for a brilliantly modern opus, “Underneath” and its accompanying album take these Pennsylvanians to the very next level and prove that all the hype surrounding the band is completely legit.
For their fourth full-length LP, Code Orange yet again confound all expectations to craft a massively-layered, genre-defying experience that is chock full of Hardcore aggression, Industrial atmospheres and textures, and a colossally daring need to experiment within the framework of every single track. There are moments where the quintet are cacophonous, sure, but this is always understood to be born of a primal artistic abandon.
This utter disregard for established conventions is an ambitious and daring approach to songwriting, one that is guaranteed to see Underneath riding the top of many a Best of 2020 list—and very likely to earn the attention of the Grammy Awards once more. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Code Orange’s latest 5 of 5 stars.