The hope for a band to “return to their roots” is a phrase that has been thrown around so much in modern music, it has begun to lose its meaning. As with the roots of a tree, a band’s roots are always there, securing the foundation of their sound, no matter how many different directions it may branch out into.
Rooted in hardcore but venturing out into Grunge, Industrial, Hip-Hop and the like, Code Orange have become the very epitome of this with their new album, The Above (Blue Grape Music). The mainstream-invading and two-time Grammy-nominated group from Pittsburgh continue to expand on their peculiar brand of hardcore for a sound that no other band has ever dared to attempt.
Opener “Never Far Apart” only scratches the surface of the perplexing ride The Above brings, yet still checks several of the boxes of that unmistakable Code Orange Madness. The contrast between each section is what really makes it a worthy introduction, though, as the sharp yet smooth turns from dreamy piano and string melodies to scraping and screeching guitars could captivate even the shortest attention spans.
Moments like the menacing chanting of “do it” and the ominous whispers imitating a ticking bomb in “A Drone Opting Out Of The Hive” are ones that only Code Orange could pull off so effortlessly.
Guitarist Reba Meyers unleashes her most versatile vocal work yet from her melancholic delivery on trip-hop single “Mirror” and gritty snarls on “I Fly” to her searing belts on “Snapshot” and “Circle Through”. Each one of these performances is strategically placed into its own unique instrumental contexts that not only accentuate them, but create sonic environments around them that feel so vivid that you could step right into them.
While the band’s last album Underneath accomplished this effect, The Above takes it several steps further. Each individual track tells an immersive story, creates the sonic equivalent of a sci-fi thriller when experienced all together.
The closing title-track couldn’t offer a more satisfying conclusion to The Above’s daringly calculated chaos. It’s a slow-burner with a pay-off that just keeps paying, using angelic voices and whimpering riffs to increase the impact of the vocal hooks tenfold. The use of percussion in the build-up sounds like a heavy door being slammed rhythmically, making for a gripping tease of imminence before the climactic finish.
The seamlessly unpredictable journey into The Above sucks you into a universe that only becomes more elaborate and enthralling the more you let it consume you. Code Orange’s confidence in pushing the envelope continues to grow with each album, making for a three-dimensional element of surprise that no other band could replicate. Only time will tell how their influence will shape the future of Hardcore. But it will.
Buy the album here:
9 / 10