Code Orange: Underneath review – a thrilling new form of molten metal

(Roadrunner Records)
The Pittsburgh quintet marry technical mastery with genre-fusing risk in a record of poetry and spectacular potency

Despite its reputation as the satanic scourge of curtain-twitching suburbia, metal can be prone to the kind of squabbling you might see at a parish council meeting, with endless taxonomic arguments about whether something is death or thrash or black metal. Such petty bloviating is silenced by Grammy-nominated Pittsburgh quintet Code Orange, whose fourth album throws thrash, hardcore punk, math rock, sludge, metalcore, industrial, screamo, grunge, nu-metal and classic rock into a centrifuge, and produces something brand new and radioactively powerful.

Code Orange: Underneath album art work
Code Orange: Underneath album art work Photograph: Publicity Image

Lyricist and chief epiglottis-quiverer Jami Morgan roars about subjects that have long been fixations in metal, punk and emo – inauthenticity, disconnection, toxic relationships – and the withering chorus line of You and You Alone, “You play your part, you know your role!”, is destined to be yelled by authority-resistant teens in arenas worldwide. But the band’s songs also take stock of our digitally mediated, smartphone-addicted lives, and feature complex and wracked poetry. “You’re marigold and I’m fluoride,” sings fellow frontperson and guitarist Reba Meyers of a twisted tryst, her voice a beautiful mix of jaded and yearning.

It is in the music itself, though, that Code Orange make you really feel the pressure of our world, glutted with information and seething with corruption. There are glitches, freakily distorted screams, sudden bursts of static and weird repetitions, making the songs seem attacked by malware. Shifts in time signature create further instability, as on the awesomely funky climax to Swallowing the Rabbit Whole, which has something like six changes in seven seconds.

Such fiendishly intricate sound design could cause these songs to splinter or topple over, but aside from the extraneous In Fear, they are built on anthemic tunes throughout. Particularly good are The Easy Way and the title track, both reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ priapic bubblegum pop, while Meyers’ heart seems to beat out of her ribcage on the keening Sulfur Surrounding.

In rock, technical brilliance can sometimes impede immediacy, but Code Orange use it to achieve total and thrilling omnipotence. They are a reminder that visionary music never wears a genre tag.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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