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Code Orange Underneath

2020 Roadrunner Records

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Code Orange - Underneath

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By album #4, most bands look to scale things back or attempt to recapture the glory of their younger days. Not Code Orange, whose sonic evolution over recent years has transpired so rapidly that they’ve had to add members to keep up with their explosive creative growth.

These days known as a volatile amalgam of industrial, alternative metal, metalcore, nu-metal and post-hardcore, these former ‘kids’ have repeatedly challenged themselves and their fans with their feverish pursuit of expanding their sonic palette.

With “Underneath“, the band double down on the industrial/electronic influences that crept in on their more recent output, bringing to mind a mixture of the adventurousness of early 90s alt-metal honed by the ferocity and abrasiveness found in more modern times. Sonic corruption has also firmly taken root here, with a series of digitally imposed starts and stops, screeches and more collectively infecting their craft.

This drastic increase in digital warfare isn’t only by their own hand this time around. Ex-Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson member Chris Vrenna was enlisted to provide some additional programming, giving the album an authentic tie to the industrial metal heyday that members of Code Orange have so openly worshiped.

But while the above covers a good chunk of what “Underneath” serves up, Code Orange offer little in the way of a comfort zone. “Who I Am” sees them once again indulging in a mixed gender vocal performance with guitarist Reba Meyers again taking to the mic.

This multi-pronged approach remains one of the more potent offerings found in the band’s arsenal and its increased fluidity is wholly welcomed. Tracks like “Autumn And Carbine” and “A Sliver” also showcase Meyers‘ vocal abilities and further exhibit the benefit of the band intentionally veering out of the safety of confined genres.

Songs like these not only aid in dynamically pacing the album, they also showcase artistic fearlessness. Be it jarring digital glitches, digital samples cleverly aligning with drum hits or nu-metal guitar screeches and nihilistic industrial elements getting a modern retooling; Code Orange tenaciously confront any perceived limitations head-on, smashing down new barriers with each successive release.

From the elements of the Slipknot-reminiscent groove found entangled in the goth rock overtones of “Sulfur Surrounding“, to the disorienting inclusion of reworked shrapnel from their past songs lurking amid these new tracks, “Underneath” provokes. Its ultra-wide view gazing far past the current standards of metal.

For proof of that one needn’t look further than the production, which abandons the sterility often found in metal these days for a vibrant hit-and-run approach more common to modern hip hop. As you might suspect, not everything sticks. There’s a few tracks too ambitious for their own good and some occasional wreckage left to stumble over.

But as a bona fide sonic outlier from the herd they set out to thin some years back, “Underneath” not only stands on its own, it also stands out.

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