Following their breakout 2014 record I Am King, Code Orange were met with largely universal acclaim amongst music critics and metalcore fans alike, to the point of making a name for themselves as one of the most significant bands under the metalcore and hardcore umbrella to emerge in the past few years. Indeed, on I Am King, Code Orange showed a great awareness of what has made other popular metalcore outfits like Zao, Vision of Disorder and Disembodied so significant; pummelling rhythms, battering riffs and guttural vocals compiled with muddy production that really kicks the listener in the face upon first listening. Whilst some critics noted an influence on this record from acts outside of the metalcore and hardcore punk idiom, I personally felt that the record displayed a thorough understanding of metalcore, but did not shy too far away from the typical tropes of the genre. I don’t mean that as a criticism of the album at all; an album can be fantastic even if it remains strictly adherent to the regular rules of the genre in which the artist is working. To me, I Am King remains a highly significant album in contemporary metalcore that I regularly point people towards when they ask me for recommendations of recent metalcore music. On this new album, however, I must concede that Code Orange most definitely display a varied array of influences, not all of which exist within the hardcore paradigm. On Forever, Code Orange remain unequivocally in-touch with their hardcore roots, whilst adding some new ideas into the mix.
Code Orange display that they have really tried to diversify their sound, most notably on one of this album’s teaser tracks, Bleeding in the Blur, which is one of the record’s stand-out songs for two main reasons: the fact that it’s more of an alternative rock/metal track than a metalcore track, and the fact that it’s one of the best songs on the record. Guitarist Reba Meyers’ clean vocal melody on the chorus is absolutely infectious and the steady, solid beat makes the song a real head-bobber, particularly when paired with the sludgy riffage across the track. As I heard this song for the first time in the context of the whole record, it took me a bit by surprise, but it seems more fitting when considering the band’s shift to Roadrunner Records; a label that is associated with more conventional brands of metal music than the band’s previous label, the hardcore punk-orientated Deathwish Inc. Ugly is another song with a fantastic alternative rock chorus and, like Bleeding in the Blur, is easily one of the most — if not the most — memorable song on the record. The verses feature some subtle guitar work with these distant, eerie vocals, which make the abrupt transition into the hard, grungy chorus all the more forceful.
It must be said that this record features some pretty crushing breakdowns that are sure to sate the desires of those in the mosh pit. The album’s two opening tracks and two lead singles feature the most bold and bruising breakdowns in the tracklisting. Despite the somewhat corny melodrama of the lyrics that segue into the climax of the record’s title-track, with a pause in the instrumentation as the band growl “Code Orange forever”, the breakdown is chaotic and displays a glimpse of the band’s industrial metal influence that appears more notably later on the record. Kill the Creator is perhaps the most cataclysmic cut on the record, with ample riff action as to please any metalcore fan. Again, the breakdown on this track has a distinct industrial edge to it, giving it a more unique character compared to a lot of recent metalcore releases.
The industrial influence on this album is perhaps most evident on the first passage of the song Hurt Goes On, which features some dark, slightly gothic, pulsating electronics and booming drums, with some equally dark lyrics, such as the undeniably creepy “I want to hurt you mentally”. The band closes the song with a pretty solid metalcore passage, again showing that this album is still a metalcore record at its core and that Code Orange is still a metalcore band, despite the new inspirations brought in on this latest effort of theirs. I for one am very pleased with the diverse range of influences on this record and, rather ironically, my favourite tracks on this thing are the ones that don’t shy away from straying outside of the metalcore idiom every now and then.
There are few tracks on this record that underwhelm me to any particular degree, with the exception of the closer, dream2. This track features some more of Meyers’ mesmerising vocals, which I actually wish appeared more frequently on this album. The rest of the track, however, feels like more of an incomplete idea that was added on because the band thought that the album needed a subtle closer track. The irony is that the song that appears prior to it, Dream Goes On, would have rounded the album off nicely, so I’m left a bit perplexed as to why dream2 was even kept on the final cut. There are a couple of other tracks from this album on which I feel that the band could have demonstrated their eagerness to experiment a bit more, most notably on the track Real. Whilst this song does feature some more dark electronics, it also has a slight whiff of stereotypical standard metalcore, which is emphasised by the lyric “This is real now, motherfucker” before the foreseeable breakdown barges in. I’m sure that line rolled a fair few listeners’ eyes.
Notwithstanding the limited complaints I have of this record, I still feel that this release is a very strong and refreshing endeavour for Code Orange. The ambitious and risky stylistic detours they take on numerous tracks here come off very well for the most part, whilst still being rooted in classic metalcore nastiness. No doubt this will go down as one of the most significant releases in the genre for this year due to its largely successful experimentation, and personally, I feel it warrants some more listening time from myself and I wouldn’t be surprised if I grow to like it a lot more. After all, their last album was somewhat of a slowburner for me, which is apt given the title of its second track. I will certainly at least be revisiting the highlights from this record, particularly Kill the Creator, Bleeding in the Blur and Ugly. I would strongly recommend this album to diehard fans of metalcore, as I’m sure many will enjoy this album much more than me.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7/10