Pittsburgh’s Code Orange have always (at least since they released their Deathwish debut in 2012) felt like a favorite local hardcore band gone big. They relish fan interaction, are openly hostile to bigger bands they see as a problem (see: Asking Alexandria), care a ton about their visual aesthetic, and seem most interested in doing what they want. It didn’t hurt that their version of metallic hardcore came out right before the glut of Converge ape-ing groups hit the scene. Hell, Code Orange haven’t written the same thing twice, which made their sludgy, shoegaze-y, and industrialized shift (2014’s I Am King) more exciting. With a move to the big leagues at Roadrunner, can the band continue their entertaining evolution, or has their momentum stalled?
Definitely the former, and the opening three tracks show that Code Orange haven’t diluted their aggression in the slightest. Back to the band’s love of aesthetic: I Am King had green artwork, and the record touched on envy, an idea that they wanted to be in worthy of greater admiration. Forever‘s red coloration is all over the record, emanating anger and fury all over the damn place. The opening title track is downright vicious, as are the two follow-up doozies; however, both “Kill The Creator” and “Real” highlight how much better Code Orange has integrated their industrial influence. The electronics and pummeling music combine to create the soundtrack to a brutal slasher, practically oozing blood red in its purest form. “Real”, despite a minor misstep in the form of an average breakdown, is a real treat, with an even better blurring of the lines between metalcore and industrial.
Things get more interesting from here, with “Bleeding in the Blur” and “Ugly” pushing their love of 90s shoegaze and grunge further. They hint at how well Code Orange has transformed three distinct style of 90s alternative: shoegaze, industrial, and metallic hardcore, into one cohesive listen. The two former get a greater emphasis on the closing tracks, which, while serving as a nice sonic salve after earlier beatings, feel a tad out of place. A record like Forever should end with a reminder of its savagery, and this ends with hints that Code Orange wants to go even further in their love of non-metallic music.
Obviously, this is all perfectly fine, and it just serves as a minor problem more than a distracting one. Forever is Code Orange’s most realized statement of intent. It’s raw, angry, and unfiltered, and the sonic stew they brew is potent and well-balanced. The band perfectly encapsulates the color red throughout the album, and the result is an aggressive listen. Yet, it’s hard not to appreciate how memorable this is despite the desire to bludgeon the listener. Code Orange haven’t yet crafted a perfect album, but their ability to constantly evolve and truly do what they want makes for compelling and fascinating music. It’s too early to talk about “best of” lists, but I’d mark this album down in pen for inclusion later on in the year.