Words About Music
Code Orange “I Am King”
Back in 2012, I familiarized myself with famed hardcore music label Deathwish Inc. The label was founded in the late ’90s by Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon and features incredible post-hardcore, heavy metal, and screamo bands like Converge, Touché Amoré, Deafheaven, Loma Prieta, Self Defense Family, and Modern Life Is War. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed several releases that have come from this label, especially the ones that were produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. One of those was the 2012 debut album from Code Orange Kids, “Love Is Love // Return to Dust.” It was a short, heavy, ambitious record that blended sludge metal and post-hardcore in really cool ways. Since that album’s release, they’ve toured worldwide, shortened their name to Code Orange, and recorded a followup record “I Am King.” This album is just as, if not more, intense as their previous record, with a sense of maturity demonstrated not just by dropping the “Kids” from their name but also by more instrumental experimentation and improved songwriting.
While I was very excited by “Love Is Love // Return to Dust” when it came out, I’ve since sort of accepted that it’s not quite as good to me now was it was. In fact, I sort of forgot about the album. I listened to it for the first time in a while just recently, and while it still holds up as a good post-hardcore record, it’s certainly not quite as good as some of the better Deathwish releases. But, I still went into “I Am King” expecting at least some more intense, heavy music, and that’s what I got. Code Orange is not after some sort of sonic reinvention. The style of music is still very much the same, and it’s still designed to depict ferocity and anger without appearing gimmicky or laughable. It’s a record that fans of hardcore music should find themselves enjoying. Code Orange is no Converge, but they’ve got their own thing going and it works.
One thing that’s apparent about Code Orange is that the members of this band have quite a great ear for riffs. “I Am King” is by no means an album that is devoted to the art of the riff, but it could be if it wanted to be. There’s some great guitar playing on this album. Ballou’s production is, always, what stands out here. Code Orange can go through several stylistic shifts over the course of a song, and Ballou handles that incredibly well. He makes the quiet parts as quiet as they need to be, and he makes the loud parts physically painful. Each strum feels like being stabbed in the brain in the best possible way.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to praise Code Orange highly because I do like their music, they didn’t really do a whole lot to change up their sound or do anything differently from their last album. Fortunately for me, however, I enjoy their sound. Code Orange is good at what they do and I don’t honestly believe that a whole lot needs to be changed. I would like to see what they’re capable of, though. As good as this album can be, it can also be a bit repetitive, especially with the pseudo-metalcore breakdowns in nearly every track. Code Orange seems like with time they can evolve into an all-time great of hardcore music. Dare I say, perhaps even become the next Converge. Until then, they’ve got a good thing going and I will definitely anticipate their next album.
SCORE – 7.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – I Am King, Slowburn, Dreams in Inertia, Alone in a Room, Your Body is Ready…, Thinners of the Herd, Bind You
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