Album Review: Code Orange Get Industrial on Underneath
Even at a mere glance, one can tell that the general vibe of Underneath, the fourth full-length from Code Orange, is “Same but different.” For one thing, there’s the album art. The band’s last two offerings — 2014’s breakthrough, I Am King, and 2017’s Forever — both featured a black border, solid lettering, and an image of a bleeding human being. By contrast, Underneath features a black border, crystalline lettering, and what may or may not be a robot with transparent skin.
Then there’s the behind-the-scenes credits: Underneath is the the first Code Orange album to be made without producer Kurt Ballou (Kvelertak, Skeletonwitch), who is replaced here by Nick Raskulinecz (Korn, Halestorm)… but Raskulinecz shares his producer credit with drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan and Will Yip, who also worked on Forever.
Like I said: “Same but different.”
This is, indeed, the best way to describe Underneath. The album is not wanting for the shattering, harum-scarum metallic hardcore for which the band is known, but there are some striking distinctions as well.
First and foremost, there’s a substantial industrial vibe. Eric “Shade” Balderose, once credited only as one of the band’s guitarists/vocalists, does a ton of programming and synth work here. Even the most guitar-heavy and “traditionally Code Orange”-sounding cuts, like “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole,” “In Fear,” and “Erasure Scan” have a ton of electronic flourishes in the form of drum loops, samples, artificial choirs, Max Headroom-esque audio skipping, and jarring computer glitches. Other tracks, like “The Easy Way” and “Back Inside the Glass,” wouldn’t be especially out of place on vintage Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson releases (Chris Vrenna, formerly of both of those acts, also gets a programming credit), while songs like “You and You Alone,” “Cold Metal Place,” and “Last Ones Left” find the band channeling their inner Slipknot (so long as you imagine that Slipknot actually gave Craig Jones something substantial to do).
Secondly, there’s a handful of cuts on which the band really lets their ’90s alt-rock freak flag fly. Moody, sometimes surprisingly-slinky songs like the title track, “Who I Am,” “Sulfur Surrounding,” “Autumn and Carbine,” and “A Sliver” would have knocked the 120 Minutes crowd’s socks off back in the day. These parts of the album often downplay (but by no means abandon) the industrial elements to varying degrees and, I’m sure not coincidentally, all feature powerful lead vocals by guitarist Reba Meyers.
I don’t know how Code Orange purists will react to the creative evolutions on Underneath (some have already bristled at the title track), but I do know this: the album features the band’s most consistent songwriting across the board. The biggest (only?) problem with Code Orange to date has been that their songs sometime seem like random collections of riffs in search of a unifying structure; that’s rarely a problem here. Underneath is, from start to finish, the band’s most satisfying release to date. Now let’s hope Code Orange fans are open-minded enough to embrace it.
Code Orange’s Underneath comes out Friday, March 13 on Roadrunner. You can check out the song “Sulfur Surrounding” here and pre-order the album here. Check out our recent interview with drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan on The MetalSucks Podcast here. The band’s upcoming live dates are as below.
w/ Jesus Piece, Year of the Knife, Show Me the Body and Machine Girl
Mar 30 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club [tickets]
Apr 01 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts [tickets]
Apr 02 – Virginia Beach, VA – Peabody’s [tickets]
Apr 03 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade [tickets]
Apr 04 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall [tickets]
Apr 07 – Austin, TX – Mohawk [tickets]
Apr 09 – Mesa, AZ – The Nile [tickets]
Apr 10 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (festival date) [tickets]
Apr 11 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s [tickets]
Apr 12 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre [tickets]
Apr 13 – Seattle, WA – Neumos [tickets]
Apr 15 – Sacramento, CA – Harlow’s [tickets]
Apr 17 – Indio, CA – Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (festival date) [tickets]
Apr 20 – Salt Lake City, UT [tickets]
Apr 21 – Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre [tickets]
Apr 23 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge* [tickets]
Apr 24 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick* [tickets]
May 2 – Concord, SC – Epicenter Festival (festival date) [tickets]
May 10 – Daytona Beach, FL – Welcome To Rockville (festival date) [tickets]
May 17 – Columbus, OH – Sonic Temple Festival (festival date) [tickets]
* no Show Me the Body
w/ Slipknot, A Day to Remember, and Underoath
Saturday, May 30, 2020 Syracuse, NY St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview (no A Day to Remember) [tickets]
Sunday, May 31, 2020 Mansfield, MA Xfinity Center [tickets]
Thursday, June 04, 2020 Quebec City, QC Centre Videotron [tickets]
Friday, June 05, 2020 Montreal, QC Centre Bell [tickets]
Saturday, June 06, 2020 Toronto, ON Budweiser Stage [tickets]
Monday, June 08, 2020 Clarkston, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre [tickets]
Wednesday, June 10, 2020 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena [tickets]
Friday, June 12, 2020 Memphis, TN FedExForum [tickets]
Sunday, June 14, 2020 Orlando, FL Amway Center [tickets]
Monday, June 15, 2020 West Palm Beach, FL iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre [tickets]
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion [tickets]
Thursday, June 18, 2020 Alpharetta, GA Ameris Bank Amphitheatre [tickets]
Saturday, June 20, 2020 Birmingham, AL Oak Mountain Amphitheatre [tickets]
Monday, June 22, 2020 Dallas, TX Dos Equis Pavilion [tickets]
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 Austin, TX Germania Insurance Amphitheater [tickets]