REVIEW: Code Orange – I Am King [2014]

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Artist: Code Orange

Album: I Am King

 

In late 2001, the United States Department of Homeland Security implemented a new system of warning the general public of impending terror alerts. This system, phased in gradually from 2001 to 2003 used a series of color-coded threat levels to describe the risk of a possible act of terrorism or wanton violence towards the general public. Among these codes, the highest level (without there being an actual act of terror involved) is Code Orange. Describing a “high or extremely probable” chance of attack or violent activity, there could truly not be a more fitting name for the Pennsylvanian punishers, Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids). This devastating metalcore quartet is practically synonymous with terror as they lash out with a crushing breed of sludge and hardcore on their most recent studio album, I Am King. Abusive, intense, angry and creative, I Am King is an oppressively heavy experience from beginning to end, crowning Code Orange as kings of “out-there” metalcore that mashes the listener into a bloody pulp.

The heart of Code Orange’s attack on the listener lies in the perfect blend of haphazard, hardcore instrumentation and carefully crafted metallic musicianship. Percussionist Jami Morgan exemplifies this hybrid—combining crashing, raunchy on-off blast beats with steamrolling breakdowns that seem to appear out of thin air. This is especially true on “I Am King,” where Morgan leads the quartet from a mile-a-minute pace to a screeching halt with a breakdown as loud and as bloody as ten train wrecks. The dismally perfect tone and talent of guitarists Eric Balderose and Reba Meyers amplify the efficacy of I Am King’s unique combination of brooding heaviness and blitzing speed. “Starve,” or “Dreams in Inertia,” for example, sees Balderose and Meyers toggle between almost Nirvana-esque, grunge-influenced riffs to a chugged-out bunker-buster of a breakdown heavy enough to flatten mountains. Together, Balderose and Meyers work to keep the listener enamored with the varied soundscape that is I Am King—maintaining a constant density and pressure of spine-shrinking heaviness, but including catchy and metallic riffs that pulse perfectly alongside Morgan’s punchy, pummeling percussion and Joe Goldman’s slithering, writhing bass grooves.

While I Am King is a musical grab-bag of inventive, impressively heavy instrumentation, it keeps an even vocal keel—impressive given that three members of the quartet share vocal duties. Balderose and Meyers work again as a dynamic duo, berating the listener with a relentless assault of harsh, grating shouts and screams. “I Am King” is home to climactic (and climax-inducing) low, visceral bellows that feel as if they could force the earth to shake—while “Mercy” and “Thinners of the Herd” are holders of shrieking, shrill screams to compliment the multitude of gruff mid-range shouts that pervade the album. Meyers and Balderose’s masterful use of a raw, gritty shout during a majority of I Am King’s duration does a huge favor in lending to Code Orange’s panic-inducing hardcore and powerviolence undertones, adding a consistency to their varied musical dynamic that gives the listener an anchor to latch themselves to—lest they get washed away in I Am King’s rough waters and tumultuous tidal waves.

What descriptions of musical mastery and vocal prowess don’t do for Code Orange is serve justice to how completely unique I Am King truly is. Bordering on avante-garde for some of it’s tracks (“Starve,” “Bind You” and “Dreams in Inertia” come to mind), I Am King manages to be unlike any other experience the listener is likely to find in modern-day metalcore. Constantly oppressive and belligerently brutal—yet colorful and flashy—listening to I Am King is something akin to being trampled by an army of clowns: terrifying, surreal and disorienting enough in its attack to leave the listener broken on the pavement wondering: what the Hell just hit me.

Upon beginning I Am King, the listener is subjecting themselves to an act of full-blown war. Code Orange are nothing but manic and murderous throughout their entire album: stabbing, ripping, shooting and slicing their way into the listener’s head with a sort of organized dissonance-meets-relentless heaviness that would make Gaza blush and Nails proud. You have been warned: devastation is imminent.

 

9.25/10

For Fans Of: Nails, Gaza, Fucked Up, Trainwreck

By: Connor Welsh