Code Orange entered the hardcore punk scene in 2008 as Code Orange Kids. Their punk ways soon took a turn to darker, gloomier hardcore, before the band members were even in high school. By the time their first studio album Love is Love/Return to Dust in 2012, the band had problems booking a proper tour due to their wider age range. Before their 2014 disc I Am King, the band dropped the “Kids” part of their moniker, and were set to take the heavy music world by storm.
After signing with Roadrunner in 2016, their album Forever set them up for bigger things, as Code Orange became the first live act to play at a WWE NXT TakeOver show, first with their song “Bleeding in the Blur,” then later playing “Root of All Evil,” the theme music for “The Dutch Destroyer” Aleister Black, alongside Incendiary. Last year, they recorded an interpretation of “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt’s old theme music “Live in Fear” titled “Let Me In,” which premiered with Wyatt’s horrific new gimmick at Summerslam last August.
With Underneath, Code Orange has imposed enough pressure to turn up diamonds. The chaotic, hardcore moments come in like ballpeen hammers, with enough melody to make the experience of getting your chest kicked in a pleasureable one. Blending electronic and industrial elements into their abrasive metallic hardcore makes for a cocktail less Brompton and more molotov.
“(deeperthanbefore)” is a restrained but creepy opener. The child’s voice insisting “let’s take a good look at you” is an unsettling request, before the flurry of kicks and snares opens “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole.” The chorus is a full-bore hardcore assault, with a stop-start glitch effect that may throw off those who stream the album. The breakdown is a melting passage full of harmonics, electronic effects, and a heaping tablespoon of madness thrown in to keep things fresh. “In Fear” bleeds in from the previous number with more glitchy effects. The second verse features a clean-sung section from guitarist/vocalist Reba Meyers, amping things up with the tried and true beauty and the beast vocal technique.
The first section of “You and You Alone” gives me strong Strapping Young Lad vibes, and I found myself tapping out the bell-heavy drum riff in the hook. In an album full of imposing heaviness, this track manages to stand apart from the rest. Bonus points for the tremolo picking in the breakdown, as it’s not something the djent-heavy technique employs often. “Who I Am” sounds vaguely like Deftones circa Saturday Night Wrist era, with its shoegaze leanings and simpler vocal melody. The cacophony ramps right back up with “Cold.Metal.Place,” complete with a pit-opener of an intro and a harmonics-heavy breakdown around the two minute mark.
The eerie child’s voice returns to start in “Sulfur Surrounding,” before an acoustic guitar behind a wailing lead begins the song off proper. Even through gritted teeth, the melodic sensibility permeates, and takes a song that starts off sounding a bit odd (even by Code Orange standards) and makes it their own. This motif continues into “The Easy Way,” another solid offering, and part two of a one-two punch of melody within madness.
With a gunshot, “Erasure Scan” gets right back to the hardcore mania and harsh vocals. “Last Ones Left” is going to slaughter crowds soon enough, with its four on the floor, chant-ready chorus. This one-two punch, unlike the last one, is less a jab and more a haymaker, and it goes down swinging. A more rock-forward aura surrounds “Autumn and Carbine,” sounding a bit Nineties at that.
Before long, “Back Inside the Glass” smashes in with more core shenanigans and bold brutality. The penultimate track “A Sliver” creeps in feeling like golden era Korn. There exists in this song a punk backbone, but a metallic delivery, and this blending of genres proves that they don’t do several things just competently, but with great success. Closing out the album is the infectious, hummable title track. It is irresistibly melodic, full of digital destruction and groove that ends the album on a major high note.
Underneath is the perfect thing to show someone who asks what the hype behind Code Orange is about. Whether a longtime fan from when the band were still kids in name and reality, or if you’re like me and discovered them thanks to the world of pro wrestling, Code Orange are four albums deep, and won’t be stopping anytime soon. And the metal world, as such, will be better for it.