Album Review: Code Orange – What Is Really Underneath?

Album Review: Code Orange - What Is Really Underneath?
Reviewed by Tim Finch

Code Orange first materialized in the wider British metal consciousness back in 2014 when in December of that year they were booked into the opening slot of At The Gates December tour. An interesting prospect, and a chance for them to really grow a fan base on these shores. Once those shows happened it was noticeable that this may not be the right billing for them, their sound of course does not really match with that of the Swedish death metal overlords at all.

Since that early, interesting introduction the band have forged a path more suited to them. Their sound originally rooted firmly in the hardcore arena, they have the ability to transcend genre’s mixing sounds of electronica and industrial into a melting pot of sheer madness. Over time, since that original jarring live introduction, Code Orange have seeped into the scenes' consciousness, a slow process, but one that sees them going from strength to strength.

In February 2023 the band return with ‘What Is Really Underneath?’, a re-imagination of 2020’s critically acclaimed ‘Underneath’.

Opening the album is ‘Drowning In It’ with a heavy, industrial stomp of a beat that leads into an electronica filled number, fronted by guitarist Reba Meyer’s almost haunting vocals. The stomping beat and feel continues through ‘So Below’ before ‘The Shell’ takes the listener on a different track. Eerie footsteps echo in the listeners ear as this interlude teases us as we await a cacophony of sound to come forth. And through the clanging of hammer on metal that cacophony breaks through on ‘Club.Cold.Metal.’.

Album Review: Code Orange - What Is Really Underneath?

The album continues in the same vein, hardcore vibes, guttural vocals of Jami juxtaposed by those of Reba and Eric Balderose, a throbbing back beat atop which sit samples, hints of electronica, and the occasional raging riff.

‘Prismatic Shame’ sees the band switch tact yet again, in Code Orange terms it verges on being a ballad, but in real terms it is a dark, softly spoken number, highlighting the vocals over anything else the band produces. ‘The Cutters Theme’ differs again, keyboards kick it off, slowly ramping up the intensity, as a listener you sit on the edge of your seat, hairs stand on the back of your neck as you await what will surly come. But the crescendo you await never happens, the three minute instrumental instead acts as a tension raiser, your heartbeat lifting with every passing note.

In ‘What Is Really Underneath?’ Code Orange have yet again outdone themselves. This is not a mere reworking of an album from a hardcore band, instead it is a cinematic score, filled with effects, sounds and dimensions you would not expect. It takes the listener on a journey, it mesmerises and once more propels the band to the next rung on that ladder to the top.

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