Deservingly heralded as one of today’s most forward-thinking hardcore acts, Code Orange also projects a hyper-seriousness that’s easy to mock. But the band’s lack of self-awareness with lyrics and demeanor is overshadowed by its music. Although the lyrics of Forever sometimes seem like something from an angry teenager’s diary, the LP’s instrumentation is brilliantly structured and, of course, crushing. The quartet’s Roadrunner debut is also laced with heavy doses of industrial and nü metal, which is bold since the latter is so taboo in underground circles.
The opener, “Forever,” is akin to watching a compilation of horrific car accidents. It revolves around a bear-trap groove that bares its teeth in Reba Meyers and Eric Balderose’s harmonic up-picking. Spearheaded by Jami Morgan’s feral screams and abusive drumming, the track’s unexpected changes create the sensation of rolling down a hill in a barrel. Just before the song’s most cataclysmic breakdown, Morgan screams, “Code Orange is forever,” immediately after which Meyers and Balderose growl, “Code Orange forever”—adolescent lyrics that take away from the music’s intensity. Thankfully, “Kill The Creator” quickly overshadows that cheesiness, a cut that follows up what’s surely to be one of the best breakdowns of 2017 with a disorienting plunge into industrial gelatin.
Third track “Real” similarly splices violent metalcore with harsh electronics. It also shines a spotlight on the unfortunate lyrical transition “This is real now, motherfucker,” the silliness of which is soon drowned in the waves of an extended and pummeling breakdown. Forever then traverses into an unapologetically catchy rock anthem, “Bleeding In The Blur.” Carried by huge stoner-metal riffs and Meyers’ transfixing clean vocals, the song almost sounds like it’s by a different band, highlighting the juxtaposition of styles that defines Forever.
“The New Reality” and “Spy” follow the violent path of 2014’s I Am King while “Ugly” throws a wrench in the spokes with driving (and surprisingly cool) nü metal. Forever fittingly closes by mashing genres. “No One Is Untouchable” will inspire fans to bludgeon each other in the pit, but “Hurt Goes On” is a Nine Inch Nails-inspired dungeon. The music of “Hurt Goes On” initially finds momentum in industrial pounding that’s made sinister by subtle, poison-gas electronics. Comical lyrics cheapen the song, though. Other moments of lyrical corniness on Forever are partially saved by the fact that they’re screamed and therefore less intelligible. “Hurt Goes On” features spoken-word vocals, bringing direct attention to lines like “I’m just a dog in a cage” and “I want to hurt you mentally.” But the track builds into a gothic anthem that provides a genuinely creepy bridge into the unsettling “dream2,” which again showcases Meyer’s hypnotic singing.
Despite its ridiculous lyrical moments, Forever advances the trend of mashing together disparate styles in metal and hardcore. Code Orange’s lyrics show room for improvement, but even that can’t keep the Pittsburgh quartet from being one of aggressive music’s most interesting bands.