Listening to Code Orange Kids’ debut full-length for Deathwish Inc., Love is Love // Return to Dust, two things are perfectly clear:
1) I am old and was ready to write-off any and all new hardcore bands
2) This is a reminder of all that is and can be great about hardcore and heavy music today
The moment that opening track “Flowermouth (The Leech)” breaks into its heavy groove and hard-driving rhythm, there is no doubt that COK are here to bring in their sonic beatdown. The drumming is violent, the guitars jangle in and out of noise levels, and the music overall becomes completely unpredictable. “Around My Neck // On My Head” brings even more chaos into things with its grind-like and manic pace that doesn’t let up until it dumps you into a slow and cadent drumming and the eventual sludge drag of “Sleep (I’ve Been Slipping)” right after. What is going on here? In just the opening three songs, COK have managed to effortlessly cover a handful of styles and genres in aggressive music and show no sign of letting up.
This pattern of uncertainty and “all over the map” stylings continues with “Liars // Trudge”, which starts out at breakneck speed easily enough and then nearly grinds down to a halt halfway through; the more melodic and restrained sound is surprising. “Colors (Into Nothing)” and “Calm // Breathe” take the band into a relatively restrained and expansive sounds as they slow down and flirt with a more shoegaze and feedback-ladden approach. It’s these two standout songs that showcase the band’s willingness to create a more layered and subtle sound which is more comforting than jarring in their previous sonic assaults. The heaviness returns, though, with “Nothing (The Rat)”, which I have a feeling will bring in a few Converge comparisons in its feel. More discerning ears, however, may pick up a bit more of Will Haven, especially in the vocal delivery. And that is mighty fine.
The constant change-up in vocals with each song is where Code Orange Kids find their strength. The shared and exchanged vocal duties of Jami Morgan, Reba Meyers, and Eric Balderose, is what adds to the shift in sound, styles, and expectations already layered out by the music of each song.
The centerpieces of the album are “Choices (Love is Love)” and “Bloom (Return to Dust)”, as they not only make the easy references to the album title, but also encompass all the ferocity and emotion in sound and words. With lyrics like “Because I’ve been slipping into nothing / And these thoughts are worthless,” and “Trying to figure out what’s worth keeping / When I don’t hate anyone else even half as much as I hate myself,” combined with the dirge and plodding heaviness of the music, you get a a whole new animal of untamed and unbridled emotion that is bursting at the seams.
Code Orange Kids have been able to achieve something that may be rare in today’s hardcore music scene: re-igniting that spark of creativity and ingenuity that at times flames out too easily. Most music scenes get too cluttered with the same sounds and styles and posturing. Love is Love // Return to Dust proves that if you’re ready to write-off aggressive music and take on a more cynical role, you may want to reassess that position. Code Orange Kids are not re-inventing the wheel of hardcore here; they are merely kicking it off, letting the genre grind a bit, and showing that you can still create aggression and heaviness without resorting to stale formulas. COK have a bright future ahead of them. A future so bright, they have to wear shades. (There you have an 80’s pop music reference to prove my elder status. Ha!)