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In what is perhaps a way of showing some new found maturity, these Pennsylvanian newcomers have dropped the “Kids” from their name. Instead of adding “Adults” or “Grown Up” to their title (neither one really rolls off the tongue) Code Orange have kept it simple and have put out their sophomore record, ‘I Am King’…and it’s simply imposing.
A follow up to 2012’s well-received (and equally, promising) ‘Love Is Love//Return to Dust’ is one heavy, sludge-inspired beast. Head-carving drones, raw, guttural screams, crushing riffs and heavy grooves. It’s just an overall sound that pummels your neck deep into the ground and then steam rolls over your head just to make sure you got the band’s message – “We’re heavier than ever before guys!”
The fact that this album was produced by Converge guitarist, Kurt Ballou, explains everything about the group’s sounds. The undecipherable, unintelligible vocal style, the raw, DIY vibe of the record, the overall guitar tone that has the producer’ mainstay plastered all over it, the hardcore, crust punk vibe that bands like Masakari, Nails, and yes you guessed it, Converge, do so very well.
Influences aside, ‘I Am King’, from start to finish, is filled with very good songs. But that’s just it, they’re good but they aren’t necessarily great, and, at times, you end up going through the motions with this record.
The creepily titled ‘Your Body Is Ready…’, as well as ‘Slowburn’, ‘Unclean Spirit’ and the overly eerie ‘Bind You’ are all intense in their own right. They’re brisk and very fast-paced, and are just punishing. However, there is a fine line to manage, while solid, you don’t want to run the risk of being heavy for the sake of being heavy. ‘My World’ and ‘Mercy’ do try to mix things up and the band really takes their time in these parts, thus it becomes more challenging.
Giving these songs a strong sense of atmosphere and eerie ambiance was a great decision, and these scene freshmen hinted at these kinds of sounds on their first record. But there’s a weird tonal dissonance going on when all of the ludicrously heavy instrumentation just drops back in. Some may love this kind of writing, but it can undercut the direction that the band is trying to go in with some of these songs. ‘Starve’ and ‘Dreams In Inertia’ both try to change direction as well but the result is the same: it all feels a little indecisive.
Let’s not allow specific analysis get in the way of the overall reception. ‘I Am King‘ is a well-crafted record, which excels. It’s not without fault, but when it’s your sophomore offering is perfection a binding expectation? The good gladly outweighs any shortcomings.
‘I Am King’ is a solid album, no doubt, (though they do miss points for putting their band name in green and not orange). But it’s not quite the grand album that so many have been labeling it lately. Yeah, it’s dark and it’s heavy, and it does have a great enthusiasm for old school metalcore, but at times it does pull up a bit short i.e. “insert heavy riff here”, and “drop massive groove over here”. Worth a listen.
I Am King
Dreams In inertia
Alone in a Room
Your Body is Ready…