Hardcore music is pretty bland nowadays, for the most part. Of course there are exceptions – bands like Touche Amore, Defeater, and My Iron Lung, for example, all make sincere and innovative music that never sacrifices intensity for accessibility. But bands like these are few and far between, and for every Touche Amore there are ten Counterparts, hardcore bands who just constantly rehash the same sounds as their peers album after album. Code Orange is, luckily, not one of those bands.
I Am King is Code Orange’s latest sludge-influenced hardcore outing. Since the last time we’ve heard them, they’ve shed the “kids” from their name, and they’ve gotten even heavier. Their debut, Love Is Love//Return to Dust, succeeded because it worked with a few different styles, blending their abrasive hardcore sound with ethereal post-rock elements and aspects of heavy, discordant sludge metal. I Am King typically forgoes the former in favor of an even harsher and more distorted brand of sludgy hardcore.
Code Orange waste no time, grabbing you by the collar and throwing you into the record. The title track is a slice of throwback 90s metal, a kick to the gut that never lets up throughout the next ten tracks. “Dreams in Inertia” is probably the closest the album gets to a breather, featuring only cleanly sung vocals, layered in a haunting fashion. But even still, the song is crushing, the drums pummeling and the bass thick.
And ultimately, that’s I Am King‘s biggest downfall. While it’s a good display of talent, particularly in such a stale and stagnant scene, the album gets too monotonous. It’s crushing, it’s crunchy, it’s pulverizing – but you can only take so much of it. Love Is Love//Return to Dust was still ludicrously heavy, it had softer moments to give the louder ones more punch, and to break up the haze. I Am King really lacks all of that, and that’s great if you want something heavy to lift to, but definitely isn’t what you want if you’re looking for variety in your music. Hopefully on LP 3 Code Orange can can meld the two styles together.