A few weeks ago, I tweeted out that I wouldn’t give the time of day to any “end of the year/best albums of 2014” list that didn’t include Code Orange’s (formerly Code Orange Kids) I Am King on it. The Pittsburgh hardcore act’s sophomore full length is heavy, frantic, soulful, angry, and deep. It numbs your mind. It is some of the most violent music I have ever heard, and it is my favorite album of the year.
I get hard pressed to actually get excited about listening to an album. Yes, there’s the jitter and joy of the first notes of a newly purchased album, or the notification from iTunes that my pre-order has finally downloaded (forgive me – it’s been years since I’ve bought a physical CD. Apartment living, y’all). There’s the wondering of, after the release date is announced to the masses, what direction a band will take their sound in, leading to exactly half the fan base either being excited for or disappointed in the band’s new turn.
Most of the time, the luster fades. (Notice how I said MOST of the time.)
Not I Am King, though. From the opening (literal) blasts of the title track, I still get excited time and time again to listen to this album. It’s as if Code Orange is sounding the trumpets, not as heralds announcing a new leader, but as outside force warning you they’ve come to tear down your city’s walls, and fuck all that remain in the way. This is their scene now.
The album flows between traditional hardcore (“Unclean Spirit,” featuring a cameo from the godfather Scott Vogel) to grunge (“Dreams in Inertia”) to shifting, chaotic metalcore (“My World,” voted one of Alternative Press’ 10 heaviest breakdowns of 2014), without ever hitting a bump or a track feeling out of place. It simply flows about as perfectly as any album I’ve ever heard, regardless of genre.
More than just being a masterfully written album, I Am King has so much attitude. Code Orange themselves carry an attitude of, “this is how music/hardcore/the world is now. There was before us, and now there is after us.,” and I Am King echos that. It imparts on the listener that hardcore music has changed. It leaves you thinking, “what the hell did I just listen to,” before pressing play again. And the band is still so young, with the average age of the band hovering around 21 years old, that it is fair to expect even more earth shattering music out of them.
I can ask you to listen to I Am King, knowing that many of you won’t. Heavy music isn’t for everyone, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve stopped trying to change people’s minds to even accepting hardcore or heavy metal as legitimate forms of music. I am okay with that, and Code Orange is too, constantly saying things along the lines of
In a lengthy piece for Pitchfork on the rise of what some have called The New Wave of Post-Hardcore, Ian Cohen says of Code Orange, “while [TNWOPH] bands were committed to realization and cohesion, Code Orange were an uncontrolled hurricane of ideas and information, all crashing on your head at once… as exciting as the crest has been, the trough is inevitable and hopefully, more bands will take after I Am King and have the audacity to call themselves the new New Wave.”
Hopefully they do.