Album review: Code Orange – What Is Really Underneath?

Code Orange peer down the rabbit-hole of 2020’s scorching Underneath…

Album review: Code Orange – What Is Really Underneath?
Nick Ruskell

'You think you know who you are, until you're under duress / You got it all figured out, until you're under the skin.'

There's always more to Code Orange than meets the eye: more than a very good hardcore band; more than merely experts in aggro. Even as they self-evidently shed earlier skins, there was a depth far beyond a couple of Matrix jackets and NIN-ish electronic glitches and flourishes. So it has transpired with Underneath, their 5/5-rated work of seething genius from 2020. Where upon its release it was hailed as an unambiguous statement of creativity and a pistol-whip to music that's boring and lifeless, we hadn't realised how many dimensions there were to it. On this reworked, reimagined, cut-up and redefined version, with an accompanying set of visuals for much of it, the depth of vision this band has is writ large, and it's staggering.

Swallowing the rabbit whole? Turns out we'd barely had a mouthful.

Much of What Is Really Underneath? puts beats, electronics and an intentionally machine-like feel right up front. Underneath has become Drowning In It, a cold, hard pulse of twisted industrial with Jami Morgan's mocking vocals over the top, making you realise you should have had the sense to wonder a bit more about what Code Orange do. The crawling, Slipknot-ish Cold.Metal.Place. from the original album is now Club.Cold.Metal., a perfectly descriptive title for something that now sounds like what the Wachowskis should have picked for the bar scene at the start of The Matrix. As it goes on, there are countless shades that frequently go to places you wouldn't have thought, raising both eyebrows and pulses and it twists around itself.

Taken as a companion to the original, a distorted view from the back of a mirror, What Is Really Underneath? is a triumph that picks at threads you probably didn't notice and weaves something new from them. But taken on its own, without such context, it shows just how much imagination, creativity and dangerous character Code Orange have.

What Is Really Underneath? It's a question with an answer apparently too vast to properly be given. All you need to know is: when Code Orange give you something, you'd be a fool to think you've got them all figured out.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Candy

What Is Really Underneath? is out now via Blue Grape

Read this: Code Orange: “Listen to what we do, look at what we do – we don’t fit in anywhere”

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