And you may ask yourself: what the hell has happened to Code Orange? These are not the kids we used to know. This is not the violence we used to feel. This isn’t even as chest-beatingly and knowingly cocky as you might have come to delight in from the Pittsburgh heavyists.
If the digital aggression and industrial spikes of 2020’s masterful fourth album Underneath – a record with a powerful sense of dominance and ‘Come at me, bro’ approach to creativity – were too much of a step for some, it was at least a step that took things to an extreme. More aggro, more darkness, more hurt, more noise, more, more, more. Here, even knowing how much Code Orange wilfully set themselves apart, nobody could honestly say this is where we expected to end up.
The Above is an album that frequently goes the opposite way than you’d expect. Opener Never Fall Apart begins with a threatening, murky industrial malice, but then flips on its head and introduces piano, a quiet, sort-of-grungy chorus sung by guitarist Reba Myers, before a lightning bolt of screaming hits, and it yanks itself back into the pianos. From there, you're disoriented beyond all sense of direction.
Likewise, Theatre Of Cruelty starts in familiar, beefy hardcore territory, but where it goes in between the boiling aggro is a jarring, Radiohead-y zone. And just as you think you’ve got Take Shape all figured out, with its vocal-perfect Linkin Park-y chorus, up pops Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan – a man no stranger to refusing to play ball normally himself. Nor, come to mention, is engineer Steve Albini (the man behind, among many others, Nirvana’s spiky, wilfully uncommercial In Utero).