"We want to challenge ourselves": Code Orange are evolving beyond hardcore to grasp at something much bigger

Code Orange in 2023
(Image credit: Tim Saccenti)

In 2020, Code Orange were on the verge of releasing their fourth album, Underneath, when their launch show was cancelled due to the pandemic. The Pittsburgh sextet turned it into a livestream, setting a trend in the process. 

Steadfast and focused, they continued grinding with more virtual and real-life shows, a live album (Under My Skin) and a remix album (What Is Really Underneath?) – before finally hitting us with 2023’s uncompromising follow-up, The Above. It took their stuttering, electronic metal attack and laced it with gorgeous alt rock and shoegaze melodies. 

“We had a lot building up inside of us, and I think that’s the reason why the album came out the way it did,” says guitarist/backing vocalist Reba Meyers. “We got to do so many different types of releases in the last few years, so we got to dig a little deeper and learn about what it is that we really wanted to make.” 

Not all fans approved. Some thought they were leaning into melody at the expense of their hardcore roots, while others took issue with The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan guesting on NIN-influenced track Take Shape. Frontman Jami Morgan isn’t the kind of man to listen to other people’s opinions, though… 

“People always have a lot to say, but we’re doing what we think we should be doing. We did it in hardcore and we did it in metal, now we’ve done it in, for want of a better word, rock,” he explains. “We want to challenge ourselves. We’re naked and we’re willing to walk through that door first.” 

The Mask Of Sanity Slips is rage combined with beauty – a bullet with butterfly wings – while Mirror showcases Reba’s soulful vocals. Meanwhile, I Fly flirts with grunge harmonies and Splinter The Soul boasts a singalong chorus. 

“I think this record has some of the most accessible songs we’ve ever recorded,” explains Jami. “I think they could really reach a lot of people if they were given the chance. But equally, I think it has all of the intelligence and emotion of what we’ve done before, in terms of the layers of the onion. It would be awesome if it blew up.” 

Having said that, their aggressive side punches you in the face on the stabbing Theatre Of Cruelty, and the early-Deftones adjacent Grooming My Replacement. It’s still a heavy record, then… “Oh, hell yeah!” says Jami. “It’s still raw – it’s recorded by fucking Steve Albini!” 

2023 might have seen recognition for rising hardcore bands such as Zulu, Militarie Gun, Drain, Scowl, Gel and more, but Code Orange have barely noticed. They’re their own unit, doing their own thing, and The Above is another bold step in their evolution. 

“We don’t really pay that much attention to whatever else is going on now to be honest,” admits Reba. “Our intention with this band is for us to create and explore and grow, and I’m glad people are doing well, but we don’t compare ourselves to other bands. We’re on our path, and that’s what we focus on solely.”

The Above is out now via Blue Grape

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.