Revisiting Forever by Code Orange

Normally, we leave it a bit longer than two years to revisit an album. But the subject of this write-up is no ordinary record, so we don’t feel bound by our own rules.

We’re looking back on an album that has drastically changed the heavy music landscape in just 25 months. It’s one of the most important records in living memory. It’s one of the boldest and most exciting slabs of hardcore ever put out there. And it’s real now, motherfucker.

We’re revisiting Forever by Code Orange.

Unleashed on the world on 13th January 2017, the third album from the Pittsburgh hardcore crew had been hyped aplenty pre-release. Understandably so, too; it was their major label debut, after all, and Roadrunner Records gave it the full bells and whistles treatment.

Crucially, though, this was an album that lived up to the hype. When it finally landed, the heavy music loving public at large lapped it up. It became a mainstay in Album of the Year lists for 2017 and it made every other heavy band out there take a look in the mirror and realise they needed to up their game.

The record swung from one genre trope to another – hardcore aggression, industrial glitches, lush soundscapes, and plenty of pure, skull-crunching metal to boot.

But that wasn’t all. Code Orange took some clean singing, alternative rock risks with tremendous pay-offs in the shape of ‘Ugly’ and ‘Bleeding In The Blur’, as well as indulging themselves in exploration and experimentation of synth-led, electronic dabbling, underlining their ambition and stretching the scope of what modern hardcore entails.

They didn’t just drop an instant classic album; they set the bar higher than heavy music has seen it for some time.

Better yet, for the first time in a long time this music had something attracting in outsiders. Forever put Code Orange on billboards in Times Square, on a stage at WWE’s NXT Takeover, on support slots in stadiums with System Of A Down and on the Grammys red carpet with a nomination for Best Metal Performance.

Let that all sink in. How many hardcore bands can tick all of those off?

Listening back now, in a world where only a couple of bands have come close to this record (cough, cough Palm Reader), it’s hardly groundbreaking to declare that Forever still sounds stunning…but it does.

In fact, it’s more than that. It is every bit the masterpiece we all thought it was, and the plaudits it garnered two years ago still seem fully justified. Imagine not having this as your Album of the Year for 2017?

Its title track, ‘The New Reality’ and ‘Real’ are all rooted in the scene this band came from, while ‘Bleeding In The Blur’ shows just what brilliant musicians they are.

Then there’s those delightful moments that are almost easy to forget without a revisit; the chunky riff in ‘Spy’, the layered brilliance of ‘Hurt Goes On’, and that ending on ‘Dream2’ – seriously, who ends a record like that?

What’s perhaps even more exciting is what this band has done since. They surprise-released the single ‘Only One Way’ in February 2018, another new direction for them and another slamming song. Later that year came the three-track EP The Hurt Will Go On, featuring guest vocals from Corey Taylor.

Yeah, him from Slipknot. No big deal, right?

Going back on this record is a reminder of how it served as a battering ram that blew open previously locked doors. Far more of our bands have had a far fairer share of the world’s attention these last couple of years, and this is the record they should be thanking for it.

There’s every chance we’ll get more new music from Code Orange in 2019. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s already written, recorded and ready to drop at a second’s notice.

This band doesn’t believe in following paths already walked by others. They’ve been ripping up rulebooks their entire career, but Forever was the moment they doused those rules in petrol, lit a match and turned them into a blazing inferno.

It’s like Code Orange themselves said on this record: the freaks have finally had their say, there is nothing you can do to take it.

Forever came out in 2017 on Roadrunner Records.

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Dave Musson