I didn’t know what to expect when Code Orange removed “Kids” from the end of their name. It stuck out like a statement of evolution, coinciding with the announcement of their new record I Am King. Their emphasis on titles and supremacy rang out in their pre-release attitude and energy, as well as the trio of preceding singles, creating a fog of mystery and a lot of unique hype. The album wastes no time proving itself to you, branding your ears with eleven tracks that bring a much more doom and groove-filled sound than their previous releases. This expansion of sound is breathtaking and immediately fulfilling as it wastes no time pulling you in.
Right off the bat with “I Am King” and “Slowburn”, the group demonstrates their new darker sound in different ways, first with the opening grooves of the former followed by the fresh throwback to their older sound with the latter. The result is five minutes of absolute aggression that is countered by the majestic “Dreams in Inertia”, which offers a much more experimental and quiet approach in what turns out to be the best track on the entire album. “Starve” follows this trend, utilizing more of the singing that guitarist Reba Meyers showcases in Adventures and acting as a similar break between the onslaughts of other tracks. Her trademark Code Orange screams are beefier than ever, hitting new lows to add to the pure power of songs such as “My World” and “Alone in a Room”.
Similar to their debut record Love Is Love/Return to Dust, the band is joined by a collection of guest vocalists who add to the intensity of the album. Scott Vogel of Terror really stands out in “Unclean Spirit”, where he brings about the end of the track in wonderful coordination with drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan, while Joe Sanderson of Eternal Sleep contributes to the deep growls of the monstrous closer “Mercy”. These increased dimensions are beneficial to the record, increasing the strength of the vocals which I believe to be an occasional weakness to the band’s sound.
The instrumentation takes center stage throughout, sometimes pushing the vocals out of the mix while remaining civil about it. Producer Kurt Ballou really flexes his muscles in the soundscape of this record, as he did with the latest Every Time I Die record, adding in various ambient sounds and pumping up the blast from the guitars and drums to increase the true potency of their progression. Look no further than the aforementioned “Starve” and penultimate “Bind You”, two tracks that add diverse new characteristics to the band’s established style of hardcore.
The greatest statement this record makes throughout its thirty-three minute running time is its maturity. It carelessly chugs along as heavily as it can just for the hell of it, similar to their previous releases, but this time around it is much more deliberate. From the opening drones that ring throughout the title track, the climactic and aptly-titled “Your Body Is Ready…” and the previously mentioned “Mercy”, this record is much more organized than previous releases and that is perhaps the best growth to be found this time around.
Much like their band name, these musicians aren’t kids anymore. They are aware of their strength and show it off plenty of times on I Am King, a change-up from their last record. This record goes above and beyond their previous efforts in every way, a creation that is the heaviest release I’ve heard all year and may do a great job fighting for my attention for the next few months. Most importantly, Code Orange also sets an impressive stage for what they can bring next time along, offering a glimpse into the future of a band that very well may become the new kings of hardcore.