Code Orange Kids - Love is Love // Return to Dust
Record Label: Deathwish Inc.
Release Date: November 20, 2012
When you're 18, the world is yours. You can vote, own a gun, buy smut proudly and you're sitting comfortably between the adolescence of the future unknown and the harsh reality of real change that comes with growing up, burdening a safe sense of responsibility with every move, adulthood, etc. In that gap of time, some of the best music is made by young upstarts. Of all the older bands I've interviewed who contemporaries now look up to, they all had the same answer: We were young and we had nothing to lose. There was no bar set by the status quo of what a sound should or shouldn't be.
In just a few years, Code Orange Kids have sort of become one of those examples of "nothing to lose" in an even more crowded market of hardcore that sprawls online every day. With Love is Love // Return to Dust, the band put on display why they climbed the ranks so quickly and deserving. From the opening screeching of "Flowermouth (The Leech)" to the harmony and falsetto in the second half of "Liars // Trudge," it's a strong example of the extreme polar ends found on the band's first full-length. It's an album that gets so intense and heart-racing, that you almost need tracks like "Colors (Into Nothing)" (featuring Adam McIlwee of Tigers Jaw) and "Calm // Breathe" for a chance to relax from most of the album's deafening bark. Even within the texture of the harmonies that lie on those tracks, there's still noise being built around them.
The band's full-length is very much a studio record though, and for the best. Kurt Ballou does a skillful job of sharpening certain guitar licks, layering cloudy auras of harmony and polishing the dirtier "live" sound on Embrace Me // Erase Me and Cycles into a cleaner finish, while not buffering too much of the grit and grime out of the band's heavily laden hardcore roots. The man behind Until Your Heart Stops, Chaos is Me, Document #8 and Converge's catalog now leads the next generation to water, and this album is his best work since last year's Old Friends. "Nothing (The Rat)" and "Choices (Love is Love)" juggle a knack for building noise around the backbone of harsh chaos, but the band knows when to tighten up the lock of the fist in swinging at the boldest statements on the album. The ending to "Choices (Love is Love)" and its title track counterpart, the closing "Bloom (Return to Dust)," feel like you're being crushed under the weight of complete anger and frustration. As the last line of the album cuts off prematurely, it's waking up from the depths of a very tormented and exhausting movie of thoughts in the back of your head for which you couldn't figure out how to shut off.
More NYHC and Boston fans will love the quick whip of "Roots Are Certain // Sky is Empty" and "Around My Neck // On My Head," but they feel too straightforward in the context of the rest of the album, and in my opinion, the weakest of the record. I'd even dismiss the former all together as it sits awkwardly between the album's outstanding middle and its well-crafted ending. I think that's where the line is drawn in the pit of what some think Code Orange Kids to be and the future of what they can become as an arsenal of pissed off young adults. The hardcore that I grew up on was the post-hardcore of textures, quick tempo and signature shifts and music that kept evolving not only through an album, but also through each individual track.
Maybe I'm not the expert on where Love is Love // Return to Dust fits into the "hardcore" genre, because I'm pulling at elements I like from my background of early Equal Vision and Dim Mak releases when others will hear A389 and Revelation Record's back catalog. Regardless, the album will stir conversation as to whether Code Orange Kids have set a challenge for their contemporaries and younger bands to write heavy music that can be more than a trite breakdown. The elements on Love is Love // Return to Dust are a sign of forward thinking for some, but may be a downside for other traditionalists of the genre. I was never about rules, only breaking them into blossoming something new. Hardcore should never be about the culture, but about the sound - whether it's found in something post-apocalyptic or heavy and unforgiving. To me, it's not even a genre, but a feeling that can be captivated in many different ways. While the band's first full-length may not indulge in the complex horror of Old Man Gloom's NO or is too harmonious for the person who has to "set if off in the pit" during every song, the album tetters the line of sheer terror and savant variation in the context of the larger scale of contemporary hardcore - however you may define it.
Looking forward to hearing this as well. Their material on the Full of Hell split is the best they've written so far, but Flowermouth didn't grip me like that initially though. Might want to give it another listen.