Pittsburgh’s Code Orange Kids smolder, smash on ‘Love Is Love//Return to Dust’

I don’t know if there’s such thing as destiny or chance, but I don’t dismiss it. Sometimes things happen because forces align and a path is forged before you, giving you an opportunity you may never have had before or never will again. What you do with it is what matters.

That type of thing can be used to describe how Pittsburgh hardcore band Code Orange Kids ended up on Deathwish Inc. for their debut record “Love Is Love//Return to Dust,” an album that’s already getting a lot of attention and even was featured on NPR. They happened to share a spot on a bill with Converge at a weekend hardcore/metal event in Braddock, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh in May of 2011, and their presence and performance moved Jacob Bannon. Later, when the band’s demo arrived at his Deathwish Inc. office, he instantly remembered the group, liked what he heard, and signed them to the label. Who knows what would have happened had the band played the other day of the festival?

Chances are the Code Orange Kids still would be raising unholy hell in the city. The group’s members — guitarist/vocalist Eric Balderose, guitarist/vocalist Reba Meyers, bassist Joe Goldman, and drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan — all recently finished high school, so the Kids part of their moniker is kind of literal. But don’t mistake that as meaning their brand of abrasive, doom-infested hardcore is anything but fully realized and ready to blow your face off. The accolades that already have greeted this band have been levied for good reason, and their debut is one of the most impressive releases Deathwish has put out this year. And they’ve had a damn good year.

Code Orange Kids holed up in Godcity Studios with the master Kurt Ballou at the production helm, and as usual, he finds and enhances the finest qualities of this band. They have a thunderous, volcanic approach to their sound, but Code Orange Kids also appreciate texture, emotion, and vulnerability. Yes, they certainly have those Converge traits, but I also hear some Cave In, some Gaza, and even some Thursday. And this band has grown significantly ever since they formed as a punk outfit in 2008. They have numerous mini-releases to their credit, and as time has gone on, they’ve matured and evolved. Ballou does an amazing job making them sound great on this album, but Code Orange Kids should be credited with their killer chops and disruptive nature that has them positioned as one of hardcore’s bright hopes for tomorrow.

“Flowermouth (The Leech)” rips the album open immediately, with a mathy, gritty hardcore assault full of vitriol and passion. The vocals are harsh and alive, a melody cuts through the center and knocks you on your ass, and it dissolves into murk that leads right into “Around My Neck//On My Head,” which is a total demolition act that’s over before you know what hit you. “Sleep (I’ve Been Slipping)” is sludgy and scream filled, and when it grinds to a slower, more calculated pace, it begins to hint at a shift in tone. That pays off even more on “Liars/Trudge,” a song that opens with a windmill assault before it slows into an atmospheric pocket. There, Meyers’ clean vocals slip behind the madness and coat the song with a soothing, surreal lather.

“Colors (Into Nothing)” has a post-hardcore feel to it, with moody strumming, clean vocals, and eventually some aggravated noise. “Nothing (The Rat)” kicks things back toward the tumultuous, with a thick, menacing bassline, a thrashy center, and harsh, throaty screams. “Roads Are Certain/Sky Is Empty” goes back toward classic hardcore, with a tradeoff between rough growls and piercing shrieks, and the bleeds into “Choices (Love Is Love),” that’s muddy and storming. “Calm/Breathe” then goes back to curveball territory, with calm, nearly tropical breezing, and gazey shoegaze cool. This is a path on which I’d like to see them travel more in the future, just to see where they go with it. Closer “Bloom (Return to Dust)” drops the doom hammer again, as blood-curdling screams burst through, ultra-heavy mashing is employed, and noise and feedback are smothered over everything, leaving you in a mess.

As a fellow Pittsburgher, I’m psyched to see this band doing so well and coming up with a record this crushing. It’s also cool that Deathwish still has their ears to the ground, listening for what’s vital and fresh in extreme music. This is an excellent pairing, and Code Orange Kids and Deathwish should have a long, fruitful relationship together.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/codeorangekids

To buy the album, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/estore/

For more on the label, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/