THE MEMBERS of Pittsburgh hardcore band Code Orange are all 20 or 21 years old, and they're ready to take on the world. Everything about their existence right now comes with an element of confrontation.
They changed their name earlier this year, dropping "Kids" from their original Code Orange Kids. The announcement included this statement: "If a word being moved around shakes you up... get off board now. Out with the old. In with the new. No mercy."
And Code Orange's excellent new album, I Am King, is an uncompromising, adventurous work, which will no doubt rile and repel punk's stylistic watchdogs. Its sound is jarringly heavy and brutally abrasive, a gnarled slab of charred hardcore, pockmarked with death-metal growls, melodic passages, lumbering sludge, and experimental noise.
But mostly it's the sound of a band that's really good at being really heavy. And pissed off. And confident.
"We're doing what we wanna do," says drummer Jami Morgan, an hour or so before jumping in the van for a cross-country tour that will stop in Portland on Friday, September 12. "It takes time to get there. This is what we wanna do. We're not ever gonna play any of the other shit or anything. We're gonna play one song off our last record and that's it. Nothing else matters. To me, when you make a record that [makes you] feel like how we feel about this record, the other records don't matter. They're obsolete. They were on a path to get to this record."
Reviews for I Am King have been almost universally positive, and Morgan admits to reading them. ("I gotta stop" reading the comments, though, he says.) Other circumstances around the album—its release on white-hot record label Deathwish, Inc. and super-producer Kurt Ballou's involvement—have helped to build the hype around Code Orange to a level the band never anticipated, Morgan says. And things are changing.
"We've always gone with a 'this is our time' mentality, but I didn't even know what that felt like until we did this one," he says. "We always kinda felt like it's us against everyone... but now it's like, when we played [Philly punk festival] This Is Hardcore, it felt like, 'Okay, everyone is turning with us.' It was really weird. It felt like something."
Not that a horde of new fans is going to soften Code Orange's current foxhole mentality, Morgan says.
"This band is gonna change and do whatever it wants to do whenever it wants to do it, and if you're into it, you've gotta be conditioned to that. We're gonna do what we wanna do, and nothing can change that. None of the record comes out of a place of arrogance. It's about realizing what's good about yourself... and going with that and truly not giving a fuck about what the people around you have to say about it."