September 2, 2014
by Ryan Barnes

If you’ve ever spent any length of time in Pittsburgh, you can immediately envision the environment that influenced the new record from Code Orange. I Am King sounds like the heart of the steel city slowly rusting, or an old god slowly rousing from its slumber below the Allegheny River.

I Am King finds ways to sound distinctive amongst a somewhat stagnant hardcore status quo. There’s a thick layer of textural noise, an attention to the avant garde that recalls bands like Disembodied and Botch more than contemporaries like Xibalba. With production by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, Code Orange sound massive, distilling the best parts of their earlier releases Cycles and Love Is Love//Return To Dust into something both more straightforward and obtuse.

Lyrically, I Am King reads like the scribbled journals of a serial killer – delusions of royalty and omnipotence, coupled with shame, sexual frustration, and general disgust at humanity. “Alone In A Room” sounds like the hallucinated murderous visions of the Son of Sam: The fakes they change and crash like waves/The worms come in droves but only when it rains/Put them back in the ground.

Anticipation for this record is palpable, riding in on the back of that monstrous set Code Orange played at This Is Hardcore. The last few years have seen lots of bands drawing from crossover and ‘80s metal. Twitching Tongues’ In Love There Is No Law is the quintessential example, edging right up to the brink of cheese with songs like “Preacher Man”. I Am King instead harkens back to the Trustkill and Ferret Records* hardcore of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, albeit without the pseudo mall goth aesthetic that characterized that scene. I doubt that Code Orange would count On Broken Wings or Norma Jean amongst their influences, but it’s impossible not to draw parallels. Whether this will usher in a revival of chug breakdowns and ‘horror chords’ remains to be seen, but never doubt the power of nostalgia.

I Am King is out today on Deathwish Inc. Watch the video for the title track:

*Fun game: go look at the Ferret roster and see how many times you think “Holy shit I forgot that band existed!”