Much of the press that Pittsburgh-based hardcore act Code Orange Kids garnered with the release of its debut 7” Cycles late in 2011 was centered on the young age of the members. Almost a year later, the band has gone through three pressings of Cycles, signed to Deathwish, Inc., released a split with another rising band - Full Of Hell - on Topshelf Records, toured North America and Europe, and dropped a bomb on the hardcore scene: the band’s Deathwish debut, Love Is Love//Return To Dust.
The lead-in track “Flowermouth (The Leech)” picks up where the Kids left off with the band’s split 7” with Full Of Hell. The song is split into a large section of driving mid-tempo hardcore, with the more experimental sound the band is steering towards saved for the final portion of the song, which crescendos into a post-hardcore guitar loop. “Around My Neck//On My Head” returns the album to the Code Orange Kids everyone has grown to know and love: blistering blast beats and ferociously fast hardcore, giving nods to Converge and American Nightmare through its intensity and speed. The song grinds to a stop while the drumming gets slower and slower; like a homicidal machine winding down to recharge. Track three, “Sleep (I’ve Been Slipping)” proves to be a perfect follow up as it immediately churns away with a sludgy mid-tempo beat and crunching guitar riffs. Surprisingly enough, the bass seems to violently push its way to the forefront, standing next to the vocals to serve as a burly bodyguard to the song. “Sleep” ends with the repeated phrase “I’m not afraid to die but it’s the rush that keeps me alive”, accompanied by harsh feedback from the guitars.
“Liars//Trudge” savagely bursts through, keeping the album moving at a rapid pace. The song brings forth an intricacy in the structure of the frantic riffs in the introduction of the song that seems to be a new element the Kids are bringing to the table. In the short 15 second outburst, the song starts and stops on itself, stuttering along but still maintaining the track’s audio maelstrom. The song then breaks into a sinister and guitar-less build-up with a rare vocal appearance from bassist Joe Goldman, eventually erupting into a slow and sludgy drive. Drawing on the band’s initial sound, the sludge turns to iron that strikes down upon the listener like a hammer onto an anvil as the instrumentation mimics the lyrics “endless fucking trudge”. Riding the sonic wave once again, the track breaks into a truly evil riff with guitarist Reba Meyers creepily singing along, creating what sounds like a hymn for the damned. “Colors (Into Nothing)”, the fifth track of Love Is Love//Return To Dust, splits up the album by creating an atmospheric landscape that seems like it would be the result of label-mates Deafheaven and The Carrier morphing into one entity inside a cave, with drummer Jami Morgan carrying the song with frantic drumming underneath the sonic textures created by the rest of the band. The track also features one of two guest spots on the album, this one from Adam McIlwee of Tigers Jaw. “Nothing (The Rat)” follows, presenting less of a song and more the sound of an army preparing for battle. The track then launches right into war against the listener’s eardrums, cementing the band’s signature take on modern hardcore before augmenting their war cry and retreating from the sonic battlefield.
Love Is Love eventually makes a stop at traditional hardcore with “Roots Are Certain//Sky Is Empty”, starting with a fast vocal count-off and sending the song into the fray of an old-school circle pit. For the song, guitarist Eric Balderose leads the charge in the vocal department before Morgan jumps in at the mid-tempo breakdown, concluding the 49-second surge. “Choices (Love Is Love)” returns the album to its lurching origin, with the track lumbering along slowly but with a confidence of reaching its final destination. Towards the end of the song, the music stops and slams back in with a slow intensity that slows even further, assisted by the noisy guitar pedal work in between the track’s sludgy bursts of energy.
The next-to-final song, “Calm//Breathe”, enables the listener to do just that. Evoking more of an Explosions In The Sky-type ambiance, Code Orange Kids add the element of soothing instrumental shoegaze to the album. Acting as the eye of the storm, the album’s final offering “Bloom (Return To Dust)” rises out of the chilled-out atmosphere and stands tall, baring its teeth through the speakers. While the song essentially serves as a companion to the sludgy “Choices (Love Is Love)”, its slow demeanor dictates the song like a raging sea, whipping the listener back and forth with its consistently changing speed. The churning waves of the song eventually make way for a noise-portion featuring the second guest spot on the album from The Red Chord’s Guy Kozowyk, eventually fusing noise and sludge together for a heroic conclusion, ending with the lyrical hearkening of the album’s title, “love is love, return to dust”.
While the band is still relatively young compared to its peers, Code Orange Kids are hardly new on the block, and it shows. For a debut full-length record from a young band, Love is Love is mature and well-written, which are traits that some veteran bands are still striving for. Although there will always be naysayers, this record should have no problem pleasing any fan of Deathwish-affiliated bands.
9.0 / 10
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