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REVIEW: ‘The Above’ is a metal brain flummox

Photo courtesy of Blue Grape Music, Inc.

Code Orange is an experimental band who dip their toes into many different genres in the rock, and especially, in the metal scene. They are labeled as metalcore, hardcore punk, industrial metal and alternative metal. In their new album “The Above,” the band once again showcases all these genres simultaneously. After a few listens, it is quite surprising that they were able to juggle these genres so well. 

The album opens rough, unfortunately, with “Never Far Apart.” My main issue with the band and this album are more prevalent on this track than any other. The genre stops abruptly, then the next one begins. It’s jarring because there is no flow. The verses sound like Slipknot, the chorus sounds like Evanescence and the outro sounds like Korn. On paper, that seems like a fun ride and like it could be executed masterfully. In this song, it is hard to listen to though. That is because there aren’t transitions. It is more like quickly braking, then pumping the accelerator again: a very stop-go experience. 

The song is about a relationship (it can either be interpreted as platonic or romantic) gone sour. These two people are still around each other, though they know they should separate. Jami Morgan, the lead singer, sings the verses; he is the person who is tired of the relationship and is ready to move on. Reba Meyers, the rhythm guitarist, sings the chorus; she is the person feeling that they need to stay confined to the relationship. Despite the genre shifts, the vocal exchange within the shifts are incredible. 

“Theatre of Cruelty” is about being cruel to oneself and displaying it for everyone else to see. The verses sections sound like early Linkin Park, and the choruses sound like Slipknot again. The switch-up is cleaner but is still a bit jarring. It is definitely better than the first track. 

“Take Shape” undergoes the familiar trope about not being as good as you can be, so “take shape (spread your wings)” as the song goes. Usually, this trope has more positivity at its core, but the lyrics demand a heavy lean into what one is good at, so they are suffocating on their postulation. 

Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins sings a little mellow bridge about spreading your wings, but it is only one line, and it is assertively repeated. He could’ve done more and had a bigger presence on the song. He is just here, then gone. It’s actually sort of easy to miss him. His contribution could’ve been scrapped, and the song wouldn’t be any different. Despite that, this is one of the best songs on the album. There also isn’t a genre transition here. This song sticks to one path, and it is a bit of a fresh breath compared to the previous two tracks. 

“The Mask of Sanity Slips” could’ve been so much better. Its glaring flaw is the abrupt transition. It’s a shame, too, because this song has one of the strongest-sounding choruses on the whole album. This song tells about being jealous of the “perfect person” until the point of self-deprecation; it then trails into insanity. The verses feel like Korn with a Marylin Manson aesthetic in the chorus. The outro is satisfying, but it’s not that memorable. It just cuts off, leading to the worst transition on the song, from this fourth track to the fifth track. It’s ironic, though, because the next song is the best one on the album. 

“Mirror” is a depressing reflection on one’s life. There is an orchestral and acoustic approach to this, making it the album’s ballad and best song. Reba Meyers sings the whole of this song; her flow and style are soothing and relaxing. Most of the songs on “The Above” are heavy and guttural, so it is nice to experience something so beautiful. 

“A Drone Opting Out of the Hive” is an immediate comeback to the album’s style and distinction. The lyrics go in many directions and can be about a lot of subjective subjects. I take it as being constantly monitored, and how there feels to be no release from the leashes we are all on. There are metaphors that allude to being trapped within consumerism and all-watching eyes. The chorus warns about a drone coming out of a hive, meaning there are many drones going to survey many people. While the lyrics are some of the best on the album, the verses are mumble-sung, and the chorus is too explosive to contrast the verses well. This song could’ve been more evenly layered. 

“I Fly” is another one of the best songs on the album. It is about going to Heaven while chastising someone about not living life to their fullest. The song has a lighter feel and undergoes an Alice in Chains sound. Even though the song is a chastisement, the song gives the impression that it feels bad for the person still alive who isn’t living their best life. It’s strangely poetic. 

“Grooming My Replacement” is the awful reality of someone turning someone else into their worst self, almost like an emotional clone. The word “grooming” is a vulgar term for “training” in the song’s concept, and that training will lead the clone to an all-too-familiar and decrepit path. The title of the song makes me recoil. It’s an excellent gerund to get the idea across. This song is also a single, though I don’t know why. It’s not terrible, but it’s too similar to the previous track, “The Game,” for it to distinguish itself. 

“Snapshot” is definitely a single-worthy song. It has a strong ska sound at the softest parts, and it mixes well with the industrial metal in the chorus. The song talks about taking a mental snapshot of the present moment, and in doing so, it acknowledges how home is a prison when someone lives with someone they can’t stand. The unbearable person doesn’t see any shame. The only things between these people is tolerance and long-awaited karma. 

“Circle Through” should’ve been a single, as well. It’s a little bit like the previous track. Instead of ska, it is replaced with electronic rock, although the rock is a bit laid back in the mixing. The song’s about seeing a dark future and just embracing it, or walking the circle through, as the song puts it. 

The title track, “The Above” closes the album. The beginning sounds like electronic Radiohead. As the verses and especially the chorus come in, the industrial metal overrides the whole song. The outro of the song is a nice transition into punk metal. It slows down and fades out. It’s such an epic conclusion to the album. The song details a plane of existence where someone will be at total peace. However, the last lines of the song uncover that in order for this to occur, this person must find acceptance within themself. It’s such a poetic way of saying that people can only find inner peace in themselves. 

While this album is no masterpiece, it shoves several genres at me in a mostly satisfying way. It does take creative liberties here and there. A handful of songs do not transition well within it. Besides that, this is a good album to feel emotion while headbanging to.

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About the Contributor
Tyler Guthrie
Tyler Guthrie, Columnist
Tyler Guthrie is a second-year columnist with The Sunflower. He is a creative writing major with a Spanish minor from El Dorado, Kansas. Guthrie uses he/him pronouns.

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