Sometimes a record comes along that blows everything you believed about hardcore out of the water. For me, this is that record. Code Orange Kids' fantastic 2012 LP 'Love Is Love // Return To Dust' brings together elements of shoe-gaze, post-hardcore and all-out sludge metal war to bear in a 10-track, 30-minute experience that is at once compellingly complex and unbearably brutal.
Opener 'Flowermouth (The Leech)' begins with a low-tuned, dark bass riff that haunts Reba Meyers' screeched vocals about emptiness and despair, guitars and drums kicking in, surrounding her voice and very nearly overshadowing it until the instrumentation is stripped back completely, leaving only Jami Morgan's drum beat for several seconds before Meyers growls into the microphone and Morgan himself takes over the vocal, and he screams while frantically drumming away as guitars crash back in and the song climbs over sludgy riffs to reach its feedback-drenched conclusion. These kids are nineteen years old, but their lyrics smack of the kind of maturity most bands only afford after a number of albums. This is no teenage angst-ridden 'she doesn't love me and I hate my dad' bullshit. This is clever. This is different.
Following on, 'Around My Neck // On My Head' is 68 seconds of pure, unbridled fury, showcasing incredible feats of vocal power and that brilliant fast-becoming-slow drum riff at the end, leading perfectly into the third track. Number four, the excellent 'Liars // Trudge' unwraps a slightly softer side to Meyers' voice amid doom-laden, echoing guitar harmonies that sound like they were recorded in a haunted house. This all slots perfectly into track five, 'Colours (Into Nothing)', a track featuring members of Tigers Jaw which builds layers of instrumentation against each band member's voice until the whole thing crashes down in a roar of cymbals and cuts out to herald the beginning of arguably the stand-out track on the album, 'Nothing (The Rat)', a track with an opening riff so sludgy, so downright filthy that you'll feel in need of a shower when it's done.
The second half of the album is definitely the more developed half. Meyers and her bandmates use this portion of the record to show off a more recognisably hardcore edge to their sound, with 'Roots Are Certain // Sky Is Empty' again bringing a visceral aggression which hits the listener in the face and doesn't let up, before diving through the next track, laden with reverb and slowed-down bass menaces.
The final track, 'Bloom (Return To Dust)' cleverly borrows it's opening riff from track eight and slows it right down so that it almost sounds totally different unless you're listening hard (which you should be). As with the rest of the album, the beauty of this track is that just when you think you know where it's going it veers off in a different direction than you expected and creeps up on you, delivering a completely different experience than you thought. Yes, the album overall has its slower, less complete moments, but it's a sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal and consistently challenging record, and it is incredible to believe something this complex was written by teenagers. Keep a look out for this band and get on their wavelength. They're taking hardcore and mangling it, fucking with people's perceptions and coming up with something different than you've ever heard before. Whether you're new to the genre or an established veteran, there is everything to like in this record and these people deserve your time, attention and respect.