I Am King from Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids) is a divisive record. I get that the band wanted to maybe mature a bit, drop the “kids” tagdespite most fans obviously preferring it, as well as evolve their sound. I still can’t tell how I really feel about the sonic results, however. Most of I Am King, which the band says they will draw almost exclusively from live for the forseeable future, is kind of like brief experiments in sludge. I remember once wanting to star a project to see if I could take great dub reggae basslines and somehow make them into two minute ramones length songs with great looped beats, instead of the drawn out dub of, say, old school King Tubby. Would it still work? On I Am King, the answer seems to be yes and no. There are many highlights here, from the thundering bass of “Thinners Of The Herd” to the welcome fast hardcore of “Unclean Spirit”, but some sections of the record kind of meander aimlessly. Still, it seems like most of this material would work better live. I have a feeling this is a grower, as depending on my mood it has either resonated with me or kind of waxed and waned.
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Code Orange get props for trying, and there are certainly some great textures here. “Alone In A Room” captures a thundering walls closing in sense of anxiety that is ferocious, like My War on You Fail Me era Converge steroids. The opening title track buzzes and hisses like the whir of factory machines damaging ears at high frequencies. Some of the material just feels like it doesn’t take off, however. Some kids are saying the band peaked too early, which I think is just the dismissive hardcore tendency to tear things down immediately once they get popular. No, this band has plenty of life. The ghostly vocals on “starve” or the vertigo sections of Slint meets hardcore album highlight “Dreams In Inertia” prove that well enough. It’s just that something doesn’t grab the throat all the way through these eleven tracks.
I am glad that the band are not trying to just ape every d-beat spewing entombed worshiping hardcore band getting signed these days in search of the next genuinely awesome Trap Them, as the variety does spice things up here. “Bind You” starts to really gestate then cuts right off. And that’s the problem. Each song barely gets going before being cut short, which works if you listen to the whole record but on a song by song basis makes it feel kind of disjointed. I think I solved the puzzle. When I put the whole thing on In think it kicks ass, but when I pick it apart track by track things feel disjointed. A bold and good effort, but in a year where records like the new Punch, Martyrdod and Gust have set the bar high, I’m not sure if this really is king.
Bottom line? A great band with lots of potential, a loyal fan base and integrity. Some great highlights and worth purchasing, but I think the one after this will be the real 100% banger.