meta-scriptCode Orange's 'The Above': The Metalcore Heroes On Their Creatively Generous New Album |
Code Orange
Code Orange

Photo: Tim Saccenti


Code Orange's 'The Above': The Metalcore Heroes On Their Creatively Generous New Album

Code Orange threw red meat to the listening public with "Out For Blood," ahead of a tour with Korn. After that zig, a zag: released on Sept. 29, 'The Above' is their most eclectic and well-rounded work yet.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2023 - 02:37 pm

Billy Corgan doesn't make too many guest appearances. But he readily guested with Code Orange.

Check his list of credits: generally, Corgan's behind the scenes as a co-writer. When he has appeared as a vocalist or guitarist, it's generally been for veterans — like Scorpions, New Order or Hole — or then-upstarts of modern rock, like Breaking Benjamin.

But there he is, in the delicate bridge of Code Orange's bludgeoning single "Take Shape." "Spread your wings/ Show us who you are," he sings over fingerpicked acoustic guitar, in his inimitable keen. "Spread your wings/ You'll go far."

Corgan's guest appearance has resonance far beyond name recognition, or '90s cred during the '90s wave. Because the Smashing Pumpkins were probably the most emotionally and artistically generous band of that decade.

Back then, Corgan and company gave you everything they were. Emotionally and materially, "withholding" wasn't in their DNA. And the same goes for Code Orange, who hold the odd distinction of being punk veterans by their early thirties.

Over the course of five albums, vocalist Jami Morgan, guitarists Reba Meyers and Dominic Landolina, bassist Joe Goldman, keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose, and drummer Max Portnoy have metamorphosed from basement hardcore to a hydra of heavy styles.

Think Pumpkins meets A Perfect Circle, with a helping of metalcore, and you're somewhere in their vicinity. For their efforts, they've garnered two GRAMMY nominations.

Across their development, Code Orange have exemplified this Pumpkinesque spirit of generosity. Their new album, The Above, out Sept. 29, is teeming and bountiful — both emotionally unsparing and all over the map stylistically.

One minute, they're mellow and openhearted, as on "Mirror." The next, they're nightmarishly twisted and alien, as on "A Drone Opting Out of the Hive." And many songs, from "Splinter the Soul" to "Snapshot," effectively marry those refractive qualities.

Whether due to their maturity as songwriters, Steve Albini's blunt-force engineering, or any number of other happy factors, Code Orange have raised the bar once more. And as per Corgan's presence and cosigning, they feel like worthy candidates for the Pumpkins' heirs.

Here's a breakdown of how Code Orange arrived at The Above — with quotes from their brazen, stage-stalking frontman, Jami Morgan.

They Declared Themselves "Out For Blood"

Code Orange's 2020 album Underneath — the one that got nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Metal Performance — was a wonderfully suffocating and immersive work of experimental metal.

The following year's single, "Out for Blood," was a hard right turn — a push into the mainstream rock sphere, ahead of a tour supporting Korn, with an ear for the airwaves

The video is hellacious; the song could soundtrack a weekend rappelling off buildings. It unabashedly flirts with nu metal. It's also just a lot of fun.

Read More: As Code Orange Wraps Up Tour With Korn, They Look Ahead To Headlining Stages & Making New Music: "We Really Want To Take A Big Swing"

"Out for Blood" was arguably Code Orange's furthest-afield single to date; those who got on the train back when they were Code Orange Kids, playing to circle pits in VFW halls, may have been a touch confused. (Or, in YouTube comments and on the hardcore Facebook group No Echo, outwardly hostile.)

But regarding their roots, Code Orange are too canny to just let go of the tether; "Out for Blood" was a brief detour, in the form of a bloody good time.

The Concept Bloomed During The Pandemic

If Underneath represented claustrophobic, subterranean depths, The Above lives in blinding, oppressive daylight: the film Midsommar transmuted to music.

"It started with this light metaphor," Morgan tells "I was reading a lot about parasites, and how when they attach to the host, they'll take other bugs that shouldn't be exposed to light and expose them to it, so they can be consumed.

"I saw that as a cool metaphor for trying to follow the light of our outside acceptance," he continues. The songs he was writing dealt with self-acceptance, success and striving for inner peace.

The lockdown kickstarted Code Orange's writing process earlier than expected. "We started with the loose shape of this record right off the bat," he says. "When we started determining what that is — what paths we could take, that we weren't going to take."

They Embraced Hooks & Pop Structure

Nothing on The Above is quite as deliciously shameless as "Out for Blood." But The Above does share one key element with that barbarous banger: a grasp of pop structure.

"It was like a spliced reality off of the Underneath cycle," Morgan says of "Out for Blood." Over Zoom, he points to a mood board behind him, representing The Above: "To me, the band is one wall, and everything we've done fits in."

Accordingly, Code Orange applied lessons learned to their new album. "Every song, heavy or not, has some kind of hook that comes back," he says. "It's not an ABCDEFG record," like some of the songs we've made in the past."

Code Orange

*Code Orange. Photo: Tim Saccenti*

They Imbued The Music With Newfound Humanity

Scanning the band's discography, Morgan perceives moments where they didn't quite land where they wanted. Because of this, they opted to produce The Above themselves.

"We didn't want to take it and hand it to somebody, like we've done," Morgan says. "Because we've had problems with that."

While at the production controls, they went for a detail-oriented approach that prioritized openness, breathability and forthright emotion — while keeping the experimental torches alight.

They achieved this more organic aesthetic by making the raw band the focus. Also, Morgan rendered his diction clearer, his lyrics more understandable.

"We definitely thought, Can we make something that is experimental, that is boundary-pushing, that is pulled from the past and future," Morgan says, "but is coloring within the lines of structure a little more?"

The Above Feels Like A Bridge Into The Unknown

To Morgan, Code Orange's 15-year evolutionary arc has reached its opposite end on The Above.

As he explains, the closing track, "The Above," is meant to "visualize being on an island of self. I wanted to make a song that you could almost sit on the f—ing beach to, and feel your soul — feel the emotion, and be stoic in yourself."

In that way, The Above is a culmination of everything they've built to — and also a launching pad. "If this was the last thing we did, I will be happy with it," he says. "But I also can see so many possibilities of where to go from it."

Overall, Morgan stresses that Code Orange never existed to rock out or have fun; "It exists to fill a void that I want to see," he says. "We're trying to make statements and we're trying to make artistic pieces.

"If people want that, then we're going to be here forever," Morgan concludes. "And if they don't, then we won't."

But in the modern rock landscape, they bear a message that's difficult to ignore. And it's sung by their spiritual forebear, rock's patron saint of ambition, largesse, and generally being a lot: "Spread your wings."

Songbook: A Guide To The Smashing Pumpkins In Three Eras, From Gish To Atum

Steve Albini in his studio in 2014
Steve Albini in his studio in 2014

Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


Without Steve Albini, These 5 Albums Would Be Unrecognizable: Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey & More

Steve Albini loathed the descriptor of "producer," preferring "recording engineer." Regardless of how he was credited, He passed away on the evening of May 7, leaving an immeasurable impact on alternative music.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 08:17 pm

When Code Orange's Jami Morgan came to work with Steve Albini, he knew that he and the band had to be prepared. They knew what they wanted to do, in which order, and "it went as good as any process we've ever had — probably the best," he glowed.

And a big part of that was that Albini —  a legendary musician and creator of now-iconic indie, punk and alternative records —  didn't consider himself any sort of impresario. 

"The man wears a garbage man suit to work every day," Morgan previously told while promoting Code Orange's The Above. "It reminds him he's doing a trade… I f—ing loved him. I thought he was the greatest guy."

The masterful The Above was released in 2023, decades into Albini's astonishing legacy both onstage and in the studio. The twisted mastermind behind Big Black and Shellac, and man behind the board for innumerable off-center classics, Steve Albini passed away on the evening of May 7 following a heart attack suffered at his Chicago recording studio, the hallowed Electrical Audio. He was 61. The first Shellac album since 2014, To All Trains, is due May 17.

Albini stuck to his stubborn principles (especially in regard to the music industry), inimitable aesthetics and workaday self-perception until the end. Tributes highlighting his ethos, attitude and vision have been flowing in from all corners of the indie community. The revered label Secretly Canadian called Albini "a wizard who would hate being called a wizard, but who surely made magic."

David Grubbs of Gastr Del Sol called him "a brilliant, infinitely generous person, absolutely one-of-a-kind, and so inspiring to see him change over time and own up to things he outgrew" — meaning old, provocative statements and lyrics.

And mononymous bassist Stin of the bludgeoning noise rock band Chat Pile declared, "No singular artist's body of work has had an impact on me more than that of Steve Albini."

“We are very sad to hear of Steve Albini’s passing,” stated the Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers (P&E) Wing. “He was not only an accomplished musician in the various groups he played with, but also an iconic producer and engineer who contributed to some of the greatest albums in indie rock, from artists such as Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey. Steve was a true original. He will be greatly missed, but his influence will continue to live on through the many generations of artists he inspired.”

To wade through Albini's entire legacy, and discography, would take a lifetime — and happy hunting, as so much great indie, noise rock, punk, and so much more passed across his desk. Here are five of those albums.

Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)

Your mileage may vary on who lit the match for the alternative boom, but Pixies — and their debut Surfer Rosa — deserve a place in that debate. This quicksilver classic introduced us to a lot of Steve Albini's touchstones: capacious miking techniques; unadulterated, audio verite takes; serrated noise.

PJ Harvey - Rid of Me (1993)

Some of Albini's finest hours have resulted from carefully arranging the room, hitting record, and letting an artist stalk the studio like a caged animal.

It happened on Scout Niblett's This Fool Can Die Now; it happened on Laura Jane Grace's Stay Alive; and it most certainly happened on PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, which can be seen as a precedent for both. Let tunes like "Man-Size" take a shot at you; that scar won't heal anytime soon.

Nirvana - In Utero (1993)

Nirvana's unintended swan song in the studio was meant to burn the polished Nevermind in effigy.

And while Kurt Cobain was too much of a pop beautician to fully do that, In Utero is still one of the most bracing and unvarnished mainstream rock albums ever made. Dave Grohl's drum sound on "Scentless Apprentice" alone is a shot to your solar plexus.

"The thing that I was really charmed most by in the whole process was just hearing how good a job the band had done the first time around," Albini told upon In Utero's 20th anniversary remix and remastering. "What struck me the most about the [remastering and reissue] process was the fact that everybody was willing to go the full nine yards for quality."

Songs: Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co. (2003)

When almost a dozen musicians packed into Electrical Audio to make The Magnolia Electric Co., the vibe was, well, electric — prolific singer/songwriter Jason Molina was on the verge of something earth-shaking.

It's up for debate as to whether the album they made was the final Songs: Ohia record, or the first by his following project, Magnolia Electric Co. — is a tempestuous, majestic, symbolism-heavy, Crazy Horse-scaled ride through Molina's troubled psyche.

Code Orange - The Above (2023)

A health issue kept Code Orange from touring behind The Above, which is a shame for many reasons. One is that they're a world-class live band. The other is that The Above consists of their most detailed and accomplished material to date.

The band's frontman Morgan and keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose produced The Above, which combines hardcore, metalcore and industrial rock with concision and vision. And by capturing their onstage fire like never before on record, Albini helped glue it all together.

"It was a match made in heaven," Morgan said. And Albini made ferocity, ugliness and transgression seem heavenly all the same.

11 Reasons Why 1993 Was Nirvana's Big Year

The Smashing Pumpkins - Songbook
The Smashing Pumpkins

Photos (L-R): Stefan M. Prager/Redferns via Getty Images, Paul Natkin/Getty Images, Paul Elledge


Songbook: A Guide To The Smashing Pumpkins In Three Eras, From 'Gish' To 'Atum'

From their wall-of-guitars early years to their hyper-eclectic commercial heyday to their 21st-century rebirth, here's a rundown of the Smashing Pumpkins' discography.

GRAMMYs/May 5, 2023 - 09:09 pm

At their best, the Smashing Pumpkins represent a captivating dichotomy of tranquil and thunderous, delicate and pulverizing. Step into Siamese Dream cold and see if you don't agree.

From the volcanic intro to "Cherub Rock" onward, the Pumpkins' performances are ferocity incarnate: Billy Corgan's overwhelming bramble of overdubbed, Big Muffed guitars, Jimmy Chamberlin's jazz-like flow undergirding it all. But while Corgan screams, he also cooes. Yes, the music flirts with brutal metal, as it does on "Quiet" and "Geek U.S.A." But it closes with "Luna," the polar opposite — a gossamer ballad. In highlights like "Soma" and "Mayonaise," both these streams of feeling run concurrently.

Try to find another record with these simultaneous qualities, dialed up to 10. (Corgan's direct inspiration, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, is the exception that proves the rule.)

From there, investigate the two-time GRAMMY winners' entire catalog; this duality is everywhere. It's all over their 1991 debut, Gish — and reached a peak of extremity in 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, where whimsical baubles like "Lily" and "Cupid de Locke" sit next to hair-on-fire death-metal meltdowns like "Tales of a Scorched Earth" and "X.Y.U."

A litany of beefs, breakups and make-ups haven't compromised that essential core. Their 2023 conceptual triple album, Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Parts, by the mostly reunited original lineup — bassist D'arcy Wretzky didn't return — is just as clear a window into Corgan's dark-and-light psyche as any. The rawk is there, as on singles "Beguiled" and "Empires," but so is an innocent air of sci-fi fantasia.

Pull up any interview with Corgan, and it will be many, many things: tempestuous, braggadocious, humble, vengeful, funny, conciliatory. After all these decades, it's impossible to truly get a read on the guy — other than that his mind is a freight train. And by the sound of the epic, ambitious, narrative-freighted Atum, that train isn't slowing down anytime soon.

With all that in mind, here's a quick trip through the Pumpkins' singular catalog, divided into three epochs.

The Original Run (1988-2000)

Five years after the Smashing Pumpkins disbanded, Corgan fired a missile that's almost jarringly revealing. 

"I was into Black Sabbath and it just wasn't cool, but I didn't give a s—," he seethed to Pitchfork in 2005, while promoting his debut solo album, TheFutureEmbrace. "My band was going to sound like Black Sabbath because I f—ing wanted it to and I didn't give a s— what some idiot f— thought."

As quaint as it seems now, it was gauche in early-'90s alternative circles to bear a classic rock influence: punkness was the platonic ideal. To Corgan, a tormented and talented child who grew up to assume an alt-rock platform, this was a call to arms.

Vibey and paisley-patterned, Gish was a contrarian move, seamlessly blending his beloved Sabbath with goth, shoegaze, dream pop, and other disparate influences.

Even looking at a photo of them at the time — Corgan looking like a Boston roadie; workaday, mulleted Chamberlin; boy and girl next door James Iha and Wretzky — it's clear they arrived in this sphere like space invaders.

Any number of Gish tunes, from "Siva" to "Rhinoceros" to "Tristessa," remain Pumpkins classics, but the album arguably served as a ramp-up to Siamese Dream — one of the all-time "Guy loses his mind in the studio under the guise of a band" classics.

The jury's still out on how much, or even if, Iha and Wretzky even appeared on it. The interpersonal drama behind the scenes has been public knowledge for decades.

"Cherub Rock" is that infamous Sabbath quote turned into a raging anthem; when Corgan screams "Let me out!", he means the fetters of hipsterdom. Watch Corgan when they debuted the song on "Saturday Night Live" in 1993; each crashing chord at the end is a hammer striking down his enemies, and at song's end, he throws up devil horns for good measure.

The eggshell-fragile hit single "Today" is mostly remembered for the video with the ice cream truck, which belies that it's about suicidal ideation. "Mayonaise," a heavy, windswept ballad co-written with Iha, is a thing of uncanny beauty.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness represents the culmination of Corgan's classic rock dreams, at least until Atum. It's their Wall, their Sandanista!, their White Album. (Indeed, it ends with a song called "Farewell and Goodnight.")

And on top of an already impressive 28 songs, it spawned an entire boxed set of outtakes — The Aeroplane Flies High — that are just as good as the album.

As for the double album proper, "Tonight, Tonight" conjures a strain of longing and awe that's oddly specific to the Pumpkins; the magnificent video cemented it as an all-timer. The whimsical title of "Jellybelly" belies that it's one of the heaviest metal songs they ever recorded. Corgan's paint-peeling scream at the climax of the already over-the-top "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" is unforgettable.

Crucially, Mellon Collie's epic feel is due to far more than the sheer length of the album: in "Here is No Why," when Corgan proclaims "May the king of gloom/ Be forever/ Doomed!", and Chamberlin answers him with a galactic snare fill, the effect is of your body lifting a few inches in the air.

The new-wavy side of Planet Pumpkin came to the forefront with "1979," their most well-known song by some margin. But as rightly adored as that hit single and its video are, it's an outlier. At their mid-'90s commercial peak, the Smashing Pumpkins were seemingly capable of anything, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness put all their cards on the table.

In the pantheon of great "everything's crumbling" records, 1998's muted, gothy Adore deserves a seat at the table. Corgan was clearly grappling with the loss of his mother, who died in 1996: the piano ballad "For Martha" is named for her. The skulking industrial-pop single "Ava Adore" represents Corgan at his most Gary Numan-eque.

Other highlights — "Perfect," "The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete," "Behold! The Night Mare" — capture a particular rapprochement between gloominess and pop appeal that Corgan never repeated. He would later call the experience of making Adore "one of the most painful experiences of my life."

The still-underrated Machina/The Machines of God brought the Pumpkins' original run to a halt. Chamberlin was back, but Wretzky had been replaced by Melissa Der Auf Maur. Among some critics, the pushed-to-the-red production did Machina no favors.

Machina continues a somewhat opaque sci-fi tale that began with Mellon Collie and culminates with Atum. While strange-yet-tantalizing concoctions like "The Crying Tree of Mercury" might be for Pumpkins diehards rather than neophytes, Machina contains one of the greatest songs Corgan ever wrote: "Stand Inside Your Love." If you're wired a certain way, this arena-rocking monument to longing and devotion might make your heart leap into your throat.

A scattered sequel, Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, was freighted with legal issues. Released as three EPs for free on the Internet, it's an essential addendum, with terrific deep cuts like "Home" and Iha's "Go."

As with The Aeroplane Flies High and their phenomenal 1994 outtakes and B-sides collection, Pisces Iscariot, which contains a borderline definitive version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," Machina II is an essential companion piece to the Book of Billy.

The Transitional Years (2007-2016)

After Corgan's short-lived yet beloved supergroup Zwan made one sunny album and flamed out, the Smashing Pumpkins reunited in the mid-2000s. Kind of. It was just Corgan and Chamberlin, with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and bassist Ginger Pooley filling them out. 

The reconstituted band's first offering was 2007's Zeitgeist — the band's heaviest album by some margin, and one that fixated on a topic that the band had never broached before: U.S. politics. (Underlined by an almost 10-minute-long think called "United States.")

Despite a so-so critical reputation, Zeitgeist has aged well, especially given the current 2000s boom — despite the fact it's disappeared from streaming. "Tarantula" was and is a satisfying comeback single, and idea-rich tunes like "7 Shades of Black" and "Neverlost" are further proof that Corgan's songwriting chops remained in fine form during the break. They followed Zeitgeist with an acoustic EP, American Gothic, that same year.

It's no criticism of the Pumpkins to say that what happened next is all over the place. Partly because the next chapter resulted in a slew of great songs.

Chamberlin then exited, leaving Corgan as the sole original Pumpkin. After hiring Mike Byrne as Chamberlin's replacement, Corgan fired up another one of his hallucinogenically ambitious conceptual projects: Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Conceived as a 44-song project themed around the tarot, the songs would be rolled out via an unconventional method: one by one, as he recorded them, in real time. While Teargarden didn't make it to completion, some of the tunes rank among Corgan's prettiest, like "Tom Tom" and "Spangled."

2012's Oceania hinted at the band continuing in a new form — Corgan, Schroeder and Byrne, filled out with bassist Nicole Fiorentino. But it didn't last. Still, approach this fan favorite not for the drama, but for the tunes, like the barreling "Panopticon," which recaptures that Siamese Dream fire, and the quiet-to-loud banger "The Celestials."

Corgan consolidated for 2014's Monuments to an Elegy, where the lineup is the grand total of himself, Schroeder and Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee. Pop-radio-pointed singles have looked good on Corgan from the jump; for an obscure one, check out their strummy, end-credits farewell single "Untitled." "Being Beige" is another jewel in that crown.

While this period may have reflected a sense of uncertainty, it turned out to be temporary: in 2018, three original Pumpkins got back together — for real this time.

A New Era (2018-Present)

Despite having more original members today than at any point in nearly two decades, the Smashing Pumpkins have refused to make a reheated Siamese Dream. Rather, the band's recent creative moves have been quixotic and unpredictable in the most Pumpkinesque way.

It started in 2018 with a mouthful of a title: Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., a spirited Rick Rubin-produced mini-album to gas up fans for the reunion tour. 

If you thought we were getting a Vol. 2, though, think again: what came next was Cyr, a double album of austere synth-pop with almost zero deviation. That aesthetic blossomed into 2023's Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Parts, where Corgan and company deftly incorporate those analog synths into their old guitar-heavy template — updated with modern rock production.

Out of the entire set of '90s-rock royalty, the Smashing Pumpkins could be the most flat-out entertaining and transportive. A writer once summed up Corgan's two greatest strengths as a musician: "symphonic grandeur and needling intimacy." Partly thanks to Corgan's mastery in both departments, there was nobody like them when they arrived, and there will never be again. Believe in them, as they believe in you.

Songbook: Inside Neil Young's Latest Decade And Change, From Americana & Psychedelic Pill To Barn & World Record

10 Hardcore Bands To Know
(L-R) MSPAINT, SPEED, End It, Zulu, Buggin, Militarie Gun, Drug Church, Soul Blind, Regulate, Scowl

Photos (L-R): Libby Zanders, Jonathan Tumbel, Kenny Savercool, Alice Baxley, Arturo Zarate, courtesy of the artist, Danielle Parsons, David Mitchell, Rebecca Lader, Magdalena Wosinska


Like Turnstile And Code Orange? 10 More Bands Expanding The Boundaries Of Hardcore

GRAMMY nominees Turnstile and Code Orange may be the two acts from the hardcore scene that have gotten the biggest mainstream push, but the story doesn't begin nor end with them. Here are 10 more current acts you should know.

GRAMMYs/Nov 18, 2022 - 06:28 pm

When it comes to hardcore's intersection with the mainstream, it's hard to remember a week like this.

On Nov. 15, it was announced that Turnstile — the high-flying, shamelessly hooky, stylistically rangey Baltimore punks — had been nominated for three golden gramophones at the 2023 GRAMMYs, for tracks from their 2021 breakout album GLOW ON.

Coupled with their sound, their story — of rising from cramped vans and vet's halls to become triple-GRAMMY nominated, and about to support Blink-182 on a national tour — has placed them at the forefront of hardcore for very good reasons.

But with that can arise reductive thinking: that from an industry standpoint, Turnstile, somehow, are the lone, self-contained ambassadors for the entire hardcore scene.

The same goes for Code Orange, who came up as authentically punk as anyone. The Pittsburgh band rapidly expanded their palette to become breathtakingly heavy and experimental, scooped up two GRAMMY nominations for Best Metal Performance, then went on to open for Korn across the US.

The notion that Code Orange and Turnstile somehow are hardcore is spurious. It diminishes the larger community, and its matrix of creative interchanges, that are responsible for these breakout acts' very existences.

For those unfamiliar with hardcore: think the original punk-rock sound of ‘76 or so, with the tempos and intensity cranked to the nth degree. Acts like Minor Threat, Black Flag and Circle Jerks were its early pillars; forward-thinking stylists like Bad Brains expanded its boundaries.

In the ensuingdecades, hardcore spawned innumerable subsets, like powerviolence, beatdown, youthcrew, and D-beat. It also engendered a network of communities that can act both as nurturing subcultures, and philosophically and creatively arid spaces.

But a cursory look at the contemporary hardcore scene reveals that what was once a rigid, defensive, hyper-masculine subculture — think basketball shorts, beatdowns in the pit and message-board flame wars — is changing rapidly.

Today, hardcore and hardcore-adjacent bands are full of women and people of all racial backgrounds; all gender expressions and walks of life are welcome to rock or just watch. Traditional orthodoxies are crumbling as a slew of fresh acts rewrite what hardcore can be — and sound like.

The ideological purism is becoming more porous; musically, bands are bringing in elements from big-tent indie, synth-rock and 2000s radio hits. Big melodies and big choruses are in. The songs are funny, intelligent and thought-provoking. Hearts are often on sleeves.

Turnstile and Code Orange demonstrate how hardcore has expanded and continues to flourish as an art form for everybody, not just an unbending few. 

And if you love either of those bands, maybe you'll love these too.


Kat Moss' route to punk as personal salvation was like that of innumerable young outcasts in her position: she needed a counterweight to stifling, conservative suburbia. (In her case, the Gold Rush waystop town of Rocklin, California — a half-hour drive from Sacramento.)

"Sacramento was like hick-town suburbia, and I was around people who didn't think like me and didn't get me," she told Revolver. "I felt very alone. I'd dye my hair and play my music loud when I'd drive through the neighborhoods. I just felt so 'f— you' about everything."

Once she met her future bandmates in Scowl — guitarist Malachi Greene, bassist Bailey Lupo and drummer Cole Gilbert — she found an outlet for that displaced rage and alienation: a bracing scream that slices you up, backed by thunderous hardcore.

Still, she approached this mode of self-expression on her own terms, embracing a subversion of stereotypical femininity as a visual aesthetic, from onstage bouquets to floral dresses and album art.

Musically, the Santa Cruz-based Scowl were combustible from their earliest demo, released back in 2019. But their 2021 debut LP, How Flowers Grow, is where their artistry took, er, bloom: where their earliest work was an invitation to a knife fight, Scowl now sounds like they're compelling you to dig your own grave.

But the heaviest, most uncompromising moments (like the eponymous closer — good heavens!) truly land because of the moments of levity. Case in point: "Seeds to Sow," where Moss switches to clean singing over percolating, sax-inflected pop.)

All of this together has made Scowl fans out of Post Malone and Fred Durst; the latter picked them as support for Limp Bizkit.

Soul Blind

If you're looking for a list of carbon copies of Minor Threat and the like, look elsewhere. Because hook-filled, genre-blurring, slickly-produced bands like Soul Blind are bellwethers as to where the music at large is going.

In this case, the blend is of hardcore-adjacency with post-grunge and post-hardcore — imbued with a mesmeric twist of shoegaze like Swervedriver and Hum. 

Hailing from New York's Hudson Valley, mononymous bassist/vocalist Cen, guitarists Finn Lovell and Justin Sarica earned their bona fides — their last strictly hardcore project being God of Wine.

When they added Juan Espinosa (later replaced by Steve Hurley) to the mix, they headed in a much more melodic and radio-friendly direction, without sacrificing an iota of intensity.

"Bands like Failure, Hum, Sunny Day Real Estate, My Bloody Valentine, and Deftones all influence our sound," Cen explained to No Echo. "We wanted to make music that captured the sound of our youth while adding our own modern touch to it."

Soul Blind released their latest LP, Feel it All Around, this fall — and it uncannily sounds like 2002 and 2022. Mainstream emo rubs against visceral post-hardcore; songs like "Seventh Hell," "Stuck in a Loop" and "System (Failing)" simultaneously bruise and uplift.

Drug Church

A comic book writer and podcaster when not "singing" in Self Defense Family and Drug Church, Patrick Kindlon is one of the most irascible and compelling voices in alternative music.

Whether he's articulating his individual-over-collective philosophy on the page, ranting about the confused state of comics in his newsletter, or offering fact-damaged celebrity journalism on the podcast "Worst Possible Timeline," his perspective hooks you; you can listen to the guy talk for hours.

While the mellower, rangier Self Defense Family's last album, 2018's Have You Considered Punk Music, showed Kindlon exploring his relationship to craft and creation, Drug Church's latest is a blow to the jaw.

Building on Cheer — their slickly produced and highly memorable third album from that year —  Hygiene is a masterclass in dynamics; its performances and arrangements deftly push and pull the listener.

Granted, Kindlon doesn't write the music: guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Patrick Nguyen and drummer Chris Villeneuve do. But as the mouthpiece, Kindlon is impossible to ignore.

In "Super Saturated," he castigates those who spend "Nights spent inside/ Gifted with endless foresight"; in "Million Miles of Fun," he's at wit's end with the news cycle. But following that tune is arguably the band's key song, and monument to humanity first: "Detective Lieutenant."

With an economy of language, Kindlon lays out the supremacy of pure artistic feeling: "If I do a double murder/ What this song did for you doesn't change an iota." When the chorus detonates, it amounts to a death-blow for those quick to cancel, unperson and vilify: "We don't toss away what we love/ I won't toss away what I love."

Militarie Gun

The most hardworking man in punk business is right in Drug Church's orbit: Ian Shelton has played in Self Defense Family, and co-hosted a cheeky hustle-and-grind podcast with Kindlon called "I Don't Care If This Ruins My Life."

Shelton established himself as the drummer and screamer in the grind-y punk band Regional Justice Center; when he got vocal about the band's conceptual roots in the prison system and his then-incarcerated brother, he found himself widely misunderstood — to his chagrin.

"People say I sing about the prison system. It's not even true!" he told in 2021 while hoofing it to an L.A. recording studio. "What I've done with my space in the press is that I've talked about it."

In interviews, Shelton may readily reference Securus Technologies and JPay, both for-profit prison firms that have had a deleterious effect on his family life. But the music he makes strikes a subtler, more personal note.

In both Regional Justice Center and his slightly more melodic, pop-centric band, Militarie Gun, Shelton grouses and howls about day-to-day anxieties and his Robert Pollard-like compulsion to continually create. (He's just over 30, but his Discogs page is getting frightening.)

While his Militarie Gun bandmates — guitarists Nick Cogan (also of Drug Church) and William Acuña, bassist Max Epstein, and drummer Vince Nyugen — weave jagged, colorful lines behind him, Shelton is gruff and immediate.

At a recent, sold-out gig at St. Vitus in Brooklyn, with fellow hardcore-adjacent acts Sugar Milk, Dazy, and MSPAINT, Shelton howled the chorus to "Don't Pick Up the Phone": "I want money/ I want love!" Suffice to say, bodies flew.


Are MSPAINT hardcore? Are they dance-punk? Are they post-punk? They're none of it and all of it.

Along with Taylor Young of Twitching Tongues and God's Hate, Shelton co-produced their 2022 single "Acid" — the perfect entryway to these intriguing purveyors of synth-inflected heaviness. The ambiguous opening keyboard lines offer few clues of what's about to hit. Then it hits.

"We're beyond peace at this point/ It's just another ploy/ A marketing scheme tranquil and enjoyed/ By a network of demons yelling at the sky," singer Deedee howls, as the synths continue to churn, underpinning their slamming, declamatory punk.

Named after the infamous freeware, the Hattiesburg, Mississippi quartet of Deedee, synthesist Nick, bassist Randy, and drummer Quinn is relatively new on the scene; their self-titled EP dropped the week the pandemic hit.

But given the startling freshness of their young discography, it's tantalizing to wonder where they could go from here. Because this particular permutation of hardcore — one that meets electronic textures and block-rocking beats — has never been done quite this way.


Initially called Buggin' Out before being compelled to change their name due to trademark infringement, Buggin is an excellent next stop if MSPAINT's Beastie Boys-style inflections are your thing.

Back when they were named after Giancarlo Espocito's character in Do the Right Thing, the Windy City hardcore crew slugged out an excellent self-titled debut EP, with plenty of '90s-style bounce and face-peeling performances from vocalist Bryanna Bennett.

The renamed band returned in 2021 with the heart-racing and profoundly fun Brainfreeze, a two-song single bundling the title track with a cover of the Beasties' Check Your Head cut "Gratitude" — previously interpreted by Rollins Band, the Transplants and Refused.

Buggin plans to release their debut album next year; in a 2022 interview with CVLT Nation, Bennett took their ever-swelling buzz in stride.

"For me, it's still crazy how much people like us all over," Bennett marveled. "In my mind, I'm just some guy that was tryna have fun with the homies and diversify our local scene." Sometimes, that's all it takes to breathe new life into a form of expression.

End It

Ah, the old heavy-music go-to — a sample of a quaint tune of yesteryear that melts and slows, before the band crashes in and steamrolls it.

In this case, poor Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" is summarily shattered by End It in their track "BCHC" — or "Baltimore City Hate Crew." 

"What's shaking, you f—ing chumps?" exhorts frontman Akil Godsey in the galloping 58-second opener to their 2022 EP Unpleasant Living. "You don't like us, and we don't like you/ Use your 24 to mind your f—ing business, and I'll mind mine, b—!"

From there, End It turn in some ferocious, dyed-in-the-wool hardcore, aided and abetted by another hardcore-crossover lynchpin: Justice Tripp from Trapped Under Ice and Angel Du$t. He appears on the class-struggle batterer "New Wage Slavery"; in the video, Godsey plays Omar from "The Wire."

Thanks to the deft writing of guitarists Johnny McMillion and Ray Lee, bassist Pat Martin, and drummer Chris Gonzalez, Unpleasant Living relays a coherent, cohesive statement in all of eight minutes.

After the acerbic scene commentary of "Hatekeeper," the Baltimore crew goes for the throat with crushing closer "The Comeback." You won't want End It to end it.


Representing the burgeoning hardcore scene Down Under are Speed, who dropped their latest EP, Gang Called Speed, last June. And the lead single, "Not That Nice," unflinchingly addresses one of the most reprehensible blights on society in recent memory.

"We wrote 'Not That Nice' in reaction to the Asian hate crimes born from the pandemic. The sad stories of innocent, good civilians falling victim to racial violence," vocalist Jem explained in a press release

"I found myself thinking, 'This is someone's grandma, grandpa, mum, dad, child…' Unfortunately, much of this stems from the often perverted portrayal of Asian stereotypes in the media," he added. "To the scared and uneducated few, the sad reality is that this rhetoric translates to oppression and real-world violence."

Coming from Speed — three of its five members are of Southeast Asian descent — "Not That Nice" lands with brute impact. "We're breaking through/ Set fire to a f—ed up truth," Jem snarls in the tough-as-nails video: "Bite my tongue? They're racist/ My story ain't told by fools."

Clearly, "Not That Nice" and the other tracks landed: their set at Sound and Fury Festival in Los Angeles the following summer went so hard, the footage of the gonzo, seemingly bone-snapping pit went viral.

When the Instagram account @viralclipz posted it with the caption "Who's going to this concert lol," none other than Shaquille O'Neal responded "me."


If you connect with the sound of Drug Church's Cheer and Hygiene, partly thank Jon Markson; he produced and engineered both albums. Also in his swelling portfolio is New York punks Regulate's 2022 self-titled album — their first in four years and a signal of swelling evolution.

That's partly because — much like the acclaimed Turnstile — vocalist Sebastian Paba reaches for influences far outside the scope of hardcore.

Listing the influences on the record for Brooklyn Vegan, Paba cited artists as divergent as James Brown ("a template for performers on stage and in the studio"), Bloc Party (calling Silent Alarm "a perfect record that builds drama and anticipation"), and Santana (praising their self-titled debut's "undeniable groove and swag.")

Paba's evocation of Santana is telling, as Regulate incorporates Latin sounds in innovative ways — as on "Ugata," which toggles from a diaphanous daydream to twisted riffage.

Identity-related themes pop up in the lyrics as well: "Hair" faces down racialized beauty standards, "C.O.P." reflects the age of reckoning with racist police killings, and "New York Hates You" positions the city in opposition to vampiric gentrifiers.

"This place will chew you up/ This place will spit you out," Yaba threatens. "Time to go home now/ We won't see you around." The NYHC kings have spoken.


When it comes to hardcore's positive developments regarding unorthodoxy, adventurousness and inclusion, is there a band that ticks as many boxes as Zulu?

Hailing from Los Angeles, the all-Black powerviolence band — vocalist Anaiah Lei, guitarists Dez Yusuf and Braxton Marcellous, bassist Satchel Brown, and drummer Christine Cadette — deals heavily in themes of Black identity; when it comes to genre distinctions, they maintain an omnivorous muse.

"A lot of the influence comes from soul, and it comes from R&B, and it comes from reggae, and it comes from funk and jazz," Lei told Kerrang in 2022 of their two EPs, Our Day Will Come and My People… Hold On. "Somehow, it worked out really well." (Their next album, A New Tomorrow, due in 2023, promises to continue in that vein.)

As Lei went on to explain, this often manifests in interstitial samples that provide dynamism and contrast — both on record and in their live show. The opening track on My People… Hold On — which features the cover of a weeping Black mother and child — is a recitation of a poem by Alesia Miller.

"When I cry over the limitations put on my humanity, when I am scared of what age my nephew will be perceived as a threat, when I desire to be held and handled with fragility,"  Miller declares in the poem, "it only translates as bitterness to the ears that hear me."

When Zulu then barrels in with "Now They Are Through With Me," the effect isn't of one-size-fits-all, one-dimensional rage, but of a riveting spectrum of feeling.

"They got me caught from every angle/ Not just the white, blue and red/ It's my own blood and flesh," Lei screams. That viscera is unforgettable to behold.

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Jami Morgan of Code Orange in performance
Jami Morgan of Code Orange

Photo courtesy of Code Orange


As Code Orange Wraps Up Tour With Korn, They Look Ahead To Headlining Stages & Making New Music: "We Really Want To Take A Big Swing"

The Pittsburgh hardcore executioners are finishing up a tour with Korn and gearing up for a headlining run. Code Orange recently unleashed a new single, "Out for Blood," and bandleader Jami Morgan has some intel on upcoming music.

GRAMMYs/Mar 23, 2022 - 08:09 pm

Code Orange's new song "Out for Blood" is nothing if not a blunt instrument. By fusing the most immediate parts of 2000s radio-friendly metal — and pairing it with a viscera-spattered video — it pushed the beloved hardcore band further into the airwaves than ever before. But Code Orange has a fascinating and complex essence that goes past mere riff-mongering.

"We don't subscribe to the idea that you're either a punk-metal band or a 'smart metal' band or a 'dumb, push-people, Monster Energy' band," vocalist and drummer Jami Morgan tells He goes on to remember the old days as Code Orange Kids, where they threw down everywhere from airless punk-squat living rooms to meathead fests and crepuscular harsh-noise covens.

"That's hopefully our imprint on heavy music — to take different pieces from different scenes, because we've been part of all of them," Morgan continues. "We've done it all and we are it all."

This hydra-like multifariousness is what enabled the Pittsburgh hardcore band to make Underneath, arguably their most realized album to date. Commensurately experimental and brutal, the album garnered near-universal critical acclaim and a nomination for Best Metal Performance ("Underneath") at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards. (Three years prior, they'd been nominated in the same category for "Forever.")

So what do Morgan, guitarists Dominic Landolina and Reba Meyers, keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose, and bassist Joe Goldman get to do when they've existed in so many spheres? They can become the most arcane space-rock band in the world if they want. Or, they can write shameless bangers like "Out for Blood" and tour with Korn — which they're wrapping up now. 

At the tail-end of those dates and on the cusp of a North America headlining tour kicking off April 3, Morgan caught up with to discuss Code Orange's roots, stylistic philosophy and road ahead — which includes new music in the not-too-distant future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

In these final dates with Korn and your upcoming headline tour, what do fans have to look forward to? 

In terms of supporting Korn, if you're a fan of the band, you're going to see the biggest version of us in a setting that's different than they're used to. We're getting to play a record we worked really, really hard on that wasn't able to get the roadwork that it deserved over the course of the pandemic.

In terms of our headline tour, we're hoping to be able to bring the fullest version of Code Orange there's been so far. We haven't done a headline tour in four years at this point, and we're bringing a visual element to it. A lot of what we do is visual — if you follow the band, you know that. Hopefully, the more we're able to step it up, the more we can show that. 

Was Korn part of your heavy-music immersion growing up? 

I wouldn't say they were necessarily part of our initial heavy-music experience, because we come more from of a hardcore and punk background. That's where we learned about heavy music, and that's where we learned about metal — through punk and hardcore. 

But as we've gone on — obviously, Korn has always been everywhere. Korn was actually, technically, the first concert I ever went to. I went to a concert when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was Linkin Park and Korn and Snoop Dogg.

I think they're inspiring in their longevity and in their push forward. They definitely try to keep it creative, and they keep it moving. They don't sit there and wait five years in between records. They keep pushing. When you look at Korn, you've got to understand there's not many heavy bands left that can draw in the way Korn does. It's kind of an anomaly, you know?

So, I've got nothing but respect for them. They influenced many of the things that influenced us.

Who were the bands that got you going early on?

We got into this really young. I booked my first show when I was about 14 years old. We've technically been a band — in different incarnations, but with the same four people — since we were 14.

My parents are pretty young, so when I was a little kid, I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and rock. Rakim, KRS-One, Public Enemy, but my dad was also into Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains. Your basic ABCs of punk and hardcore. It kind of sprung off from there and we fell down the metal rabbit hole. 

We don't subscribe to the idea that you're either a punk-metal band or a "smart metal" band or a "dumb, push-people, Monster Energy" band. We take pieces from all that stuff. We can go as experimental as anybody and push people on the ground as well! That's hopefully our imprint on heavy music — to take different pieces from different scenes, because we've been part of all of them. 

We've paid as many dues to the hardcore scene as you can, but before that, we were playing roll-on-the-ground punk shows where the singer was naked and all the bulls***. We've played the experimental noise dungeon. We've played the push-someone-on-the-ground festival. We've done it all and we are it all.

Did you guys ever play to an audience of zero early on?

Yeah. We've probably played more shows to an audience of zero than anyone. We toured the U.S. 10 times before we were in a magazine or coming out of anybody's mouth that wasn't under the level. 

That's helped us a lot, honestly. That helped us win fans. I find it tough to grow when there's so many bands and artists. Everyone gets attention, but it feels so spread out, especially in heavy music. There's not a linear path like there's been in previous years of heavy music, I would say. 

That has taught us a lot. We've played in many basements; we've slept on many floors; we slept on the same floors we played on, right after. We've done it all.

At what point did you feel Code Orange became a unique entity and not just the sum of your influences?

I think we've always had a sense of ourselves. That sense has developed over the years. To me, I can chart it aesthetically. At one point, when we were young, the band was on a certain aesthetic path and kind of came to the end of that path. We had the fortitude to reboot that a couple of records ago because we wanted to go in a different way that would pay off long-term.

I think [2020's Underneath] is definitely a record that you can't say sounds like anybody. You can say that sections and parts sound like certain influences, but I don't think there's a record that sounds like Underneath. It's the most encompassing of that vision. Where do we go from here? We'll see.

Can you drop any hints about the music you're currently working on?

We've been working hard on it. We have many, many more songs than we've ever had. Normally, we'd kind of plot them out for ebbs and flows. But for me, I'm a heavy music fan, but I'm also a big hip-hop fan. I love electronic music. I love rock. Everything

I get bored going on that same ride. I love metal, but it's hard to sit through these albums all the way through. It can be painful at times. So, the way we try to plot these things out is like a rollercoaster. Up and down. "OK, what are our downs going to be? How do we bring the adrenaline back? How do we [stick] the landing?" 

So far, stylistically it's a big departure from anything we've done so far. But that's why we keep working on it. We want to get it right. We really want to take a big swing on it.

I've found that most heavy musicians listen to far more than just heavy music — or sometimes no heavy music at all. What are your listening habits like?

I just get into specific things really hard. Our guitarist, Dom, is an insane metal encyclopedia. He's unreal. Joe, our bass player, is a huge metal/hardcore guy. Shade, our keyboardist, doesn't really listen to it, but he does understand what makes it tick. Reba's really into alternative music and rock. So, we're able to pick these different things. 

While I don't always sit around listening to metal all day long, I understand what I think makes it great. My goal is to try to suck the best moments out of it, the fun moments, and make that as many of our moments as possible. Hardcore is always the pit, the mosh part, but you can use that philosophy for whatever. 

So, we try to make the songs fun in that regard while hopefully being interesting. We are a rock, metal, hardcore band at the end of the day, and everything else is things we're pulling in. You're not going to hear a record from us that doesn't have a heavy element, but if you've been following our stuff, you know we like to mix it up.

To drill a little deeper, what are you listening to this week?

Let me look. I opened up Spotify. I was listening to that new song by the Game that Kanye produced called "Eazy." That's a killer song. I'm listening to Drakeo the Ruler.

I'm listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails — they're my favorite band of all time. It's constant. I try to get away from it, to escape it, but I just can't. They're my favorite band because it mixes a lot of elements we're talking about. It doesn't lean on the metal side, but it's just heavy. For the most part, the music I want to make is dark. I'm into the dark arts! Aesthetically, musically, that's what I like.

George [Clarke] from Deafheaven has that new group, Alto Arc. I've been listening to them. I've got a song from that. I thought that was absolutely awesome.

Read More: George Clarke On Deafheaven's New Album Infinite Granite, Finding His Voice & Breaking Out Of Underground Memeification

As a relative outsider looking in, I feel like we're in a really fertile period for hardcore. But as someone who's been truly in it for many years: what's the deal? Are we in a boom or bust period? 

I think it doesn't really work that way, because most of what's good about it — 95 percent of the bands that are good — is because of that environment. And if it grows beyond that environment, it doesn't work. And it shouldn't work, and it's not supposed to work. It's like taking a character out of a movie and putting it in another one. 

There are a small amount of bands that are built in a different way. You can already see Turnstile or Power Trip — rest in peace to Riley — there have been and are bands, and I believe we're a band like that, that can exist and appeal outside of that because of the type of thing they do.

Read More: Brendan Yates On Turnstile's Vibrant New Album GLOW ON: "The Goal Was To Breathe As Much Imagination Into These Songs As Possible"

That's the type of thing we've always done. We've never went from being a straightforward hardcore band. We started really f***ing weird and we're still really f***ing weird in different ways. There have to be elements of your sound and vibe that reach out from those things. And sometimes, when the ball gets rolling — like maybe what you're describing — it forces other bands out of that box as well.

And that doesn't make sense. To me. It's best in that environment. So, in terms of a boom period in quality, I'm sure: there seems to be a ton of amazing bands, and people are going, and it's exciting.

In terms of bands that are cutting through that cloth, we'll have to see. But I definitely feel like Turnstile is built differently than whatever other band you do like, and is killing in that environment.

But for me, I can already see where it starts and ends. That's what hardcore is, and there's nothing wrong with that. And for most people in hardcore, that's exactly what they want. They don't want things to grow outside of that bubble, because it would literally make it not hardcore.

There's a lot of good stuff, it seems like, and there's always been a lot of good stuff. But we'll have to see what direction bands go. I don't know if a lot of hardcore bands' goal is to take risks. I think their goal is just to be in the hardcore scene and have a blast and play hardcore.

That's not really our goal, and never really has been our goal. We've been screaming that from the rooftops since day one.

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