LIVE: Code Orange / Every Stranger Looks Like You / Soul Crusade @ The Old Blue Last, London

By Glen Bushell

The world of heavy music is often a fickle place. Change can be frowned upon, scene points more important than the art being created, or who has the hardest breakdowns overshadowing technical prowess. Those successful enough to carve a name for themselves within the scene are then forgotten at the drop of a hat when the next hype train pulls into town or are ostracised for expanding their sound amid claims of ‘selling out’. Code Orange are taking steps to make changes within this world by creating their own, and stated their intent to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak with their critically acclaimed album ‘I Am King’, an album about being king of your own world with no boxes or boundaries and becoming the ‘Thinners of the Herd’. Tonight on this freezing cold December evening Code Orange have ventured to the UK to bring ‘I Am King’ to this tiny venue in East London, and given that the show sold out within the first hour of going on sale, expectations for the Pennsylvania metalcore band to deliver a crushing show are riding high to say the least.

Up first are Soul Crusade who are a relatively new band, and their metallic hardcore is well executed albeit to a fairly sparse crowd at this point, but this is a high profile show to be on and the nodding heads of appreciation around the room signal that they will have gained some new followers after tonight. The venue begins to fill – and the temperature rises – as Belgian trio Every Stranger Looks Like You take to the stage, and once some technical issues at the start have been overcome the band launch into their distinctly European sounding hardcore. They play valiantly, but being relatively unknown in these parts means they go over the heads of many of the crowd this evening. A lot of potential is displayed from this young band and surely as time goes on their reach will be expanded to a wider audience. The somewhat lukewarm reception for tonight’s support is no fault of the bands or the promoters because this evening anyone could have supported and the night would have still only been about one thing; Code Orange.

Notorious for becoming hotter than the surface of the sun, the Old Blue Last is at boiling point before Code Orange have even begun and people are crammed in wall to wall, jostling for position to get a decent view. Things change within a split second as soon as Code Orange launch into opener ‘My World’ and the floor is transformed into a veritable warzone of flailing limbs and bodies. Drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan leads the charge from the back of the stage better than many front men with just a microphone can, and the precision of his technical drumming is something to marvel at as it is never compensated during his ferocious screams. ‘Thinners of the Herd’ is nothing short of colossal and ‘I Am King’ makes the dance floor erupt with its unrelenting breakdowns, paying homage to metallic hardcore pioneers Prayer For Cleansing and 7 Angels 7 Plagues while unmistakably pushing hardcore into a new dawn. The set is heavy on ‘I Am King’ tonight, with the only older song in the set being ‘Nothing (The Rat)” from 2012 album ‘Love Is Love//Return To Dust’, which stands up well against the newer material and shows the progression of Code Orange. The beauty in this bands mantra of having no boundaries shines during ‘Dreams In Inertia’, which is a serene funnel of brooding alternative rock and gives guitarist Reba Meyers enchanting clean vocals a chance to soar. The breather that this provides the room is swiftly halted as they crash back into the dense ‘Unclean Spirit’ before ending on the thunderous ‘Mercy’, which almost reduces the venue to rubble.

Those on hand to witness tonight’s show were blessed with a very special gift this evening. The gift of seeing a band that have set the benchmark for metallic hardcore in 2014, at possibly one of the last shows of this size they will be able to play. The herd has well and truly been thinned now, and those that were on the fence about this band and decided to ignore them will soon be forgotten, because the new era of Code Orange is in full swing. People will say in time “Were you there the night when Code Orange played the Old Blue Last?” and if your answer is anything other than “Yes” then you missed out on one of finest evenings of aggressive music that the UK has seen in a long time.