The Above

The Above

It’s no coincidence that Code Orange’s fifth album is called The Above; as the follow-up to 2020’s Underneath, there’s a direct juxtaposition. “Where I feel Underneath and The Above coincide is like there’s almost this door between them,” vocalist and conceptual mastermind Jami Morgan tells Apple Music. “It’s the door of moment and choice. To me, it’s the thin, reflective line between things and feelings that feel very far apart but are often very close, like the inverse, the question and the answer, darkness and light. A lot of The Above’s themes are different ideas of light—the light of self versus the light of acceptance and want.” Musically, Morgan and his bandmates—guitarist/vocalist Reba Meyers, keyboardist/programmer Eric “Shade” Balderose, bassist Joe Goldman, guitarist Dominic Landolina, and drummer Max Portnoy—gave priority to traditional rock instruments over electronics in this incarnation of their genre-defying style. “We wanted things to be a little bit more open and human but still have this digital backbone, whereas on Underneath, the digital element is to the front,” Morgan explains. “I feel like we also tightened up the songwriting and maybe painted within the lines a little bit more but challenged ourselves to be as avant-garde as possible within those lines.” Below, he comments on each song. “Never Far Apart” “I feel like this song really sets up the juxtaposition of the two opposing moods of the album. It’s like the verses are this dark, internal monologue of somebody that’s trapped in their own prison. It’s like this justification of failure and an exposing of your true nature, especially as the song explodes at the end. The chorus is, to me, almost the opposite. They’re in this almost cartoonish, faraway, unreachable, dreamlike voice, but it’s idyllically beautiful. It’s like a Disney musical or something. We felt like it was a good way to open because it exposes the different paintbrushes of the album all within one song.” “Theatre of Cruelty” “This continues to set up those two fields that are the through line of the record. It’s like the harder parts of the song introduce a looser but buggy and parasitic riff style that we utilize throughout the whole record. Then there’s these more ethereal parts that are kind of heavenly and smooth but still have this digital, glitchy backbone. The song is about drive. It’s about obsession. It’s about trying to present as one thing while the theater of the mind is always playing something a lot more sinister and a lot more cruel.” “Take Shape” (feat. Billy Corgan) “It was awesome working with Billy on this. He was obviously a big inspiration to us in general, and he almost plays a little bit of a narrator role in the song. ‘Take Shape’ is really about feeling like you’re being pushed through a stage play of your life that you really can’t control, like some Truman Show shit, like you’re just a puppet on strings being controlled by your own subconscious or your goals or whatever.” “The Mask of Sanity Slips” “Lyrically, this is a grungy, heavy take on somebody dealing with internal resentment, loneliness, feeling like a square peg in a round hole—something, I think, we feel as a group a lot, something I definitely feel a lot, trying to hide behind either confidence or feebleness. I even created this mask of my own face that I was calling the Mask of Sanity. Sonically, our plan was quiet/loud grunge dynamics, but with some death-metal double kick, which I’ve never heard on a grunge song, and some electronics. There’s even a bouncy mosh drop that we thought would subvert genre rules a little bit and make it more our style.” “Mirror” “Dynamically, this is one of the softest songs we’ve ever done, but I think it’s really powerful. Reba’s amazingly powerful on it. It’s disparate, it’s kind of lush, it’s pretty, but it also has a little bit of a dark underbelly. It was definitely influenced by trip-hop, Björk, even Tori Amos, but it has our modern production and some Code Orange darkness in there. I also think it’s cool because me and Reba both wrote the song. It’s really reflective—pun intended—of what the song is. It’s like the same words but two points of view.” “A Drone Opting Out of the Hive” “I wanted this song to feel like a fucking David Fincher interrogation room scene. The album has these two battling aesthetics, and one of them is like that: noir, fucking serial killer, buggy crime. To me, that’s our heaviness, our hardness, and our darkness. Then there’s this brighter, almost poppier thing that has a little bit of this digital element to it, like an impressionist painting where something’s just a little bit off. But this is where the album gets darker and veers into the underbelly. The beat is made of teeth chattering and whispers and all kinds of weird shit. It was really fun to make.” “I Fly” “This is one of the first songs on the album that me and Reba go bar-for-bar on, going back and forth to tell the story together, which I think is really cool. We wanted it to feel dark and heavy but have a big, soaring chorus. We were thinking almost like Alice In Chains meets industrial. There’s this robotic voice that says, ‘This is real’ over and over again, and it’s a reminder that we’re in the real world and not a dream. I wrote the lyrics based on this book of old epitaphs, things that people wrote about their own deaths for their relatives to read at their funerals. There’s a real twisted humor to a lot of them.” “Splinter the Soul” “Musically, this is a little bit Nine Inch Nails, a little bit Pantera, with an Alice [In Chains] chorus. We thought that would be a cool hybrid, sonically. It’s about the struggle of always trying to get to the next lily pad, about how it might feel better to just splinter the soul to take back control, like death by suicide as opposed to getting killed. I think we all have that human impulse in us to take it away from ourselves so no one can take it away from us.” “The Game” “It’s definitely one of our most psychotic, heavier songs to date. I visualize the pinch harmonics as the buzzing needles of a lie detector test when they go up and down. To me, the lyrics are from the point of view of a character I call the Manipulator, the one prying at you to take the path of most resistance instead of least. It’s frustration bubbling up to a head. You hear all these sounds from earlier in the record, like ripped duct tape, laughter, knife scrapes. The end definitely gets the most Underneath-ish in the sense that it’s super controlled chaos.” “Grooming My Replacement” “People were like, ‘You sure you want to use the word “grooming”?’ But it’s not like that. Words can’t mean more than one fucking thing? I’m like, ‘I’m not changing that shit.’ The song is about feeling like you’re being used to train your successor. It’s definitely where we started to discover this album’s version of heavy and how it would distinguish from previous albums—looser, groovier, corrosive, kind of snarling, thick, not as outwardly calculated as Underneath, but precise, like the perfect fucking crime.” “Snapshot” “Stylistically, this almost feels like a heavier indie song or something. It’s definitely totally different than anything we’ve done. The metaphor of the first line is from the movie One Hour Photo, starring Robin Williams. He’s this lonely photo printer in a Walmart. I just like the metaphor of the snapshot—a brief moment in time that can last forever. It’s like shit that never goes away. The lyrics have the theme of the movie, as well as fantasizing about capturing your captor, turning your own predator into prey.” “Circle Through” “This is definitely one of the most poppy songs we’ve ever done. It’s where, in my opinion, the light starts to shine through, almost like the crack under the door. We start to get to the other side, get to where it is we’re going. It’s about your negative thoughts and your never-haves, and manifesting bad things, and just asking yourself to walk that circle through. Is this really what you want? Is this what you want to create? Is that the life that you want, or are you presenting yourself to it in this circle of desire and negative self-talk or talk about others?” “But a Dream...” “This is kind of like the final passageway. It’s a bit existential. It’s about choice, about free will, about things that have been talked about to death a million times. I visualize it as these two doors with two blinding lights—the door of being accepted, and the door of going wherever yourself leads you to go. That might be you by yourself forever. Can you live with that? Can you face that, or do you have to keep chasing desire and chasing adoration? That’s something I struggle with a lot.” “The Above” “This is definitely one of my favorite songs. It’s one of the most personal songs, for me, that I’ve ever written. When Shade first came up with this melody, and we started utilizing it in different ways, it really clicked for me as the melody that represents what the album is. The song itself is like the other side of the hill. It’s like the end of one journey and, hopefully, the beginning of another. It’s coming full circle with yourself. It’s about being able to live with who you are, and not just your accomplishments, your wins or losses, your friends, the car you drive, the money you have, or whatever. Can you live with who you really are as a person, how you’ve treated other people? To me, it’s one of the coolest, most emotional songs we’ve ever done.”

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