Gig Review and Photography by Steve Gerrard

It’s a quiet Sunday evening on the streets of Nottingham. Most of the city’s inhabitants are probably tucking their kids into bed and preparing for the week ahead or watching The Antiques Roadshow before a lovely mug of Horlicks and a peaceful night’s sleep. behind the doors of the Rescue Rooms, however, things are a little less relaxed.

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Pittsburgh heavier-than-hell hardcore crew Code Orange are undoubtedly the breakthrough band in heavy music of the past year or two. Their third album, Forever, took them onto a major label and astonishingly found them being nominated for a Grammy for the title track. For a band who have been described as “nightmarishly chaotic hardcore”, this is no minor feat.

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Tonight’s show has been sold out for a while, and it’s unlikely we’ll find Code Orange playing in such small rooms for much longer. And in some ways, that’s a shame because they kinda suit a small, sweaty venue packed wall to wall with hardcore kids and metalheads. And tonight those fans do not leave disappointed.

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Before all that though, the night is kicked off by local hardcore band, Chamber, who were invited to kick proceedings off only a few days before the gig. Considering the short notice, they are clearly well prepared and relishing the chance to play before a packed-out home crowd. They may not be quite a slick as the bands that follow them but they have an energy and presence that suggests bigger things are on the horizon.

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Surrey’s self-proclaimed “nasty hardcore” band Employed To Serve have very quickly been building a reputation as a name to watch in the genre and their label, Holy Roar Records, is fast becoming synonymous with the future of heavy music. Vocalist Justine Jones is a veritable powerhouse of pronounced, abrasive fury as she stares down the crowd, albeit whilst struggling to hide the smile beneath. The whole band are clearly in their element and songs from last year’s stunning The Warmth Of A Dying Sun album prove without a doubt that this is the real deal.

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With each song tonight, Employed To Serve trap you in a horror movie of dense, churning guitars, frantic drumming, relentless vocals and wildly scattered, choppy fretwork. This is no sloppy, carefree noise though, this is controlled chaotic brutality of the best kind.

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There’s an almost tangible sense of expectation in the room as we await the arrival of the headliners. They may have been a band for a decade now, formerly known as Code Orange Kids, but they’ve taken things up several notches with this latest album, and their live performances keep raising the bar of what to expect from a hardcore show. This is the third time I’ve caught them in the past 12 months, but if I thought I knew what to expect, tonight I was quickly proven wrong.

Having toured the world playing huge shows with System Of Down, Deftones, Gojira, club shows are where Code Orange are most in their element. As the members take to the stage, all five prowl the stage as if they’re about to begin a kickboxing match. In reality, the next hour or so may well be the musical equivalent. On steroids!

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If there’s one thing that takes away somewhat from the band’s connection to the crowd, it’s the fact that main vocalist, Jami Morgan, is also their drummer, meaning he’s hidden behind his kit and difficult to see from most corners of the venue. His bandmates do their utmost to make up for this though, with bassist Joe Goldman and guitarist Dominic Landolina goading the audience even before the nightmarish opening chords of My World ring from the speakers.

From thereon in the pace rarely lets up with the thundering Real acting as their mission statement as Morgan screams “This is real now motherfucker”. Spy keeps the aggression and big riffs to the fore and has heads banging and bodies flailing across the crowd.

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Bleeding In The Blur is the closest Code Orange have to a radio-friendly tune but don’t expect to hear this on your local breakfast show any time soon. With guitarist Reba Meyers taking over on vocals it’s a welcome rest bite from the all-out assault of the majority of tonight’s material and showcases the band’s ability to construct harmonies without reducing the impact of the music.

The ferocious Kill The Creator quickly takes things back up to breakneck speed whilst I Am King and Slowburn remind us all that their earlier material has no less intensity than the tracks from Forever.

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Tonight sees the band debut their most recent release, Only One Way, a track that further demonstrates how experimental their arrangements can be, with twisted electronic sounds from Eric Balderose’s synths trading space with the more metallic riffs elsewhere.

The introduction to Forever receives a huge roar from the fans, some of whom are now shirtless and dripping in sweat. Meyers is a force of nature as she lets rip on guitar and, also thanks to Employed To Serve’s Justine Jones, tonight is definitely proof that women are finally standing shoulder to shoulder with the men in a scene that’s been male-dominated far too long.

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The electric pulse of The Mud gives the audience one more chance to let loose. Slower, dense rhythms and dark, desolate vibes demonstrate how you don’t have to play fast to create music that’s immensely heavy.

They end with the haunting dream2, stripping away the layers to reveal a simple yet bleak sound that is as unpredictable an ending as you’d expect from this band. Code Orange are certainly not one for encores. Their job here is done.

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As a band that has generated more hype around them in the past couple of years than any other aggressive band, I can say that every inch of it is justified. Transcending the hardcore scene without compromising their sound, they are a true example of what you can achieve when you believe in yourself and your art. Tonight Code Orange were nothing short of astonishing.

Setlist:
My World

Real
Spy
Bleeding in the Blur
Kill the Creator
I Am King
Slowburn
Only One Way 
(Live debut)
The New Reality
Forever
The Mud
dream2

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One Response to “Code Orange + Employed To Serve + Chamber at The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK – 15th April 2018”

  1. Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Trivium + Code Orange + Power Trip + Venom Prison at The Academy, Manchester, UK – 20th April 2018 Says:

    […] seen them just a few days earlier in Nottingham, my hopes were high for another blistering performance by “saviours of hardcore” Code Orange. […]

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