Code Orange at The Zoo: A Gig Review

It’s thirty-three degrees on an unusually humid March evening. Gone are my black Levis, I welcome my shorts with open arms.  A strategic choice, anything to get me a little bit comfortable for tonight’s gig. Pittsburgh metal heavyweights, Code Orange, are playing The Zoo tonight for their only headline tour while they visit Australia for the Download Festival.  It might be thirty-three degrees outside, but us Brisbane natives know the hotbox effect The Zoo has on its punters.  My body is as ready as it’ll ever be.

A black veil is pulled across the radius of The Zoo, separating the stage from the rest of the world.  But squeals and thunderous double kicks escape. I peel back the black curtain and the humidity smacks me across the face as local death metal band, Descent, play on stage.  Raspy screams bellow from vocalist Anthony Oliver, overdriven-guitar-shrieks battle thumping distorted rhythms.  Behind the musical chaos, fast double kicks pound my ears.  The crowd nod back and forth in quick repetition to the thunderous kicks and droning guitars. The drumming is quick, and technical, at times it sounds like a backing track. A credit to the drummer, in my eyes. As songs progress, the band tend to get lost in their tempo, especially when the double kicks are at bullet speed.  Descent’s track Stain is an abrasive standout of their set, Oliver’s screams have more dynamic range compared to the same droning howls of previous songs. But Descent’s speed and technical prowess are impressive to see live and have taken The Zoo a notch warmer than when I walked in.

Underground metal veterans, Shackles, soon take the stage.  The Byron born band have been on the scene for nearly a decade and are no stranger to a Brisbane crowd.  Punters pack into the zoned off section of The Zoo as Shackles begin to play. The vocalist roars, his growl deeper than the previous band. The thrashy distortion on the guitars is a welcome addition to Shackles’ blend of metal.  Their music lends heavily on punk tropes, songs often going for less than two minutes.  Breakdowns conjure some energy from the crowd, a handful of eager punters thrash their arms violently in the air to the blast beats and ride crashes.  Their short, bitesize tracks are powerfully energetic as Shackles cram chaos into two minutes.  And it’s often done seamlessly.  A thin haze starts to appear on stage as their short set ends. I don’t know if it’s the fog machine or a sweaty mist.  My money is on sweat.

It’s not long until punters give up their fresh air for a secure spot in time for Code Orange.  A flurry of violent vignettes plays on screen as the band walk on stage.  Distorted, horrific images play on loop reminding me of a Rob Zombie b-role. Code Orange begin, the perfect soundtrack to the macabre madness behind. Vocalist Jami Morgan sits behind the drums, his raw scream bellowing over us. Bassist Joe Goldman and guitarist Dominic Landolina viciously stare down the audience.  They strut across the stage, instruments in hand, eyeballing every one of us. The intensity is intimidating. They beckon the crowd for the same intensity, yelling Morgan’s lyrics with as much passion as their vocalist.  Co-vocalist, Reba Myers stands to the side, guitar in hand, adding her flair to the mix.  Her howls are terrifyingly captivating, especially as she layers her screams on top of Morgan’s.  A circle pit forms in the middle of The Zoo, separating the devoted from the timid.  Goldman and Landolina continue to cross paths on stage, screaming into the crowd.  They want more. But much of the crowd stands still. Code Orange look as if they are trying to outdo one another, matching each other’s intense energy. They are all on the same wavelength, passionately yelling the lyrics regardless if there’s a mic or not. It’s a shame the audience doesn’t reciprocate.

The band transition into Bleed In The Blur, my favourite of Code Orange’s singles, and it seems to be the same for many who stand amongst me. Myers takes the reins, her vocals are crisp, hauntingly beautiful to an extent. Her vocals contrast against the devilishly distorted guitars and gruesome howls of Morgan and Eric Balderose who transitions from synth to guitar to demonic growls seamlessly. The circle pit livens up as Morgan beckons everyone to ‘fucking spin’. Code Orange begin The Hunt, their 2018 industrial magnum opus.  The band jump around on stage. Arms begin to fly back and forth in a circle pit that wants to consume more people. Myers’ vocals are once again a highlight as she screams Corey Taylor’s (Slipknot) verse with the same energy and passion as the metal veteran. Code Orange finish with Forever, the lead single off their Grammy nominated album. In a sense, it’s the perfect finish, all members give an incredible performance. It’s heavy; the band jump, they scream, their energy and commitment are incredible.  

Their half an hour set draws to a close, to which I am surprised.  It’s shorter than any headline I’ve seen in a long time.  But considering the performance I just witnessed, I don’t blame Code Orange.  The band bring a level of intensity and investment unlike any band I’ve seen. And they expect the same, at least desire the same, from their audience. Maybe it’s a wider issue of Brisbane’s hardcore scene? Maybe us Brisbanites know it’s too hot to mosh.  All I know is, if you’re not going to bring your A Game the next time Code Orange come to town, you’re doing the band an injustice.  

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