Impressions of Iowa: Jami Morgan of Code Orange explains the intensity and authenticity that made Iowa built to last

Impressions of Iowa: Jami Morgan of Code Orange explains the intensity and authenticity that made Iowa built to last

- By Ramon Gonzales

“I put on Iowa and I feel it. I feel like I am in that world. It’s nasty and it’s fucked up - In an artful way but in a real way. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s fucking real and a lot of shit I listen to doesn’t feel real to me.”

Among the tangible qualities connected with the concept of legacy, influence is what allows notoriety to continue to live, breathe, and build. The power of being a predecessor becomes a much more prevalent, relevant thing. Lighting the torch to blaze a trailer seems to mean more if there is someone next in line to carry on.

In that regard, there are obvious parallels that exist between generational voices like Slipknot and Code Orange. At the turn of the century, the horde of nine masked menaces from Des Moines took on the conventions of metal with a defiant, audacious approach that paid off in spades. Pointing an emphatic middle finger at the culture of purism that permeated throughout metal, Slipknot combined their influences and creative fuel to craft a brand all their own - despite bucking the status quo.

For Code Orange, the band has spent the last decade pouring their DIY DNA and hardcore ethos into their arsenal of dynamic artistry. While the band established their roots in the hardcore community, their creative evolution, in tandem with their unwillingness to compromise, has propelled the band to thrive as outliers - progressives that are less interested in doing what has already been done before even if it means going the safer, more traveled route.

Among heavy music’s more insightful, articulate voices, Code Orange vocalist Jami Morgan spoke candidly about the kind of generational ties that are evident when assessing the impact of Slipknot. With the 20th anniversary of the band’s seminal Iowa album at hand, Morgan was gracious about the correlation and dissected the important precedent the album set for the bands that would tap into it’s transformative spirit in the subsequent years.

“We are trying to push what we do in many different directions and trying to force out something new. We are just changing the recipe a little bit. I love that about Slipknot and I love that about this record. Morgan continues. “It challenged the status quo of the mainstream but also what metal can be. It is in some ways accessible but it is an extremely dark record especially considering how big it was.”

In connecting some of those same dots, there is room to align the progression of each band and the kind of strides that were made between especially important releases. Much like Slipknot did on their self-titled debut, Code Orange reverberated among the underground with their 2017 banger in Forever. During each era, both bands found themselves tip of the tongue amongst their respective sub-communities and really on the cusp of breaking through.

For Slipknot, Iowa was that moment when the band pierced the glass ceiling, becoming fixtures in pop culture and forever changing the landscape of heavy music for good. For Code Orange, the 2020 release of Underneath marked the arrival of the Pittsburgh collective into the greater consciousness of heavy music - crowbarring their way into Best of lists among indie darlings and alt-pop sensations.

Yet while the steps of progression seem to follow a familiar pattern, the similarities Morgan can identify between a Slipknot and a Code Orange are less about the results and more about the authenticity that resonates in the art. “What Slipknot brings in terms of danger and sonic violence is something that seems to be common place in everything I love from art, to movies, to tv, to books. There is a darkness about it that a lot of people try to emulate and try to copy and 9 and half out of ten fail. And I hope that we are able to succeed in a way that a lot of the stuff I listen to and watch fails.”

Morgan goes on to reference the immersive quality of Iowa and how that authenticity he values so much is evident. “I put on Iowa and I feel it. I feel like I am in that world. It’s nasty and it’s fucked up - In an artful way but in a real way. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s fucking real and a lot of shit I listen to doesn’t feel real to me.”

As for the X-factor, the attribute of the art that allows for an album like Iowa to stand the test of time - Morgan explains that Slipknot’s forward-thinking and understanding of how to purpose extreme music for a broader audience is what ultimately bred it’s longevity. “They took extreme influences and they put it into their blender and they balanced it with a healthy level of accessibility that’s allowed it to grow. The bigger it grows, the longer it’s gonna last and the more important it is going to be.”

Among the most profound patterns that can be deduced from the impact of Slipknot unto the next generation of heavy purveyors like Code Orange is the level of integrity that obviously remains paramount to both entities. Though stylistically, strategically different, and separated by a couple of decades in an ever-evolving industry, the commonality of doing things their own way is how Slipknot’s influence can be found in a band like Code Orange. It’s there that the lineage, the culture, and the legacy is most appropriately passed along. And in much the same way that Slipknot’s disposition was to seek and destroy, Code Orange maintains that same competitive drive.

“All I know is that when we get up there, we’re gonna fucking smash everybody. And I love Slipknot to death but we are coming for their ass too onstage just like they are coming for our ass,” explains Morgan. “The only way to light a fire under your ass, to work this fucking hard for this long is to tell yourself, ‘we’re fucking everyone up.’ And that is the only way forward.”

It’s that kind of mentality that plainly suggests that the legacy of Slipknot is one that continues to thrive among the artists bold enough to adopt that sentiment. Slipknot embraced that kind of adversarial stance and clawed their way to the heights of heavy. Now, the next generation that watched Slipknot's domination has someone to reference on their climb.

From metal to hardcore. From Des Moines to Pittsburgh. Real recognize real.

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