‘Dead inside’. The recurring phrase from the title track of Lorna Shore’s second full-length, Flesh Coffin, is bleak, hopeless and cruel; this series of adjectives also adequately describes the ten tracks on the album. Lorna Shore have defined their distinct sound squarely on the intersection between technical death metal, modern black metal and deathcore. The prolific New Jersey quartet have garnered notice from the metal community with the release of three EPs and their 2015 début full-length Psalms since their inception in 2010. Flesh Coffin, released on February 17, finds Lorna Shore taking the next natural step in their sonic evolution, implementing haunting orchestration and accessible elements into their merciless metal identity.
Opening with menacing arpeggios and momentous drums, “Offering of Fire” erupts into the group’s signature technical deathcore sound. Subtly underscoring the double-time verse are some haunting symphonic elements. Though never applied to the extent of bands like Shadow of Intent, these layers bring a sense of drama, movement and melody to otherwise chaotic, atonal sections. Falling just short of six minutes, this track is quite lengthy for deathcore, but manages to stay engaging the entire way through with a mix of impressive, technical riffs, black metal chords, understated orchestration and striking soloing.
The first single for the record, “Denounce the Light”, shows Lorna Shore taking the next step in their musical journey, while attempting to answer the question: ‘How do you make deathcore accessible?’ Bands from Born of Osiris over Suicide Silence to Veil of Maya have postulated possible solutions, albeit with varying levels of success. However, where all of these groups have been accused of ‘selling out’ to some extent, Lorna Shore take their core sound and tweak it just slightly for optimal effect. On “Denounce the Light”, as well as other tracks on here, there are clear melodic hooks and choruses. They are all informed by distinctly ominous melodic choices; no dancefloor synths or siren-like clean vocals appear here. Nonetheless, the single’s chorus is immense and overwhelming. Sweeping guitars, half-time drums and pitched gang vocals make for an unforgettable and unsettling musical statement that flows into a symphonic reprieve, before the band flits between blackened blasts and brutal breakdowns.
Not every track on Flesh Coffin is as engaging as the one-two punch of “Offering of Fire” and “Denounce the Light”, though. “The Astral Wake of Time” is a slower, more breakdown-oriented affair that impedes the record’s energy, but may still be well-received at live shows for its unbridled mosh potential. The song attempts at being somewhat hooky with the incorporation of group-chanted ‘heys’, but unfortunately ultimately appears contrived in comparison to “Denounce the Light”. In contrast, the almost Southern ghost-town vibe of “FVNERAL MOON” fits tremolo-picked melodies and a half-time chorus into a solid, succinct second single. Flesh Coffin closes with the title track, an ill-omened song led by chilling single note melodies and an appealingly appalling chorus.
With Flesh Coffin, Lorna Shore may have reached the pinnacle of modern deathcore. Guitarists Adam De Micco and Connor Deffley deftly incorporate technical passages, atmospheric elements, mosh-worthy breakdowns and melodic sensibility into strong song structures so shamefully often ignored in the genre. Austin Archey’s drums provide a character all their own, managing to be both overwhelming and nuanced. Tom Barber’s gutturals, screams and shrieks provide a versatile vocal delivery without ever incorporating the much maligned clean singing. It’s not to say, however, that the album is quite perfect. As previously mentioned, some songs do impede the momentum of the record, and occasionally Barber’s low screams sound as if they were recorded through a long, soggy cardboard tube. Despite these criticisms, I doubt Flesh Coffin will have much competition for deathcore album of the year, bolstered by its sturdy songwriting, sonic versatility, astounding technicality and unyielding commitment to heaviness.
Notable Tracks: “Offering of Fire”; “Denounce the Light”
FFO: Infant Annihilator, Shadow of Intent, Protosequence