Lorna Shore – Psalms

Psalms is the debut full-length album from New Jersey-based blackened deathcore band Lorna Shore. But this ain’t your grand-dad’s deathcore as Lorna Shore are at the forefront of fresh-faced new bands aiming to push the boundaries of what deathcore can sound like, and restore some credibility to a much-maligned genre; massive tech-death riffs, brutal slams, ferocious vocals, frenzied guitar solos, all coated in some truly grim and frostbitten black metal influences.

There are a bunch of different elements to Lorna Shore’s sound, but their most intriguing is the immediately apparent black metal influence. Not only are vocalist Tom Barber’s high-pitched shrieks and wretches straight out of a First Wave black metal band, his range also extends to gurgled brutal death metal gutturals. Tremolo picked riffs backed by relentless blast-beats abound on this album. No track better exemplifies this than ‘Infernal Haunting’ whose first thirty seconds sound like something off Behemoth – Evangelion, before the many-headed beast that is Lorna Shore shifts into neck-snapping tech-death riffage.

Their ability to write openly compelling, heavy, and catchy riffs is one  of their greatest strengths, really making tracks like ‘Death Gowns’  and ‘Throne of Worms’ stand out. Riffs are often fast and punishingly heavy, and would hardly sound out of place on a Black Dahlia album, while at other times rivaling Black Tongue for their crushing heaviness. The strength of the guitarwork is not  just in their heaviness but also in their natural ability to create and sustain a menacing and foreboding atmosphere throughout this album. And, unusually for deathcore, Lorna Shore are not afraid to whip out some of the most evil guitar solos I’ve ever heard. Something about them just oozes malice and it’s fantastic.

I must also mention for praise the production on this album: it has a cavernous quality to it which makes every instrument sound natural but also gives them all plenty of room to breathe. I can practically feel the drums and bass reverberating around my headphones, so kudos to the producer on this album. And the bass is another highlight of this album for me: many bands see bass as an afterthought, a problem often exacerbated by poor production. However, on Psalms Lorna Shore give the bass its rightful place, and it really does pack a punch, masterfully filling out the lower end of their sound, particularly on ‘Grimoire.’ The drumming is likewise very tasteful: powerful and perfectly-executed blastbeats accentuate the frenzied, heavier moments of the songs, appropriately pulling back when the other instruments come to the fore for the more atmospheric moments.

It’s all very professionally done, without feeling overly-produced or fake. If I have any complaint about this album it’s the band’s use of breakdowns/slams. While a lot of them are incredibly brutal and well-used, sometimes they feel haphazardly structured, thrown in between two very fast-paced sections and killing the momentum the band has going. And as a more general point, some of the songs feel somewhat disjointed, occasionally feeling like various ideas stitched together. This is not a very widespread problem however, and only affected my enjoyment of one or two tracks here. And as one final minor complaint, on the chorus section of the  penultimate track ‘Traces of Supremacy’ there is a kind of vocoder effect on his vocals which I found quite jarring.

But all in all this is a rousing success of an album. Though many will dismiss it simply because of the ‘deathcore’ label, this album shows that there is still a lot of life left in the genre and that it is wholly capable of progressing and evolving. The influences Lorna Shore draw from, from black metal to technical and brutal death metal, mercilessly put to death the idea that deathcore has to sound a certain way.

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