Lorna Shore
Pain Remains

Have a seat, and grab a snack. This is gonna be a long one.

Way back in 2015 I reviewed a pretty nondescript EP, Maleficium, from this New Jersey band called Lorna Shore. It was Ok, odd band name, and a few keyboards, but nothing really stood out. The same can be said for the band’s debut album, Psalms in 2015. It was Ok, the occasional keyboards were a nice touch at the time. Then, I didn’t even review 2017s Flesh Coffin.

Then there was the delayed  Immortal on new label, Century Media which saw vocalist former Signs of the Swarm vocalist CJ McCreery replace Tom Barber (now in Chelsea Grin) and guitarist/composer Andrew ‘O Conner joins the fray and its the album that put Lorna Shore truly on the map, despite the McCreery nastiness (who performed magnificently on the album FWIW) . ‘O Conner’s addition cannot be understated, as his more upfront, symphonic orchestration absolutely elevated Immortal and Lorna Shore to something more bombastic and special, and in hindsight Immortal should have been my album of the year as opposed to third place.

But I don’t think anyone predicted what would happen next.

As I mentioned, some issues (I’ll let you research and form your own opinions) led to McCreery leaving the band (he has since formed a not-so cryptically named project Immortal Disfigurement) and Lorna Shore found themselves in a bit of limbo, looking for yet another vocalist.  Will Ramos, formerly of A Wake in Providence (themselves a very solid blackened deathcore act) joined the fray and he was revealed to the world on a new song called “To The Hellfire”  from subsequent EP, And I Return to Nothingness. And the metal world and gods took notice because the song, the band, and particularly the vocalist BLEW THE FUCK UP, like no other band in recent memory.

The song currently has over 11 million views on Youtube and has been used at Detroit Red Wings games. Will Ramos became an instant internet sensation with numerous vocal coach reactions and even had a camera shoved down his throat. And listen, I’ve met Will, he is SUPER nice, but there’s nothing on his A Wake In Providence performance that really stood out to me from the multitude or other deathcore vocalists, but holy fuck did he turn into a (literal) monster for the  AIRTN EP. And the combination of Lorna Shore‘s new full-on epic, blackened deathcore sound, and Ramo’s voice had an effect on the metal collective universe like I have not seen in ages. I mean when the middle-aged check-out lady at the grocery store recognizes my Lorna Shore T-shirt and tells me she loves the vocalist, you truly have arrived. That all said, while Ramos may get all the hype (which is certainly deserved)- I’ll again reiterate the importance of O’Conner’s orchestral contributions here, as they are equally, if not more impactful on the album, as Ramos’s voice.

Not even mentioning the genre ‘blackened/symphonic’ deathcore explosion since Immortal– including a shit ton of clones (though some of them like Worm Shepherd, Sin Deliverance, Art of Attrition, Assemble the Chariots, Downfall of Mankind and Hanging the Nihilist are really good) and some bands even just said ‘fuck it’ and went full-on blackened and orchestral to essentially mimic Lorna Shore’s sound (Mental Cruelty, Bonecarver, Hurakan).

But that said, there were some critics and to be fair, they were moderately correct, in that the 3 new songs on the EP were a bit ‘samey’. But let’s be honest, founders and main songwriters Adam De Micco and Austin Archey have been playing a variation of the same structures since “Fvneral Moon” from Flesh Coffin (orchestral intro, haunting melody line, blast beat, huge breakdown, key change, repeat, but make the breakdown slower and heavier the next time and have Ramos tun into a pig demon). And personally, it kicks ass.  But we will circle back to this in a bit.

And that brings us to Pain Remains. I initially was a bit leery due to the cover and more commercial logo/font used on the cover, expecting a Deafheaven-like veer into commercial realms due to the instant stardom. But when the band released the first 3 songs “Sun/Eater”, “Into the Earth” and “Cursed to Die”, my fears were alleviated as they were definitely still Lorna Shore from the EP. But it went both ways as the three songs were pretty much-reworked riffs and orchestration from the EP (I  mean listen to the main riff from new song “Cursed to Die” and “And I Return to Nothingness”). BUT I still really enjoyed all three songs- especially “Cursed to Die”. They both deliver exactly the kind of dramatic orchestration and heaviness that made the EP so good. However, there were rumblings that Lorna Shore had run out of ideas and riffs.

And then as if to literally say ‘fuck you’ to the haters, they dropped the single “Pain Remains I: Dancing Like Flames” and they almost broke the internet again, and definitely broke me. A virtual deathcore love song/ballad about losing a loved one, and if you have lost a loved one, it absolutely kicks you in the fucking nuts. Ramos showed a little more range and variety and the tear-inducing subject matter and chorus showed Lorna Shore could skull-fuck you right in the feels.

Then right before the album’s release, we got “Pain Remains II: After All I’ve Done, I’ll Disappear”,  which confronts the anger, grief, and despair that follows the loss of a loved one. And it’s clearly the best thing they released up to the release of the album, mixing the intensity of their tried and sound with the emotion of “Pain Remains I”. And even before adding to parts I and  III, is the best thing they have ever done, but more on that later.

The only downside is that half the album was revealed before the release, leaving little to the imagination.

So just how is the rest of the album? How are “Welcome Back, O’ Sleeping Dreamer”, “Apotheosis”, “Wrath”, “Soulless Existence” and the last song of the “Pain Remains” trilogy?

Absolutely Fucking Brilliant……and that’s not including the last of the “Pain Remains” songs, which deserves its own paragraph.

Do they all still mostly follow the same formula as the EP, that I listed above? Yeah, but holy fuck are they good at it, they have increased the dynamics, mood, and variety a little, and especially the even more improved orchestration/choral arrangements which at times are downright knee-wilting. For example, the opener “Welcome Back, O’ Sleeping Dreamer” sets the mood perfectly with dramatic, strings and choirs, and keys and delivers a standard, brilliant Lorna song, but the keys just hit a lot harder. ‘O Conner has clearly upped his game for this album as has Adam De Micco with some really nice lead work throughout the album. And the Josh Schroeder production as downright HUGE, with everything sounding absolutely loud as hell, and the breakdowns rattle everything in a small radius.

After the three previously released songs, which are very good, if standard Lorna Shore songs, we get “Soulless Existence”  and it changes things up a bit with a more controlled restrained, and moody/somber gait that breaks the formula, showing that they can do it if they want, with the sense of loss that permeates the title track’s saga starting to creep in and show there’s some real emotional depth at play on this album.

Then we get “Wrath” and “Apotheosis” which are definitely and recognizably more standard, still blistering, breakdown-filled Lorna Shore songs cut from the band’s distinct cloth laid forth on the  AIRTN EP, with Ramos gurgling and as moist as ever and underrated drummer Austin Archey absolutely killing it behind the kit (we need to start mentioning him up there with USDM’s best drummers IMO). and my favorite, non-Pain Remains track, “Apotheosis” even has the same sort of melodic, triumphant, choir-filled chorus as “And I Return to Nothingness”. And those that enjoyed Ramos’ demonic squeals and grunts at the end of “To The Hellfire” will no doubt enjoy that last couple of devastatingly heavy minutes of “Wrath”.

So, let’s talk about the 3 stanza, 20-minute title track. Holeeeeeeee shit, it is good. It could have been its own self-contained EP IMO. We know about the emotional Part I, and my favorite track on the album, Part II,  where  De Micco delivers arguably the album’s most dynamic, memorable riff and mingles it with Part I’s emotive gravitas, climaxing with the album’s most impactful, emotional key change towards the end of the song ( the little two-note choir that starts the pre-chorus and final choral peak gets me every time). But Part III, “In a Sea of Fire”, good fucking lord. It’s 9 minutes and mixes all the blistering Lorna Shore elements with much more cinematic bombast, and emotional heft and its last 3 minutes climaxes with the refrain that started the gut-wrenching Part I and its chorus, cleverly tying all three songs together. It, when combined with the first 2 parts, shows the improvement in dynamics and emotion that the band has developed since Immortal, and shows a band possibly at the peak of their skills and songwriting ability. And I really want to see the video that ends the trilogy of videos that they did for parts I and II.

(*****Side note: if you or anyone you know is dealing with mental health issues and /or thoughts of suicide, please seek help:  National suicide prevention hotline: 800-273-8255. *****)

Lorna Shore certainly didn’t invent this current Blackened/Symphonic deathcore style as the likes of Carnifex or, Shadow of Intent, I Shall Devour and  Until We Die were doing it way before Immortal exploded things, but since Immortal and with Pain Remains, they have perfected and set the standard for it.  As a result, Pain Remains will be the bar others try to reach for a long, long time and a genre-defining, dare I even say ‘modern classic’  album for this generation.

I just hope this doesn’t signal a hop to a bigger label and a watering down of their sound in the future as they no doubt approach levels of mainstream stardom ( I predict a late-night show appearance for “Pain Remains I: Dancing Like Flames” at some point) a metal band hasn’t seen in a while.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 10th, 2022

Comments

  1. Commented by: F.Rini

    Great review and this album is BLUDGEONING. \M/


  2. Commented by: J. Mays

    My expectations were high for this one, certain I would be disappointed, but god damn… This is a hell of an album, and you’re right. This is now THE standard for symphonic deathcore.


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