Bands that make their first appearances with the EP format are at an advantageous position; they are essentially getting away with a “practice run,” or a primer for things to come while giving the band ample time to perfect their craft in time for their full-length debut. New Jersey’s Lorna Shore, for instance, has had two chances at exploring and developing the reaches of their sound. Their last EP Maleficium — which earned an overall positive review — showed great promise combining technically-minded deathcore with subtle symphonic and blackened flair, but it was ultimately mired by momentum-sucking breakdowns. It’s easy to levy constructive criticism during these formative years and maintain optimism for what is still to come, in the hopes that through trial and error a maturation occurs down the line. Unfortunately for Lorna Shore, the long play format has only afforded the band more time in which they can make the same mistakes.
It hurts to criticize the band so harshly because they truly are capable of greatness, but their debut album Psalms is a tedious listen. It’s not that Lorna Shore are another addition to the undifferentiated deathcore horde; Psalms is packed with catchy riffing and dazzling guitar solos backed by ambient guitars and (at times) synth orchestrations that could very well put them on the same plane as big name acts Job For A Cowboy, All Shall Perish, and Thy Art Is Murder. When the act are on-point, they can be intensely chaotic and impressively technical in their approach to riff and groove; the shifting off-kilter rhythms of “Harvest Realms” is one such example of this mastery, and “From The Pale Mist” in particular is massively orchestrated. In fact, on a per-moment basis, Psalms contains some of the best deathcore musicianship since Fit For An Autopsy‘s 2012 opus Hellbound.
As great as that sounds, however, therein lies the issue; what damns Psalms as a frustrating and disappointing record is that each and every song is bogged down by sudden and jarring quarter-time breakdowns that do nothing but stop songs in their tracks. Lorna Shore drive hard, with one foot on the brake and another on the accelerator. Like a punch to the gut, these otherwise great musical ideas lose wind when the band drops into slam mode, and the album never fully recovers from the loss. This isn’t a critique of the genre at large either; breakdowns serve their purpose in contributing towards a greater dynamic range and ideally should capitalize on built tension. The problem with Psalms in particular is that the band drops gear too low and too suddenly. With no buildup to cash in on, the otherwise interesting songs just drop into nothing.
The vocal performance doesn’t help matters much, either; the low growls from frontman Tom Barber are nigh unintelligible. His presence is certainly ominous and carries a sense of overwhelming doom — mission accomplished! — but a lack of enunciation and clarity leaves Psalms‘ vocal parts as little more than blurry phrases of low end. Things do get better when Barber doubles up on high passages, further invoking the style of Job For A Cowboy’s pre-prog era. Pulling from the Jon Davy playbook is a good idea, but it’s an imbalanced performance fit for an imbalanced record.
Slamming breakdowns and muddy, cupped vocals are likely a hit during Lorna Shore live shows where the energy thrives on hatemosh throwdowns, but on record, these hold back the band from truly exploring their otherwise inspired musical capabilities. Letting these issues go still allows for Psalms to be heard as an above-par deathcore record for expecting fans, but why settle for less? Psalms is undoubtedly worth a listen for the gold contained within, but be prepared for an exhausting dig to find it all.
Lorna Shore – Psalms gets…