What is an album, really? If I were ranking an artist’s albums I would use some kind of metric to determine that I’m only going to include full-length studio records. No live albums, no EP’s, no extended singles, no greatest hits compilations.
But for an informal exercise like the Album of the Week? I’m certianly going to include live albums at some point. My favorite band has like 13 of them, there is no avoiding that. And EPs? Sure. Some of my favorite music is in EP form. Broken by Nine Inch Nails is probably my favorite piece of music they did and it’s not really a full-length album.
So this week it’s time to look at a newly-released EP, only 3 songs, that has moved mountains in the metal and deathcore landscape.
Lorna Shore – …And I Return To Nothingness
Released August 13, 2021 via Century Media Records
Favorite Track – To The Hellfire
Lorna Shore have been around for a bit over a decade and, like most any band, have had to endure a few lineup changs over the years. The band were left searching for a new vocalist after some unfortunate issues with their prior singer, and this new EP is a showcase of new vocalist Will Ramos as the band re-enters the touring scene after a year of pandemic-induced inactivity.
And yeah, it is quite the showcase.
It’s been a pretty kinetic summer for me – sort of coming out of the pandemic and trying to find some semblence of a life after 2020 so I haven’t really been keeping up with stuff. I do sometimes watch a fair amount of reaction content on YouTube and I noticed some of the ususal vocal coach people I watch covering To The Hellfire when it released in June. But I was too busy doing the early work to launch this blog and, well, going out and drinking beer to sit and pay attention to what was going on.
It was just before the EP’s release when the band dropped a video for And I Return To Nothingness. I was killing time one afternoon and checked it out. I hadn’t heard much at all of Lorna Shore before so I was trying to play catch-up both with an unfamiliar band and the hype that was generating around them. I liked what I heard so I went ahead and started checking out those reaction videos on To The Hellfire.
I’ve been listening to extreme metal since the early ’90’s, so nearly 30 years. It has been around for roughly 40. It is exactly what the name implies – extreme. And over all this time, it makes you wonder where else there is to go with it. How far can you really go with war, death, Satan and Hell? It’s been done, redone, overdone, underdone and at every point inbetween. There’s only so much ground to cover, so much innovation to find.
And then To The Hellfire comes along. This song about the acceptance of death and damnation pulls off a rare feat – it sounds exactly like Hell. In a genre where the topic of dying and going to Hell is derivative at best, Lorna Shore invokes a soundscape that marries the lyrics and imagery and presents it in a way that transcends any individual medium. It absolutely stands out from the crowd of “Hell, fire, death, Satan” songs that are out there. Like, a person with enough money could fill a large building with nothing but physical releases of those songs.
Of special mention is the song’s final minute. Now, I’ve never had an issue with breakdowns in metal, they’re abundant. I have sometimes wondered what their purpose really is, though. I listen to plenty of stuff that has no need of a breakdown. This song employs 3 to great effect, but the final breakdown here does something totally different. In an already crazy song it puts a whole new stamp on things.
There are entire video comps of people’s reactions to simply the last minute of the song. It can be a question we ask each other in the future – where were you when you first heard that breakdown in To The Hellfire? And if you can find someone who has never heard it, well, you can have a lot of fun seeing their reaction for the first time.
This song can’t be discussed without mentioning the talent of new vocalist Will Ramos. He sounds absoulutely inhuman and has been described as everything from a demon to a Dark Souls boss. And this is all from one song, it doesn’t even consider the other 2 tracks on the record or his live performances of Lorna Shore’s older material. He has raised the bar, moved the goalposts, all of that. Hopefully he really is a demon or something because I don’t know for how many years a human can pull this kind of stuff off without shredding his throat.
I’ve been going on about To The Hellfire, as everyone has this summer. But there are 2 more songs on the EP and both are absolutely worthy of discussion. Of The Abyss is a twisted blackened metal tune about some kind of bastardized rebirth that has its own sick-as-hell breakdown. And the title track is another excellent symphonic blackened song that is its own highlight on this 3-song return.
In the end though the star of the show is To The Hellfire. Lorna Shore came out to make a statement after retooling and they very likely blew away their own expectations. Whatever the differences between my more familiar older strains of extreme metal and anything -core suffixed (a discussion for another time), this just blows any divisions or barriers clean apart. …And I Return To Nothingness is a signpost for the deepest and darkest of heavy metal.
Sometimes in our hypebeast, FOMO culture, things get built up to a level they could not possibly achieve. This often leads to disappointment and desensitization. But every now and again something lives up to all the hype. Lorna Shore is totally in the second category. This is one for the ages and something I’ll remember until I’m swallowed by the womb of death.
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