The sophomore slump is an interesting concept, one that we see in movies, music, literature, and even sports. The idea that one can come out of the gates swinging and impress the hell out of us, only to come back next time and somehow have found a way to abandon what had made them successful in the first place and lay an egg is just fascinating: is it the prospect of stardom that does it, were all the creative juices used the first go ‘round, leaving virtually nothing in its wake from which to work, or is it just unfortunate circumstances that yield a less well received product? Well, regardless of your thoughts on how or why the sophomore slump happens, put them aside for now, because Lorna Shore have not only avoided the sophomore slump, damnit they have made an album that should be the blueprint for how Deathcore should be done.
Lorna Shore are 2 years removed from their first album Psalms, which introduced the world to a band with infinite potential to become a big name in Death Metal; apart from some poorly placed breakdowns adversely affecting pacing, the album was a phenomenal debut that certainly impressed with its fresh sound, ferocity, and technicality, bringing a ray of ‘sunshine’ to a dying genre. For some bands, releasing something this strong as their debut would no doubt lead to disappointment upon the next release, but as proven with Psalms, and now with Flesh Coffin, Lorna Shore are not ‘some bands;’ they have proven to be one of the premier Deathcore acts in existence.
What makes Flesh Coffin so great is that even though it’s still Deathcore by default, songs are tinged with blackened influences and are just straight death metal at points. Breakdowns don’t run rampant and are wonderfully placed around lightning quick solos and blast beats to prevent any derailing momentum. No question that the group has embraced speed as a part of their sound, with pummeling double bass and insanely paced riffs ripping through each song, trying to tear a hole in the space time continuum, but what makes this all work is the performance by lead vocalist Tom Barber, who sounds leaps and bounds better than most vocalists in this genre and who completely outdoes himself this time. His shifting between low gutturals and high-pitched shrieks makes each song feel unique in its own right, especially lead single Fvneral Moon and second track Denounce the Light, the latter of which finds the lows and highs layered upon each other, suffocating the listener, all the more potent when taking into consideration this is an album about death.
If there is something to nitpick on this album it’s that musically, it is so unrelentingly heavy that there are times post-Fvneral Moon where it’s difficult to discern what track is being listened to: this is not a deal breaker by any stretch, as in a vacuum each of these tracks is quality blackened Deathcore, but there are points where unless you’ve memorized the order in which the tracks are placed, you may not know exactly what track is playing. However, after multiple listens, the track that really sticks out in the second half is Flesh Coffin, as the brilliantly placed spoken word is taken directly from True Detective and, given the aforementioned lyrical content, seems a fittingly dark way to end the album.
Is Flesh Coffin a perfect album? Absolutely not, but no one expected it to be. What this album strives to be, and where it succeeds, is setting the bar very high for Deathcore as a genre and Lorna Shore for their future selves: This album is the epitome of what Deathcore should sound like; the blackened influences are pulled off with ease, the technicality and melody mix wonderfully with the breakdowns the genre is known for, and most importantly, this still sounds like a band that is just getting started. Lorna Shore are 2/2 thus far, and there is no reason to believe that their next offering won’t be just as good as, if not even better than, Flesh Coffin turned out.