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So as it turned out last month, we all learned that Lorna Shore vocalist, CJ McCreery, is an alleged piece of shit. Stuck in an extremely tricky situation with a new record already finished, announced, and mere weeks from release, the remaining three men in Lorna Shore who don’t allegedly urinate on teenage girls – with what I can’t imagine is much money in the band bank account nor the time available to re-do it all with a new frontman – were left with no other course of action but to move forward with ‘Immortal,’ retaining CJ’s vocals. Whilst the vocalist was definitely a BIG selling point for many Lorna Shore fans and deathcore listeners, with much good-will built up from his prior time in Signs Of The Swarm (a career that’s been obliterated with this recent controversy), Lorna Shore was never just one dude. Like all bands, it’s a unit, so I’ll be mostly treating it as such for the remainder of this review.
However, if you were to take away everything surrounding their now ex-vocalist of late, I still couldn’t see myself clicking with Lorna Shore’s third record. As this newest album grew very tiresome well before I’d even reached Side-B, even with all of their blackened, death metal and symphonic flourishes. Because even though they mesh multiple metal sub-genres of that kind together, they aren’t really exclusive in that songwriting approach these days; orchestral parts in deathcore are about as expected as dissonant tapping runs by now. I think if the band were to ditch the “core” aspects of their music and fully embrace the black metal side of their art, I’d probably enjoy it a whole lot more. Of course, it’s poor form to drone on about what a record isn’t, so let’s look at what this thing is.
‘Immortal‘ actually starts off decently with its title track. As mentioned, the opening choral and orchestral intro is about as deathcore as the genre can damn-well get these days. No matter how many Latin-incanting choirs, droning horns, violas, and harps one may throw-in, it still winds up being a breakdown-laden, blast-beat marathon with a vocalist gurgling into the mic as brutally as he can. Yet it’s a competent track, raging about ” the immortal question” and it has these lethal, screaming guitars that are a hell of a lot of fun, creating a very solid hook. Those melodic leads are definitely a highlight, as are the subtle use of keys and not-so-subtle lo-fi vocal edits that build the track up in its bridge, right before a shredding tapping solo shoots across the song’s surface. Then, the intensive and blistering ‘Death Portrait‘ comes in with blackened riffs, racey blast beats, and shifting vocal pitches to make for an okay-enough second stomper. Frustratingly, as two individual songs, ‘Death Portrait‘ and the previous eponymous cut are fine, but as the openers of a full-length record, it all starts to slowly go down-hill from there, with stagnation setting deep into the pores of ‘Immortal‘.
For even with the impactful vocal-technique changes and aggressive nature of cuts like ‘This Is Hell,’ this records starts to lose any charm it may have very quickly once you realize that this American band’s sole formula is to just break up their huge breakdowns and assaulting double-kick groove sections with either symphonic or orchestral sections, or EQ filtering given to the guitars and vocals, before everything returns in full moments later. ‘Hollow Sentence‘ has this campy, key-sprinkled choral intro, which soon becomes this insanely cheesy symphonic death metal song that I just cannot at all take seriously; it’s like a parody metal band covering Lorna Shore. The same goes for ‘Warpath of Disease,’ which continues the use of choirs and orchestral percussion and tones, and whilst it’s aiming to be this grand, ominous composition, it gets severely bogged down by its over-adherence to deathcore trends.
‘Misery System‘ has an ominous, deathcore 101 swell intro, and to no one’s surprise, it goes onto be one of the most stock-standard deathcore songs of the whole bunch, just slightly tinged in the blackened musical quality that Lorna Shore is aiming for lately. It slides between these pingy snare hits locking down earth-quaking breakdown, a brief section that sounds like a hardcore build-up, and these very sudden, faster passages, ending with an obnoxiously slow breakdown and wheezing vocal combo that literally could’ve been tacked onto any other song here. The surprisingly uplifting, power-metal guitar melodies on ‘Obsession,’ are set over galloping blast beats, actually decipherable bass playing, various turning-point moments that connect the song’s dots, and some solid grooves create the strongest moment off ‘Immortal‘ in its later stages. It only took seven songs for this LP to reach its first legitimately great song, but then it sadly limps to the finish line with a fade out.
As for the album’s final three tracks – ‘King Ov Deception‘ (gotta put a random ‘v’ anywhere to fool the “kvlt” fans), ‘Darkest Spawn,’ and ‘Relentless Torment,’ do I really need to chat about them? Everything I’ve covered of the record up till now applies to this closing trio, so whilst not talking about them in any further detail would be a big cop-out, it’d also just be superfluous at this point.
No one can take away the fact that CJ definitely had range and a strong technique, and he’s a big name within the circles of black metal, deathcore and death metal. He’s got those burly, sucking-in-through-a-straw lows and gutturals down-pat, sounding like he’s covered his mouth with a wet towel and is gurgling loudly through it, and his higher-pitched shrieks and screams are great. Yet despite his vocal talents, some of these performances on ‘Immortal‘ are actually quite funny. The painful-sounding, vomit-like noises that CJ makes right near the end of ‘Death Portrait‘, I would assume at least, are meant to sound gnarly or “sick.” Yet they just make me laugh. Likewise, that one final grunt that hurriedly closes out ‘Darkest Spawn‘ made me chuckle, and I don’t for one second believe that’s the intended effect. This is a scenario where I definitely cannot scream the way he can in these songs, but I also would never want to given how knee-slappingly lame it all sounds. Even with this album’s over-sanitized production style.
With an absence of emotion to his voice, a lack of enunciation at times, and over-blown multi-tracked vocals, it all made matters quite boring the more time that I spent with ‘Immortal.’ CJ has power and projection, yet that’s almost a given for any other big vocalist in deathcore right now. It’s hardly become anything special these days… which best summarises the utter homogenization of these bands and the kind of music that they write. The breakdowns by themselves are done well, but they simply act to plod out song lengths, reminding all of the core kids that there’s moshing to be done. Like countless other deathcore acts – regardless if they lean towards more death or black metal extremes – Lorna Shore writes songs that go on far longer than they reasonably should, like my reviews. Something that’s further exacerbated by the songwriting repetition. Lemme break it down this way: would you want to read this piece ten times? The fuck you wouldn’t, no one wants that. The same goes for ‘Immortal.’ If I had to sit through these ten samey blackened-deathcore tracks again, it’ll be too soon.
At times, ‘Immortal’ was like pulling out teeth. Normally, I sit down with a record – no matter whether I love or loathe it – at least six times before even coming close to finalizing a review. But I’ll give credit to Lorna Shore, ‘Immortal’ made me throw my hands up and say “I can’t take it anymore” after my third listen. ‘Immortal’ highlights how talented the instrumental trio of Lorna Shore is, and I think that with a new vocalist who can pull off these songs, their already-solid career in deathcore will be more than maintained once they move past this current difficult period. The melodic leads and solos that guitarist Adam De Micco fires off are a high-point, and drummer Austin Archey has some insane endurance and chops. This is their album, without a doubt, and my sympathy does go out to them and bassist Andrew O’Connor in being caught up in such a shit situation. Yet that’s as far as my appreciation and respect for ‘Immortal’ goes. For while the symphonic touches and orchestral breaks that these ten songs jump between are nice respites that lend a smidge of dynamism, they become very tired before Side-B is reached. Even with all of Lorna Shore’s blackened, death metal & symphonic lashings, ‘Immortal’ is an incredibly banal experience. Because in a music scene where every second band is the ‘heaviest’ or the “filthiest,” then no one is.
- Death Portrait
- This Is Hell
- Hollow Sentence
- Warpath Of Disease
- Misery System
- King Ov Deception
- Darkest Spawn
- Relentless Torment
‘Immortal’ is out now: