What’s Lorna Shore? Black metal not from Norway you say? Technical black metal deathcore? From New Jersey? And it’s actually good?
The answer to all of those questions is simply “yes.” Lorna Shore have been around for a few years. Building on the strength of their first album, Psalms, they have crafted a fast-paced, brutal and philosophical full-length that should surely propel them to the forefront of the genres they dabble in. Flesh Coffin, which arrives officially on February 17th, 2017, is a foray into the mysteries of death and life and what they mean. “Denounce The Light” forces you to wonder how far you would go to keep living once your time has passed. “the//watcher” suggests your life is not your own. Throughout the album, the bass drums and relentless shrieking often drown out the inquisitive lyrics and render them nearly unintelligible, but that is par for the course with heavier music.
You can feel the heat from the burning churches when Flesh Coffin comes on. Lorna Shore’s black metal side is on display in this release. The technical, progressive and deathcore elements show through as well, making the album fun, brutal and potentially overwhelming. It is an album to look forward to and listen to repeatedly as every playthrough will offer you a new perspective.
Anything can make you a better person if you let it. Scratch that. Rephrase: Anything can make you a better person if you work with it. Being the best “you” takes effort. Hardcore, as far as music genres go, is uniquely capable of aiding in that process.
Hardcore doesn’t initially sound pleasant or happy or pretty to anyone who hears it for the first time, and that’s not by accident. It’s abrasive and grating and loud for a purpose: To confront the things in life that aren’t necessarily pleasant or happy or pretty. To talk about issues other genres don’t talk about. Let yourself listen to it for a little while, allow the rough sounds to sink in and become familiar, and you start to understand. You begin to tap your fingers, to bang your head and to feel something–the reasons behind the screams. It becomes more and more clear that form, as it always does, reflects content, and that the sounds of raw emotion coupled with the meaning of thoughtful lyrics create music that is more than music. Hardcore—the songs, the lifestyle, and the code of ethics—is a powerful guide if you pay attention to what it has to say.
Look in the basement of your heart There is a light that just went dark Look through the wreckage to find reverie There is a truth that we all must see — “The Path,” Senses Fail (Renacer, 2013)
It’s no secret that hardcore deals with some of the more “negative” emotions. For this reason, it also tends to sound pretty harsh. These very characteristics that draw people to hardcore are what repel others from it. Usually, it’s a matter of how naturally comfortable or willing you are to sort through those kinds of emotions. And this is the first way hardcore can help you become a better person.
Hardcore provides a space for you to confront and work through suffering. Life is messy and troubling. Everyone has problems with it. It’s hard. Sometimes, though what you may want most is to forget about what bothers you, what you need most is to go through the pain; to “look in the basement of your heart,” as Senses Fail phrase it in their song, “The Path.” Hardcore music helps you realize the things that may feel bad or negative are just part of life. In a way, they’re not really negative at all. Hardcore not only sympathizes with you, but reminds you that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie: From suffering comes strength, from self-reflection comes wisdom.
In these goddamn dark nights I start to realize This is war. I’m gonna have to fight tooth and nail, Tooth and nail just to stay alive.
Look at me, I’m living proof. You’re not alone, we have each other and we’ll pull through. This chapter’s called “you’re alive.” You’ve been writing it this whole time. So come back to life.
Not only can hardcore help you realize that the tough times are worth going through, but also that you’re not alone in going through them. Hardcore is as much about the individual as it is about a community; a community of outcasts, of misfits, of weirdos. If you’re having trouble, this is the place for you. We know what it’s like and we’ll help you through it. As Vanna say in their anthem “Digging,” “You’re not alone, we have each other and we’ll pull through.” Keep going, keep pushing, and you’ll find something worth sticking around for, even if you have to fight “tooth and nail.”
Just as important as accepting others is the ability to accept yourself for who you are. This genre is perfect for wrestling with that, too. Again, I use Senses Fail as an example:
Being vulnerable is scary. Leaving yourself open to getting hurt by opening up to others is difficult to do, and for that reason most people avoid it as much as possible. Hardcore itself offers conflicting messages about this. The “fuck this” or “fuck you” attitude is a huge part of hardcore and its progenitor, punk. Although it may seem contradictory, you can say “fuck this” or “fuck you” and at the same time be open-minded and vulnerable and strong. How? By realizing that these words aren’t all antonyms for each other. Stand up for what you think is right, and stand against what you think is wrong, and don’t let people tear you down, but at the end of the day, don’t shut everything and everyone out either.“Love with the courage of an open heart.”
Speaking of sticking up for your beliefs, traditional hardcore has a very strong code of ethics concerning staying true to who you are. One of the biggest hardcore bands in the modern age, Terror, dedicates an album to it–2013’s Live By The Code. The title track’s lyrics elaborate on just what that means:
Convictions you built in me /A sense of purpose, firm standing beliefs / We’ve kept traditions, held with clear aims / Respect the roots, but we live for today / Fighting against the grain / Live by the code, the diehard remain / The ethics, traditions kept / Live by the code, the freedom to live / Live by the code / Foundation, you are my strength / You are my rock, the anchor I need / Keep me honest, you keep me tight/ The freedom to live, I remain positive / Fighting against the grain / Live by the code, the die hard remain / The ethics, traditions kept /Live by the code, the freedom to live / Desperation, the broken, we found honor / Live by the code, the music and our culture / Live by the code, the roots and the ethics they have taught us / I believe in now, the new breed / LIVE BY THE CODE! — “Live by The Code,” Terror (Live By The Code, 2013)
While we hardcore kids may put up a middle finger to many things in this world, there is a strong sense of morality behind the gesture. In this way, hardcore music can give you the strength to be yourself against all odds as well as the encouragement to get up and take action. The music video for “Live By The Code” is also a great example of why this scene is as much a culture as it is a collection of records. Sure, it can be super aggressive and even somewhat dangerous, but shows provide a communal space for people to let out their aggression in a positive way that doesn’t end up in destructive, mass violence like you see on primetime news channels. It’s a positive outlet for negative things, and I guarantee you that most of the time after you see people slamming into each other at shows, you’ll see them hugging it out and smiling moments later.
The importance of self-reflection, understanding, acceptance, suffering, individualism, community, empowerment, identity, compassion, self-sufficiency, hard work, dedication, creativity–these are just some of the lessons hardcore has to teach those who are willing to listen and learn. It’s a place to turn to; a home. There are countless other lyrics from countless other bands that could keep illustrating my point, but at the end of the day, what you need to know is this:
Hardcore is burning through my veins Without you who the fuck would I be? Gave me a place to call my own This will forever be my home. — “The New Blood,” Terror (Keepers of the Faith, 2010)
To anyone who has recently heard the new Sworn In record, The Lovers/The Devil, you may be asking yourself “What the hell did I just listen to?” And this is a pretty standard reaction as many of the tracks on the quintet’s sophomore effort are pretty much collections of not-so-collaborative noise. After the great success of their debut full-length, The Death Card, this shift from “emocore” to experimental melodic metal(ish) collage-djent (yes, that is a mouthful just as much as an earful) felt almost disappointing and out of place for the band.
A couple weeks back I cited Sworn In as one of the bands you need to know based mainly off of their highly innovative efforts on TheDeathCard, or XIII, depending on how you want to read it. It’s a fantastic album that carries a distinct sound throughout the entire work, but is filled to the brim with dynamic and out of the box rhythmic patterns over strange chord progressions and an intense use of distortion pedals. It’s what I imagine broken hearted spoken word in a dive bar would sound like if suddenly Rise Records wanted to remix it. While it’s definitely a little bizarre, it’s also incredibly intense and highly enjoyable. So when The Lovers/The Devil dropped and I couldn’t understand my own disappointment in their strange, new musical direction, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Have Sworn In gone crazy or are they really just musical geniuses no one understands?”
When it comes to art and music, where do we find the exact divider? In fact, is there even a dividing line or is music simply a form or “genre” of art? And if so, is art all encompassing of “the arts” and thus not solely focused on the major artistic media such as painting, sculpting, and drawing?
Okay, so where is all of this philosophical stuff coming from that sounds like the beginning of a bad 101 class in college? And why am I asking so many goddamn questions?
Well, that’s kind of the point. When you listen to a great record, not just a good record, you want the music to challenge you. This is why listening to albums like Stick To Your Guns‘ Disobedient will always hold more of an impact than listening to Falling In Reverse‘s Just Like You. While FIR may have catchy and even danceable riffs and hooks, STYG are preaching lyrics with a strong message as well as musical backbone. People love Bring Me The Horizon for similar reasons. While the music is amazing and ever-changing, it’s the personal and emotional aspect of tracks like “It Never Ends” and “Drown” that will resonate with the listener long after the records stop spinning. If the music doesn’t subliminally force the listener to think in some new or different way then there really is no point to invest yourself in it.
When I first heard The Lovers/The Devil I was confused. I had previously only heard the singles “Sunshine”and “I Don’t Really Love You” and I couldn’t quite get a grasp on why the fuck a band so rooted in doing spoken, emotionally driven unclean vocals would want to introduce these weird meshes of melodic cleans sporadically throughout each track. It wasn’t sonically pleasing, and it wasn’t aesthetically intriguing either. The fan feedback via social media also seemed to be just as disappointed or confused as I was (though now, looking back, I think it was more confusion disguised as disappointment). The one major thing this album was doing was getting people talking–whether it was good or bad, people were genuinely discussing these out-of-left-field singles that seemingly no one could figure out.
In a strange move, Sworn In took to social media themselves to really push the idea that the album needed to be listened to as a whole, not just in bits and pieces. They stressed it was a concept album divided into two major ideas, The Lovers and The Devil, naturally, and encouraged fans not to write them off for their shift in sound.
So with that I went back into it.
And still wasn’t satisfied.
When we think “concept album,” we are thinking of an album that is divided up into varying sections and stories, but what if each track on The Lovers/The Devil is actually more of a microcosm of the entire album? Just about every track except “Oliolioxinfree” has this bizarre separation of depressing lullaby-like melody amongst thrashy, experimental hardcore. The title of the album is problematic enough. The Lovers/The Devil is not only annoying to type, but it’s also kind of jarring to look at and say. It’s two separate ideas used to create one concept, one idea. Perhaps this jarring sonic effect was the purpose; perhaps this album is meant to be just as jarring as the stylized title suggests.
The fact of the matter is that The Lovers/The Devil is never going to be truly sonically enjoyable. There is an intentional formula behind it that makes it just impeccably grating to listen to. But it can be appreciated for its conceptual sophistication. Think of Jackson Pollock. His paintings are sporadic and all over the place, but they say something far more transcendent than just a run of the mill portrait. They create outward commentaries on society and the people of the art world as well as those who view, collect, and showcase his paintings. They say that there are set formulas for “art,” but we do not necessarily need to follow them in order to create Art. There may not necessarily be a skill displayed within the painting, or a catchy flow to this album for that matter, but it’s a concept that came about from both past experience in and knowledge of the industry as well as technical skills in general. It’s throwing conventions to the wind and in the end creating conversation.
You cannot deny that people are talking about The Lovers/The Devil. While this time around the lyrics may not be the selling point that the listener takes away, it’s the challenge of making a new sound with a dualistic concept present in almost every track that is completely throwing people off their game. Metalcore, hardcore, djent, punk, dubstep, whatever alternative music you listen to is always so rooted in verse, chorus, verse, chorus, hook/breakdown/bass drop, chorus, blah blah blah, that when an album comes around and changes the entire dynamic, people tend to jump and just say it’s bad. But “bad” is the wrong word for The Lovers/The Devil because the album isn’t one to be listened to for its musicality, it’s meant to be listened to for its innovation and artistic nature. I will never bump this album on a car ride or at a party. I will never want to listen to it because of any melodic nature it may hold. And that’s because The Lovers/The Devil shouldn’t be viewed as a record. It should be viewed as sonic concept Art. And for that, Sworn In deserves to be lauded for their efforts, not beaten down for making a record absolutely no one expected.