Picture This. It's the first day of Lollapalooza, the annual Chicago music retreat that aggregates the pop, rap and alt-rock laureates of today and spreads them across a packed lineup headlined by budding classic-rock heroes like Metallica and Green Day. Dusk is approaching and you're in that weary limbo between the substances you gleefully downed at 2 p.m. and whatever it is you'll be depending on to get you through Lil Baby's raucous set that night. You're aimlessly wandering throughout the festival grounds, picking up the distant bass rumbles of DJ Black Coffee, the wafting croons of R&B star Jazmine Sullivan and the bracing sneers of TikTok pop breakout Ashnikko.
Suddenly, a fresh frequency rises out of this heady sonic haze. A racket that's never penetrated the mall-friendly fortress of Lollapalooza in its 30-year history — a cacophonous blend of blastbeats, breakdowns and what sounds like a rabid warthog spar-ring violently with a hangry werewolf. There, nestled between the quaint Grant Park greenery of the BMI side-stage are Lorna Shore, the fastest-rising deathcore band in the world unleashing their stylized br00tality to a couple thousand freaks windmilling on the fringes of normie-dom. They're certainly the bill's most glaring outlier, but Lorna Shore are — as the festival's ethos purports — a band who any modern music fan needs to know.
Deathcore emerged as extreme music's newest and most divisive young thing at the turn of the Aughts on the backs of Myspace breakouts Job for a Cowboy and All Shall Perish, who were pairing death metal's demonic intensity with the belligerent breakdowns and new-school production of metalcore. Within the next several years, landmark records like Whitechapel's 2008 staple, This Is Exile, and Suicide Silence's 2009 scene-kid hit, No Time to Bleed, launched deathcore onto Warped Tour stages and Hot Topic T-shirt racks.
However, by the mid-2010s the genre's zeitgeisty appeal plateaued and the style went back underground, where it was nursed by a niche yet fiercely devoted fanbase that's lately begun to sprawl outward again thanks to music-centered platforms like Tik-Tok — the perfect medium for sharing 15-second clips of breakdowns and pig squeals. Right now, Lorna Shore are the biggest and most visible players in this new wave of deathcore that — thanks to modern production and a whole decade's worth of genre history to reference — is sounding heavier, sleeker and more musically dynamic than almost any of the tentpole records from 10 years back.
Lorna Shore's 2021 single "To the Hellfire" introduced YouTube vocal maestro Will Ramos as their new frontman. The song became an unexpected viral hit largely thanks to Ramos' animalistic snorts and ghoulish shrieks during its bludgeoning final breakdown, which gave the group's signature mix of deathcore nuts and bolts (neck-snapping breakdowns, twisted melodeath riffage) and symphonic black-metal ambiance (baroque atmospheres, pained emotions) a fresh twist.
"I have a very different sound than a lot of vocalists," Ramos says. "There's a lot of emotion, but it's not angry emotion. It's, like, sad. You don't feel that a lot in this genre, and I think that's why a lot of people are going to love our new fucking album."
That new fucking album is Pain Remains, and it's a banger. Based on the strength of this fourth record — and the exposure from booking increasingly high-profile tours with Parkway Drive and more — it's looking like Lorna Shore are about to launch out of the hellfire and into the stratosphere.
Given the energy, enthusiasm and buzz surrounding these fast-ascending underdogs, it's easy to mistake Lorna Shore for a fledgling band on the come-up. Instead, this moment is only one of several fresh starts that the New Jersey crew has experienced since forming in 2010. Over the past decade-plus, Lorna Shore have weathered multiple existential crises that would've crushed a weaker band. As recently as two years ago, they were unceremoniously left in the lurch without a vocalist (for the second time) and uniformly written off by deathcore commenters who thought their days were numbered. Now, newly revitalized and revamped with their most solid lineup yet, they're on their way to becoming the new faces of the genre. And no one is more surprised than the band themselves.
"As big of a dreamer as I am, I never thought what is happening right now would be possible for a band like ours," says drummer Austin Archey.
Although he's one of the longest-running players in the band, Archey isn't a founding member. Technically, there isn't one in Lorna Shore's current lineup; but the band didn't properly begin until guitarist Adam De Micco joined several months after their formation and immediately assumed principal songwriting duties. Wikipedia paints a murky picture of the band's first year, and, at the time of this interview, stated that a guy named Ray fronted the group before their first real vocalist Tom Barber joined. But De Micco's never even heard of the guy.
"Ray?" he asks with a confused huff. "I don't even know who that is."
The 34-year-old De Micco didn't actually pick up an instrument until he was 18. But when he finally did, he took to it with a vengeance. After playing in several do-nothing local bands in his early twenties, the hyper-determined musician was ready to channel his myriad extreme-metal influences into a career project. Enter Lorna Shore. After his old bandmate Barber tapped him to replace OG guitarist Aaron Brown, De Micco and Lorna Shore began writing the material that would become 2012's Bone Kingdom EP (which many fans consider the band's first proper release). They pushed through and completed the songs; but the members' conflicting musical goals resulted in a messy writing process that De Micco didn't want to repeat. So, he decided to grab the creative reins — and issued a candid ultimatum to his bandmates.
"If you like it, cool. If you don't, then don't be in this band," the guitarist recounts. Two members left and Archey joined the fold, establishing a creative bond between him and De Micco that would keep the band intact in the tumultuous years to come.
De Micco's attitude might come across as curt. But Lorna Shore was a make-or-break moment for the New Jersey native, and the frustrating tribulations of this period came within inches of driving him out of the band life entirely. After De Micco put what would become Lorna Shore's signature blackened deathcore spin on their next EP, Maleficium, they were stuck waiting an egregious year to receive the mixes back from the producer — and had to keep postponing the release date. At the same time, the band were earning a reputation among local promoters for running with a "tougher crowd," making it difficult for them to play in their own region and forcing them to gig out of state where nobody knew who they were.
Between the challenge of playing live and having to put their new music on the backburner, De Micco (who was funding the band by tirelessly working two jobs) decided that if Maleficium landed on deaf ears, then he'd just quit and head to school at Berklee the following semester. "This is not really worth it," he remembers thinking of the stressful period that could've abruptly ended Lorna Shore as we know it.
But that's not how the story goes. Once Maleficium dropped in December 2013, the video for lead single "Godmaker" became a runaway hit in the trenches of deathcore YouTube, and suddenly Lorna Shore were getting swarmed with emails from the same managers, booking agents and labels who ignored them just a few months earlier. Then they got another big break when deathcore pioneers Carnifex asked them to open a small tour, and by 2015, Lorna Shore had signed to a label and released their debut album, Psalms.
Sadly, it proved to be yet another instance of taking one step forward and another back. De Micco reflects on the entire process of writing and releasing Psalms as a "train wreck of a situation."
"We just didn't know how to operate as a band," he says of their naivete, which included expecting their producer to do the songwriting legwork and relying on their cover artist to synthesize their artistic vision. "We had high expectations of getting better opportunities and we didn't," he says of Psalms' lukewarm release. "It just fell by the wayside."
They took the exact opposite approach for their follow-up, 2017's Flesh Coffin. Rather than entering the studio with only a handful of vague song ideas, De Micco grinded to ensure the writing was fully fleshed out before they recorded. The extra effort is evident in the professional sound of the record and the game-changing reaction it garnered. With an enthusiastic fan response, Lorna Shore got offered a spot on the Summer Slaughter tour — an extreme-metal "rite of passage," as De Micco puts it — and they played roughly 220 shows that year, solidifying their place in the deathcore landscape and rejuvenating the morale of the band behind the scenes.
Just when things were looking brighter than ever for Lorna Shore, the dark clouds rolled in. At the end of 2017, the band toured Europe with genre titans Chelsea Grin. Vocalist Alex Koehler was struggling with health issues and unable to perform, so Chelsea Grin asked other singers from the tour, including Barber, to fill in for various sets. Once Lorna Shore returned home, a series of interpersonal disputes caused a rift in the band. Barber quit shortly thereafter to join Chelsea Grin, who had been quietly courting the vocalist to replace Koehler.
As De Micco tells it, this was a reality he feared would happen despite Barber's reassurance that his budding relationship with Chelsea Grin wasn't anything more than a friendship. "It's like if you're dating a girl and she's just like, 'Oh, this dude keeps hitting on me, but I'm not interested in him.' Then you end up finding out they are having an affair behind your back."
De Micco says he and Barber have since made amends. But at the time, his sudden exit destroyed Lorna Shore's high spirits and left them flailing with-out a vocalist — ahead of a studio session that was already booked. Faced with an uncertain future, the band could have easily given up. Instead, Lorna Shore turned Barber's departure into a galvanizing moment that fueled their motivation to continue.
"I'm not going to just take this lying down," De Micco remembers thinking. In fact, Archey doesn't believe they'd be "a band at all" if Barber didn't leave. "If anything, that lit a fire in Adam and I's hearts to prove the world wrong," he says.
The remaining members — De Micco, Archey, and second guitarist Connor Deffley — started putting feelers out for new vocalists. They ended up landing on CJ McCreery — the frontman of their Pittsburgh-based deathcore contemporaries and recent tourmates Signs of the Swarm. De Micco describes their initial arrangement as transactional and fast-moving. "Literally, the first day I hung out with him was on the way to the studio," he remembers.
After several months spent touring and recording an album with McCreery, De Micco's priority of keeping the band afloat was succeeding — but the vibes had changed dramatically. Deffley left the group just before they hit the studio in 2019 to record the following year's Immortal, and McCreery, who lived seven hours away from De Micco and Archey, remained distant from his two bandmates.
"The dynamic basically became [that] this band is a business," De Micco explains. "Which was weird because it had always been a group of friends writing music."
By the end of 2019, De Micco says that a variety of internal tensions formed between McCreery and the others, which now included new guitarist Andrew O'Connor. They weren't getting along behind the scenes and seemed to want different things out of the band. De Micco says that prior to Immortal's release date in January 2020, they had privately decided to part ways with McCreery once the album dropped. Then, in late December, a series of accusations of sexual misconduct against McCreery were shared online — and that's when Lorna Shore publicly announced that McCreery was no longer a part of the band.
Once again, for the second time in two years, Lorna Shore were left without a frontman, and this time they had an album dropping just a few weeks later. "It was awful," says De Micco of the period surrounding Immortal's release, even though the fans' response to the record was overwhelmingly positive. "It was one of these records with this asterisk next to it, you know? How am I supposed to be excited about it when we don't even have a vocalist?"
At the same exact time, in the same state, Will Ramos was going through a similar musical crisis. The vocalist had spent the last decade cutting his teeth in several bands that all made waves regionally but never became career pursuits in the way he desired. After dropping out of engineering school during his third year to pursue a band that wasn't working out, Ramos knew that he needed to find the right group of musicians — or he'd have to pivot to something else entirely. "This is my last straw, dude," he remembers telling himself.
Suddenly, he got offered to send vocal demos over to Lorna Shore, a fellow New Jersey band who he'd been following and idolizing since the Bone Kingdom years. De Micco says he and his bandmates were having trouble finding the right person during their search to quickly replace McCreery for a fast-approaching tour. Then late one night they stumbled onto some of Ramos' popular YouTube vocal covers of deathcore songs and decided to give him a shot. Ramos sent the demos back immediately, and De Micco and Co. were impressed enough to invite him to be their fill-in vocalist on the upcoming tour.
Ramos was so stoked he didn't even let himself believe it was real until he actually got onstage with the band. "You get offers all the time for things, but it never actually happens until something happens," he says.
COVID hit right at the end of the tour, and after several months of putting the band on the backburner, the group reconvened to record a three-song EP to see how their dynamic with Ramos played out in the studio. "I guess my big fear was I didn't want to blow my load and [then decide] he wasn't the guy for us, and then find ourselves in a position for a fourth time, finding another vocalist," De Micco says of his cautious demeanor during Ramos' early time in the band.
Fortunately, the recording sessions — which were released as 2021's ...And I Return to Nothingness — went great, and De Micco knew that this new era of the band was going to blow people's minds, even as the internet hate steamrolled in. "The moment that we parted ways with CJ, everyone's narrative was, 'I'm writing this band off. This band's not going anywhere. This band's going to suck,'" De Micco recalls.
Once again, he was encouraged by the doubters. "It's like, OK, cool. Hold my beer. I'm going to show you how bad we're going to suck. I'm just going to shove it down your throat and just make it to the point where we're at now, where you're fucking tired of seeing the band. So, you're welcome."
The celebratory response to last year's songs was affirming, but the whole band would rather talk about Lorna Shore's future than sit around and pat themselves on the back. Archey calls Pain Remains "the most genuine album this band has ever made." De Micco knows the songs are great because "they took the life out of me" to write, as he and his bandmates pulled 12-hour days in the studio to perfect them.
While the instrumentation is tighter and bolder than anything they've ever released, it's Ramos' unique perspective that's most felt — from his beastly growls and banshee-like shrieks to the sad emotionality of his delivery and the poignant lyrics he brings to a genre that's rife with one-dimensional anger and gory prose.
"I've always wanted to make music like this," Ramos enthuses, radiating pride for how the album sounds and how the songs make him feel. "Sometimes, I get high and I just fucking listen to the music with my stereo speakers, and I just cry, dude. And I'm like, 'Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck.'" Pain may remain, but for the first time in Lorna Shore's history, there's room for overwhelming joy in there, too.
Photography Assistant: Enise Alpaydin