In a pitch-black hall, a soft orchestral melody emerges from the front. The crowd, clad in a sea of black-based clothing with sporadic bursts of neon vibrancy, appears heavily tattooed, long-haired, and pierced. As the music begins to swell, colored lights slowly brighten and rise from the floor. The crowd ritually raises their hands in the shape of devil horns as anticipation builds and Lorna Shore, the deathcore band they’ve come to see, walks out.
Dressed in black and torn clothing, each member bears individualized insignias on their backs resembling mythological inscriptions. The band’s singer commands, “Open up that fucking pit.” The room immediately shifts to make an empty circle for a mosh pit in the middle of the crowd. People begin to run along its edges as if in a vortex as beats blast, cymbals crash, guitars roar, and a furious vocal erupts amid flashing red and white lights. For a moment the music stops, and the vocalist howls, “What is life, but a fevered dream?” The crowd shrieks in unison, ready to explode back into action, reinvigorated by the call to mosh.
Lorna Shore is one of the biggest bands in deathcore at the moment. Their track “To the Hellfire” gained immense popularity in 2021 on YouTube and TikTok. Despite its considerable length, the composition reveals surprisingly catchy and hook-filled elements. Following the success of the single, they released the EP … And I Return to Nothingness and the full-length album Pain Remains in 2022.
Despite the group’s popularity, their most recent albums are controversial. Longtime fans expressed concern that the new songs sound too similar and that the band is now “overhyped.” In the deathcore community, older enthusiasts emphasize genre purity, while a younger, more diverse audience embraces Lorna Shore’s current work.
Deathcore is a subgenre of heavy metal rock bands that emerged in the late 1960s in the wake of Led Zeppelin’s overwhelming popularity. Appearing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the genre fused instrumental virtuosity with the abrasiveness of hardcore punk, thrash metal, and metalcore. Deathcore is characterized by instrumental breakdowns, blast beats, TV/movie samples, and a dynamic vocal range featuring high-pitched “pig squeals” and guttural growls. Deathcore gained popularity on MySpace in the mid-2000s with bands such as Suicide Silence (whose album No Time to Bleed reached number 20 on Billboard), Job for a Cowboy, and Whitechapel. Since the pandemic, bands like Brand of Sacrifice, Slaughter to Prevail, Signs of the Swarm, Shadow of Intent—and, above all, Lorna Shore have revitalized the Deathcore scene with frenzied vocals, slick production, and more complicated arrangements.
Many are drawn to the genre’s lyrical focus on death and loss, using the music as a means to express emotions, experience an adrenaline rush, vocalize frustrations—and to distinguish devotees from fans of more conventional pop music genres.
In Pain Remains, Lorna Shore explores Nothingness and meaning through an allegory of dreaming. As the German philosopher Martin Heidegger once put it, “If the Nothing itself is to be questioned as we have been questioning it, then it must be given beforehand. We must be able to encounter it.” But where is Nothing to be found? One place may be in a certain form of music, one that takes us outside of ourselves in our everyday existence, and brings us into direct contact with anxiety. The anxiety is the feeling that our world is empty, a void, and created by us. At such a moment, Heidegger had suggested in Being and Time, we may snap and—in the blink of an eye—realize that our actions, intentions, and potentialities are all up to us. As if slowly awakening from a dream, we are left face to face with our place in the world.
In the Pain Remains track “Into the Earth,” our protagonist undergoes a profound realization, discovering an inherent power to shape their dreams. “Dreaming, frozen, in my anxious mind,” the singer howls. In the next track, “Pain Remains II,” the vocalist laments, “Without you I will never be the same. Let me see you one more time. When you disappeared, you took a part of me … Even inside a dream, this world has no meaning.”
The singer confronts the challenge of acknowledging both Nothingness and the meaning within the dream. The cries of the vocalist draw listeners into a visceral experience of pain. His screams envelop the audience as those in the mosh pit thrash as if in a trance, enacting a ritual orgy of ecstatic pain.
There is no accessible meaning in the sounds as you hear them, but only the outcry—deathcore as anti-meaning and anti-language. Typically, meaning derived from language is collective, imposed on us by societal tyranny through the authority of those who came before. We are not born with words; we are taught them, and our actions are defined and reified through language. Society neither provides nor verifies meaning, yet dissenters are expelled. We are perpetually restless, forever seeking something, yet the very essence of this quest lies in the ongoing process of creativity. The concept of “the Nothing” inherently lacks the capacity to fulfill a person’s quest for complete meaning, but it provides a space for the pursuit of creative endeavors.
The music of Lorna Shore similarly evokes anxiety within me. As I grapple with the emotions they inspire, I feel called to ponder the shape of a world I wish to inhabit, one that resonates with emotional depth, and a turbulent dissonance, all the while acknowledging that pain remains.
Noah Kupper is an MA student in Philosophy with a concentration in psychoanalysis.