Lorna Shore at Starland Ballroom — 12/22/23 Concert Review

Written by on December 29, 2023

Review by G.S. Alvarez 

For the second year in a row, Lorna Shore announced that they would be hosting a special Christmas show in their home state of New Jersey. This year’s slate included Entheos, Varials, Rivers of Nihil, and Currents—with Lorna Shore serving as the headliner to the mini-festival. The Lorna Shore Christmas show would take place over three nights, ending their run in Sayreville at the Starland Ballroom on December 22.

Having missed out on last year’s Christmas show, I bought my tickets during presale. And on the afternoon of the 22nd, I made the trek through rush hour parkway traffic to the Starland Ballroom (I attended this show with a friend, and not only was it her first metal show, but it was also her first ever concert—so our excitement was high).

We arrived around 3:45 p.m., and after a confused interaction with the clearly stressed parking attendant, we headed towards the line at the front of the building. Later, we realized we were supposed to be in a different line, since we had purchased early entry. Waiting in the 35 degree cold for a couple hours was shockingly not that bad, and after another trip to our car to drop off our coats, we were in.

Once inside, we found a spot on the barrier towards the side of the stage. My friend held the spot while I went to grab a surprisingly reasonably priced poster. While we waited for the first opener, we saw Will Ramos—dressed in a full Santa beard and wig—hanging out on stage right and checking out the equipment.

About an hour later, the first band, Entheos, took the stage. They were a bit quiet (especially with earplugs in), but they had an infectious energy and got the small crowd pumped up. The singer’s screams were dirty and raw, and the drummer gave it his all through the whole set.

The second band, Varials, had a brief issue with their sound, and after a little confrontation with the sound person (and a crowd chant for them to fight), they started their set. Varials were noticeably louder than Entheos, and their sound was cleaner. About halfway through the set, Will Ramos snuck onstage and sang a chorus, which got the crowd roaring. Afterwards, I thought I got a setlist but it was just a blank piece of paper with the band’s logo on top, which is arguably a funnier souvenir.

Soon after, it was time for the third band, Rivers of Nihil. Their sound was techier than the other two openers, reminiscent of modern Job for a Cowboy. Their tracks were bass-heavy, and for that reason I wish the bass was balanced higher in the mix. Out of all the openers, they were my favorite.

The last opener was Currents—their sound was much clearer and more melodic than any of the openers. Most of the crowd seemed to be big fans of Currents, and the reception to them was palpable.

After a long break, Lorna Shore finally took the stage to close out the show. This was my second time seeing them, the first being at Blue Ridge Rock Festival (which I wrote about here). This time, I was much closer to the stage—and this was the right move. The energy in the crowd was unlike anything I’d experienced before.

As is typical for a Lorna Shore show, both the band and Will Ramos’ vocals sounded almost exactly like the record. Almost every song played was from Pain Remains or …And I Return To Nothingness, save for “Immortal” (which Will introduced as something “for the longtime fans”).

Seeing “Sun//Eater” live for the second time was an almost ethereal experience, even though I got knocked over (and subsequently picked up by the person next to me) halfway through. I listened to that song 2,100 times this year alone, and it sounded even better live than it does on the album. Other highlights included “Cursed to Die,” “Of The Abyss,” and their opener, “Welcome Back, O’ Sleeping Dreamer.”

Halfway through the set, Will once again donned his Santa gear and tossed gifts out to the crowd. They closed with “To The Hellfire,” then came back out to play all three parts of “Pain Remains” as a Christmas gift. During “Pain Remains II: After All I’ve Done, I’ll Disappear,” rhythm guitarist Andrew O’Connor tossed a pick at me, which fell in front of the barrier but was luckily recovered by a security person.

Multiple guest singers came onstage throughout their set, including photographer Nick Chance and fellow New Jersey native Theiven. Each guest singer was a treat, and they impressively held their own against the vocal powerhouse that is Will Ramos.

The show closed out with “Pain Remains III: In A Sea Of Fire,” and the band tossed out equipment to the crowd before heading offstage. I handed out a couple of Lorna Shore bracelets I had made earlier to the security personnel and people around me, and then we left.

Lorna Shore is one of the most incredible deathcore bands making music today. Not only are they New Jersey natives (with Will Ramos making a point to say that there’s no place like home for the holidays), but they’re also an amazing live band that knows how to carry themselves onstage. I’m certain that next year’s Christmas show will be even better, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Lorna Shore.