REVIEW: “Graveyard Shift” by Motionless In White

The fifth studio album for Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Metalcore-Gothic-Industrialists Motionless In White was around for a long time before it’s eventual release in May 2017. Indeed it was June 2016 when “570” was released as a single. January 2017 then saw the release of “Eternally Yours”, March saw “Loud (Fuck It)” and cover art while April saw “Eternally Yours”. So for a 12 track album to see four singles pre-released, a third of the album, seemed a bit extreme at the time. Add to that the shock departure of keyboard, synthesizer & backing vocalist Josh Balz – a bigger part of the band with each post-“Creatures” release in the January after 10 years in the band with the album already recorded and long term fans were worried. It was an odd move to say the least.

The album kicks in with the mid-tempo “Rats”, a song which doesn’t have the igntion of previous albums openers “Immaculate Misconception” from “Creatures”, “Black Damask (The Fog)” from “Infamous” or “Death March” from “Reincarnate”. It’s a song which grows on you with repeated listens but is far from a tone setter for the album as a whole – indeed the first few times will have you wanting to skip it to get into the more immediate “Queen For Queen”. The second song is more up-tempo while maintaining the industrial sound, which is more in tune with the bands “Infamous” material than “Reincarnate”, taking that Rammstein-eqe influence and making it work for them. Both songs contain interesting lyrical non-specific drug references and with the exception of a couple of vocal lines the vocals are all clean from Chris Cerulli. “Necessary Evil” is the big talking point of the opening three songs with it’s guest vocal from KoRn‘s Jonathan Davis. Now Motionless In White are no stranger to guest spots, having had three guest vocalists on each of the last two albums. What the band do well is to avoid the obvious attempt at writing a KoRn-esq song for Davis to sing on and instead opt to write their own song and incorporate Davis’s vocals. As a song, it’s in keeping with the first two songs on the album, Rob Zombie meeting Marilyn Manson and Rammstein in a dark alley. A familar sound to fans of the last two albums. Then “Soft” comes in, which is anything but, a real throwback to the Metalcore sound of the bands major label debut “Creatures”. Both fast and heavy with unclean vocals that is a real departure from the opening three tracks, it’s a breath of fresh air. “Untouchable” then returns to the industrial sound of the earlier songs. It’s a stomp fest that fits fine as a mid-album track without ever getting out of second gear, very much like opener “Rats”. “Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2” returns the band to the cheesy-gothic-horror lyrics that Wednesday 13 would be proud of while uping the tempo. It’s a sing-along Gothic Industrial track that is fun (“She loves me ’cause I like to give head like a zombie”). “The Ladder” is then another throw back to “Creatures”, unclean verses with clean choruses and the odd creepy spoken word line. Guitars take the lead over synths with breakdown on breakdown and even a solo thrown in for good measure. It’s a here that the album takes a turn into Nu-Metal which, given the age of the band and their influences, isn’t a massive surprise. “Voices” both lyrically and stylistically comes off like an early Linkin Park song with a bit more crunch. It’s a song that grows on you with multiple listens but lacks that something that makes the earlier material better. It’s a song which sounds like it was from “Reincarnate” where the band were experimenting with songs and were very much “song” orientated rather than “album” orientated. “Loud (Fuck It)” is another such song, spoken word vocals that border on rapping with a shouted clean chorus. The guitars are catchy and the song is a real throwback to 1999-2000 era bands. “570” then takes you back to the Metalcore of “Creatures” once again, breakdowns, heavy guitars, spoken word sections and even solos and a closing “Bleh!”.  “Hourglass” then adds synths to the Metalcore layering and keeps the sound going before “Eternally Yours” which closes out the album in the same vein.

Motionless In White started out playing Metalcore with “Creatures” before moving to a more Industrial sound with “Infamous”. “Reincarnate” was very much an album of unfocused experimentation which delighted by delivering very good individual songs but as a whole didn’t deliver. “Graveyard Shift” is very much like “Reincarnate” in that at times, there is a band who seem to be struggling with their identity. Yes, variety is the spice of life and what they do here is mix it up and it’s nice to hear that the band can still deliver on the heavier side. The problem is that there are proably three songs which don’t fit and don’t deliver on the quality side.  Lyrically the album flows from the tried and tested to a few extemes, especially with reference to some of the violence and horror themes. For me, this is an attempt at repeating the success that was the balance between styles of “Infamous” but doesn’t reach the heights. Part of that maybe down the production, with Drew Fulk, a current “scene” producer rather than a Jason Soucoff or Tom Skold at the helm. The order of the songs is also messy, almost trying to hide the weaker moments in the mix while delivering enough moments of quality to make up for it elsewhere. You could happily take out two songs (“Voices” and “Loud” or “Rats”) and end up with something that was better because it was more focused. There is more than half a good album here and that’s what’s frustrating about it. It’s an enjoyable listen without reaching some of the bands previous heights or doing that much new. Most of the time, the band play it safe – and that is exactly what this album is. [7/10]

Tracklisting

  1. Rats
  2. Queen For Queen
  3. Necessary Evil (Ft. Johnathan Davis of KoRn)
  4. Soft
  5. Untouchable
  6. Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2
  7. The Ladder
  8. Voices
  9. Loud (Fuck It)
  10. 570
  11. Hourglass
  12. Eternally Yours

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