ALBUM: Motionless In White – ‘Graveyard Shift’ CaliberTV Rating: 7.4 / 10
On ‘Graveyard Shift’, Scranton, PA spooks Motionless In White are simultaneously the same band you remember from 2010’s smash metalcore hit, ‘Creatures’ and their newer (re)incarnation. However, they’re also equipped with the proper tools to welcome in a whole new assortment of guests to their metal haunted house. It all started with a mouse..
Well, “Rats”, in this case. Yes, this is one interesting album opener. Whether it be the oh so kinky lyrical ploy (Sex is a drug in this song of metaphors), swinging main riff or the beep-boop electronics that call to mind the 90’s relic that is Orgy, we’ve got a conversation starter. Thing is, this is just business as usual for Motionless. Not even too far from the last record’s opener, “Death March”. There’s more to be heard though..
The first quarter of this record is consistently nu (new? Either way). Aforementioned “Rats”, “Queen For Queen”, the radio-friendly diamond of the album and downright awesome “Necessary Evil” (featuring JDevil himself, Jonathan Davis from KoRn which the sound of the song reflects) demonstrate a clear goal in mind undoubtedly brought on from ‘Reincarnate’ as well as touring with the likes of Slipknot and In This Moment. Totally deserved spots, by the way. But it’s almost as if this record should have been the one the band toured off before they hopped onto those massive bills. Not only are these songs big and perfectly fit to land smoothly on the active rock runway, they bring to mind the GOOD nu-metal bands that so many current metalcore acts are striving to recapture. This is no rebrand however.
Getting into the second quarter, the most enjoyable quarter at that, the listener is greeted with the song’s heaviest tune, the ironically titled “Soft”. It’s as mean as anything Corey Taylor has spit and as catchy as anything he has crooned. But as a few moments in the first half prove, getting a feel for Chris Motionless’ lyrics on this record can be abundantly silly. For starters, he really loves the idea of false royalty being kicked from their throne – So much so that he uses the topic three songs in a row and not conceptually either. Couple this with a myriad of odd and uninspired pop culture references (Carly Simon? Really? I’m not quite as shocked at the Melanie Martinez spins and subtle poke at The Dark Knight) and some truly head-scratching one-liners (“Suck my middle fucking finger?” I need to read a how-to book on who is supposed to be insulted by that) and this record seems a little off in some spots. Bear with me though – The ridiculousness works in the favor of the band’s shock rock image and Chris’ anger is real. He’s never sounded better.
I have heard probably no less than five hundred and two songs like “Untouchable”, the feel-good “I’ve earned everything I’ve got” song of defiance and I honestly have rarely heard ANY of those five hundred and two be quite as infectious as this tune. This is a successful anthem, one that will rule audiences, which marks a turning point in the album. Dialing back on the heaviness for awhile, next comes the most interesting number on the record, “Not My Type (Dead As Fuck 2)”. I’m a sucker for a good concept and while the original “Dead As Fuck” was nothing more than a goofy, fun horror stomper, this iteration of D-E-A-D comes in such an interesting package. The verses won’t turn heads nearly as much as the Beach Boys meets The Misfits sway of the chorus. The final quarter of the song bookends the original “Dead As Fuck” nicely. The attention to detail is appreciated, even if no one especially desired a sequel to what was essentially a Rob Zombie parody.
If you’re a fan of older Motionless In White, specifically the ‘Creatures’ era, the second half of ‘Graveyard Shift’ is for you. “The Ladder” is as close as we’re getting to another entry in the “Puppets” saga, though the chorus to this one is probably the weakest on the entire album and that causes a bit of skepticism when the song is not much more than breakdowns galore. Nostalgic? Yes. Polished? Maybe not as much, but that could very well be intentional fan service. If so, a noble attempt but cracks up to being my least favorite on the album. Hearing the band in their older mode felt odd and misplaced on this record, though this is a band known for making diverse records. The cathartic and filled-with-spirit energy of “570” captured this idea heaps better than The Ladder’s Bleeding Through-lite and that’s thanks to its melodic guitar work and consistency.
The remainder of the ‘Shift’ is completely new territory for the band. “LOUD (Fuck It)” is the band’s take on a rap rock anthem and it works. “Voices”, “Hourglass” and inspired closer “Eternally Yours” could very well be Breaking Benjamin demos in another life. It’s well-known by now that Chris Motionless is a Ben Burnley superfan and who can blame him when the guy writes good songs? By no means are these bad songs and they are Motionless songs in that they feature a sort of artistic homage to musicians Chris admires. They are NOT Motionless songs in that they don’t sound much like Motionless In White whatsoever. However, I’m partial to how finale-esque “Hourglass” sounds. Chris nailed the urgency in his delivery for a song about running out of time. “Eternally Yours; gets extra points for being a subtle blend of AFI, Breaking Ben and even Atreyu with the best lyrics on the entire album. Definitely an album highlight (with an acoustic outro!).
While ‘Graveyard Shift’ is inconsistent stylistically, it IS fairly consistent in quality and I like to think that’s what the fans care more about. Whether some of these songs will be recognized as being Motionless In White right away is yet to be seen, but no song heard this time around is mediocre. The songwriting is sound, though built to carry the vocals and do little else. This is where the idea of pop metal rears its misconceived head, but seeing as Chris is the centerpiece of this band, his image and aesthetic being poured all over it is understandable. I highly doubt this will be a complaint amongst his many faithful, though more instrumentation would be nice. Maybe next time.
All in all, ‘Graveyard Shift’ is an eclectic collection. It is certainly more consistent than its predecessors as long as ‘Creatures’ is left out of the conversation. The adventurous nature of attempting whole new styles is something not at all foreign to this band and on this outing, the most mature overall directions yet can be heard. Be it post-grunge, nu-metal, metalcore or industrial, there is something worth hearing for every fan of Motionless In White. For those wishing purely for what this band used to be, it’s time to welcome Chris Motionless & company into a brave new world, a world they have already been rising to the top of since 2012 with ‘Infamous’. Though still not a perfect blend, ‘Graveyard Shift’ will appeal to all fans of the band and should bring in PLENTY of fresh blood. Sink your teeth into that.