Motionless In White should be a lot better than they are. Looking through their three previous albums, the seeds of a potentially great band are there – there’s a clearly defined aesthetic that actually ties in with lyrical content, a use of the Warped Tour metalcore handbook that doesn’t feel utterly derivative, a frontman in Chris Motionless with bags of personality and recognisable character, and the ability to write some addictive, dark-hearted tracks when used right. The thing is there’s never been a point where they’ve been fully able to show this off, and between some incredibly bitty albums and copious levels of hero worship that rarely felt accompanied by some distinct flavour, Motionless In White have never lived up to their very clear potential.
So if fourth album Graveyard Shift is meant to be the point where the band want to develop into their own animal and finally be taken seriously, they’re sure as hell not making it easy. At this point Motionless In White should at least have some clue of how to make their brand of gothic metalcore work to its full potential, but the writing on Graveyard Shift shows a band whose ideas are struggling to progress at the same rate as everything else. And compared to almost every other component of this album which has undergone a major shift for the positive, the full package ultimately should be easier to love than it is.
And really, that’s unfair because Graveyard Shift shows a significant improvement in almost every other area. It’s particularly noticeable in the instrumentation, where all of their influences are consolidated into one core sound that makes the whole thing run a lot more smoothly. And while Marilyn Manson remains one of the easiest touchstones to pinpoint, there’s actually more layers build upon this time rather than a straight rip. The clinical, metallic base is used to probably its most effective state to date on tracks like Soft and Hourglass that have a natural weight that the band are never reticent to show off, while the frigid blasts of electronics from session musician Marie-Christine on Rats and Queen For Queen gives an air of gothic opulence that this band can pull off brilliantly. And sure, Chris Motionless might still pull a bit too much from ol’ Brian Warner when he drops down into his lower rasp, but he pulls off a commanding figure regardless, with his shrieks that are immediately identifiable and towering cleans on some of the biggest beatstick choruses in this band’s arsenal, as seen on 570 and especially Eternally Yours.
But while their choruses may have improved, the rest of Motionless In White’s lyrics remain stuck in their camp, glam-goth ways that range from embarrassing at best to kind of disgusting at worst. The fact that Necessary Evil, with Korn’s Jonathan Davis quoting Mean Girls and a refrain that appropriates the chorus of Leslie Gore’s It’s My Party (but changes “cry” to “die” because of course it does), has some of the least horrendously bad lines speaks volumes to the limit that Motionless In White take their writing to and beyond. It mainly comes in the attitudes towards women that are shown, with Motionless telling a girl, “If you speak you’ll lose your tongue / So shut your mouth before I fuck it” on Rats, or The Ladder serving as an anthem to slut-shaming, berating a girl for sleeping her way to the top with no evidence to back it up. The women in Motionless In White’s world may all be perma-submissive Suicide Girl stereotypes, but it doesn’t make them being mercilessly gaslighted any less unpleasant. And in the celebration of necrophilia on Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2 with its oh-so-charming hook of “If she’s got a pulse then she’s not my type”, Motionless In White’s attempts to be edgy go right into tastelessness. It’s telling that, even in their most basic of thematic seeds, there’s so much more to be gained given that they actually fit the tightening of sound; both Untouchable and LOUD (Fuck It) may be garden-variety patter about standing up for yourself and making noise above the noise, but there’s a swagger to them both that actually lets them connect, particularly the latter with its grimier hard rock guitars that have some real crunch.
If Motionless In White could have a bit more of this restraint – or hell, even just some common sense – the improvement to their output would be virtually guaranteed. As it stands now, Graveyard Shift does see the band coming on leaps and bounds from their past work, but there’s still a whole lot more to do before they really become the force they’ve always flirted with being. Even so, this album is by far Motionless In White’s strongest to date with cohesion being higher on the agenda than ever before paying dividends. Even if they are taking their time to get there, Motionless In White are slowly morphing into a great band. Maybe the next step will be actually getting there.
For fans of: Marilyn Manson, Get Scared, New Years Day
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Graveyard Shift’ by Motionless In White is out now on Roadrunner Records.