October 12, 2020 Motionless In White Celebrates A Decade of Creatures
Fall 2010. The Billboard Albums Chart was dominated by the very bizarre blend of Katy Perry, Linkin Park, Sara Bareilles, Zac Brown Band, and Lil Wayne, to name but a few, and the atmosphere was ripe for a band to deliver something fresh and new that heavy music had been sadly missing. Enter: a young, blue collar band out of Northeast Pennsylvania whose very goal was to rile the establishment with a New Rock to the gums. And when they delivered their debut LP, Creatures, on Tuesday, October 12, 2010, the music world was hardly prepared.
Scranton’s Motionless In White—then composed of Vocalist Chris “Motionless” Cerulli, Guitarist/Vocalist TJ Bell, Guitarist Ryan Sitkowski, Bassist Ricky “Horror” Olson, Drummer Angelo Parente, and Keyboardist Josh Balz— was already a somewhat known commodity on the scene. Having conquered Warped Tour, as well as Taste of Chaos, they were far from media darlings, but their fan base had been established thanks to endless touring in support of 2007’s The Whorror and 2009’s When Love Met Destruction, which had spawned the single/video, “Ghost in the Mirror.”
In spring 2010, the members of Motionless In White entered the studio with Producer Andrew Wade (A Day to Remember, The Word Alive) to craft their debut LP. While it’s hard to set aside everything that the group has done since, and their dramatic evolution, Creatures laid the sonic groundwork for all that has followed. Thematically lush with cinematic Horror influences, the collection offered fans—whom the band had lovingly deemed ‘Creatures’—a headless horseman, partying lost boys, Jack the Ripper, witchcraft, a man with scissors for hands, and a beautiful but heartless puppet master controlling all of the strings.
Overlooking the sextet’s heavy Danny Elfman influence in favor of their raw emotional angst, many deemed them Emo (or Screamo, if you prefer) and immediately cast them aside. Unfortunately for these individuals, they were scoffing at a record unlike any then or now. The 12-song collection ran the gamut from in-your-face condemnation to a haunting ballad to tracks that bordered on elevated fanfiction, establishing Cerulli as a sincere and unique songwriter with an exciting lack of filters; thus, nothing was off the table, lyrically speaking.
This was never more obvious than on Creature’s opening track, “Immaculate Misconception.” A crucifixion of many of their contemporaries who chose to simply chase mindless musical trends (particularly the Christian fever that had infiltrated the scene at that time), and a promise that Motionless In White would always be real with their fans, it showed a band who weren’t going to waste time with false pleasantries. When the song was released as the album’s third single/video, the shocking visual corollaries drawn between Cerulli and Christ offended some—but the band didn’t lose traction.
Taken from the full-length addition of When Love Met Destruction, but revamped for their Fearless Records’ debut, “We Only Come Out at Night” celebrated Cerulli’s favorite film, 1987’s The Lost Boys, and the vampiric lifestyle—which really isn’t all that different from that of a touring band, minus the blood. This fit perfectly alongside tracks such as the Jack the Ripper-themed “London in Terror” and The Crucible-influenced “Abigail,” the latter featuring guest vocals from Nick Brooks of It Dies Today.
They took risks, as well—like with the titular track, “Creatures.” In a gambit to prove their symbiotic relationship with their fans, Cerulli invited listeners to submit their own lyrics for the track. He then culled through the submissions and drafted a cohesive piece that was, in effect, written by the fans themselves—and for whom the album was named. Understandably, this gave rise to the album’s second single/video, which eerily depicted the contradictory nature of much of humanity and our need to “practice to fake [a] smile.” Essentially, it was the first Metalcore anthem for the fans written by the fans.
More personal moments bled through, too. “Cobwebs,” which featured Andre Bravo of In Alcatraz 1962, explored Cerulli’s wistful memories of the fading local scene back home in Scranton and his admittedly toxic need to hold onto the glory of the past. This was contrasted by the sinful sadism of “.Com Pt. II”—which nodded back to a favorite off The Whorror, “Schitzophrenicannibalisticsexfest.com”—and the poisonous venom of “Count Choculitis,” whose title referenced an episode of the band’s favorite TV show, The Office.
But it would be the ballad, “City Lights,” that many fans would latch onto, much to the chagrin of the band who have effectively avoided playing the track live for years. Originally appearing on When Love Met Destruction as the humorously-titled “Bananamontana,” the track’s startling falsetto is a clear display of the vocalist’s youthful vocal range, and one that Cerulli has not re-attempted since—at least on record.
Though the two songs are polar opposites in sound, the drowning longing of “City Lights” set the stage for the bitter “Puppets (The First Snow).” Pairing beloved lyrics from The Smiths with a vicious haranguing of one of his ex-girlfriends, the frontman admitted to playing the role of the puppet because of a “pretty face,” but his confession was fraught with raw emotion. It was this, along with the track’s catchy lyrical construction that caught the attention of listeners.
This intrigue held music lovers’ in thrall as MIW approached the closing of the album. Cycling back to their Horror influences, they went bold with the Sleepy Hollow inspired “Undead Ahead” and an homage to the doomed love of 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, “Scissorhands (The Last Snow).” Much in thanks to their popular inspirational material, each of the two songs cast a spell that has lasted the test of time. In fact, “Undead Ahead” just received a sequel on 2019’s Disguise, the aptly-titled “Undead Ahead 2: The Tale of the Midnight Ride,” which, in our humble opinion, far exceeds the original in its cinematics.
All of this said, Creatures debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart, and went on to reach No. 19 on the Billboard Hard Rock Albums Charts as well as No. 175 on the Billboard 200. Not a bad showing for a debut by a band who rubbed some people all wrong and titillated others with their macabre reference material, brutal breakdowns, massive choruses, and clear nods to their musical heroes. Equal parts loved and loathed, it was enough to see the LP re-issued as a Deluxe Edition in January 2012. For those that had already added Creatures to their collection, the reissue featured three additional songs: a superb cover of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula,” and two remixes from Celldweller and Tim Skold.
This, in a sense, foreshadowed the band’s sophomore disc, Infamous, which would see the sextet exploring a whole new sound. But for a legion of listeners, no matter what the band has gone on to do since, Creatures would mark the pinnacle of their career—and an album that some have refused to move past. As the haters love to mock, Motionless In White—now composed of Cerulli, Sitkowski and Olson, along with Bassist Justin Morrow and Drummer Vinny Mauro—has sucked since Creatures!
But we very emphatically disagree.
On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, Motionless In White will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Creatures with a ‘deadstream’ (get it?) event. See motionlessinwhite.net for details and ticket info. Also, purchase the limited edition cassette of Creatures from Craft Recordings here.