June 3, 2019 Motionless In White – Disguise (Album Review)
A creature in disguise. A headless horseman. A broken relationship. The desperate plea for the voices to simply shut up. All this and more encompass the highly-anticipated Disguise from Motionless In White, which arrives Friday, June 7th, 2019 via Roadrunner Records.
Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Motionless In White has a rags to riches (or at least a little less rags) story that begins with a massive buzz that led to their 2010 full-length debut, Creatures, which has become something of a cult classic. Two-thousand and twelve’s Infamous and 2014’s Reincarnate evolved the band’s sound while strengthening their following, and saw the Metal outfit beginning to amass attention from Active Rock radio. It was 2017’s Graveyard Shift, and the band’s achievement of their first decade on the road, that seemingly propelled Motionless In White to the stars. Tours with the likes of Slipknot, KoЯn, HIM, and an upcoming summer stint with the legendary Alice Cooper certainly have not harmed their stellar reputation.
For their fifth full-length studio release, Disguise, the band—Vocalist/Multi-Instrumentalist Chris Motionless, Multi-Instrumentalists Ricky Olson and Ryan Sitkowski, Bassist Justin Morrow, and Drummer Vinny Mauro—chose to return to Graveyard Shift producer and longtime collaborator Drew Fulk. Mixed by Ice Nine Kills’ Guitarist JD deBlieck, the record also features Motionless, Olson and Sitkowski handling bass duties with finesse, as the band were without a permanent bassist in the studio.
Disguise opens to the music box that introduces its titular track, “Disguise.” A crunchy, infectious headbanger that explores a self-authored facade that has caused its owner to lose his way, here Motionless declares that fear is not his fate—a promise that should already sound familiar to fans. Next, KoЯn vibes permeate the core of the sonically and emotionally heavy “Headache.” A journey into the mind of a man who struggles on a daily basis to force a smile, this is a cry for the maelstrom of voices to shut up, with frustrated howls that plead, “Oh god, am I gonna be fine?”
Another nod to the band’s eclectic range of influences, “<c0de>” opens to Motionless rapping his way into an eruption of colossal layers that echo the band’s love for Linkin Park. The lyrical emphasis here is on reminding listeners that they never have to feel alone, that we’re all of one mind and one soul. Much in thanks to this universal message, the track seems a sincere and heartfelt tribute to Chester Bennington and his legacy.
From its very onset, “Thoughts & Prayers” detonates with brutal blast beats and gremlin growls—and a delicious “blegh.” A track that sees the band returning to their early origins (“Immaculate Misconception”) and commenting on religiosity, here they remind us that we get exactly what we pray for—a whole lot of fantasy. “Open your fucking eyes,” Motionless implores in this brutal condemnation of false salvation.
Topically speaking, “Legacy” floats somewhere between Graveyard Shift’s “Hourglass” and Reincarnate’s “Carry the Torch,” questioning what Motionless and the band wish to leave in their wake. However, its choice of pacing and vocal inflection (reminiscent of Imagine Dragon’s “Thunder”) in its chorus is admittedly odd for a Metal band. Certainly it can’t be said that Motionless In White don’t take chances, that’s for sure!
The brilliant cinematic nod “Undead Ahead 2: The Tale of the Midnight Ride” picks up where Creature’s “Undead Ahead” left off nearly a decade ago. Creating a second demonic ode to Tim Burton’s 1999 film Sleepy Hollow, the track sees the band firing on all cylinders and crafting a spooky sonic tale that chills and thrills—with a dash of their signature wit. If you’re looking for dirty, evil growls worthy of a headless creature resurrected from the grave, Motionless delivers—though it’s that outro with Olson on lead that might shock some.
“I’ve lost the me that I love most,” Motionless confesses in the opening lines of “Holding On to Smoke.” A personal reminder to not merely be alive but to live, the track—with a subtle Breaking Benjamin influence—explodes into atmospheric synths as a man confesses his weaknesses and his innermost fears. Then, if you thought that you would never see the day that a Motionless In White track would make you cry, check out the gut-wrenching vulnerability of “Another Life.” A deeply emotional confession from a man who has self-sabotaged his relationship and desperately wants to sing his apology to the woman he lost (and still very much loves), the track does not just hit in the feels—it beats them to a bloody pulp.
There is definitely a “Dead As Fuck” vibe to the sonics of “Broadcasting from Beyond the Grave: Death Inc.” With a “Puppets” reference that bleeds into a hysterical Wizard of Oz nod, you (and your little dog too!) can’t help but love and appreciate the lyrical wit at work in this unintentional anthem for the freak-show. Despite their lack of similarities, this flows perfectly into the rocker “Brand New Numb,” which has fun with experimentation while providing a nod to the band’s Infamous disc.
The grand finale, “Catharsis,” blends piano into the rocking mix that celebrates the “salvation in your headphones.” Perfectly suited to radio, the track opens its arms wide to all music lovers as the band tip their hats to that thing that completes so many of us when we are at our darkest. Singing his heart out, Motionless goes for nearly all clean vocals here and he absolutely soars. In fact, with the release of Disguise, we move into an era where there is literally nothing that he cannot do vocally—he croons passionately, he raps, he does that Manson thing that people can’t shut up about, and he growls like a demon from the fiery pits of Dante’s inferno.
Disguise sees a more streamlined Motionless In White embracing all the myriad facets of their personality as a band and, as always, taking chances. Whether those risks all pay off is up to each individual listener, but you have to appreciate a band that never grows complacent and continually explores. Thankfully, Motionless’ self-referential lyrical style remains intact, as does his use of quirky pop culture references and his delicate nods to his musical influences.
From heartbreaking vulnerability to frustrated angst, to Nirvana references and a sincere love their craft, the band presents a record that is shockingly diverse. If you can’t pigeonhole them, good—that’s the point! Proud transmitters of the <c0de>, Cryptic Rock gives Disguise 4.5 of 5 stars.