The skeleton crew return with their fourth album.
True horror is an elusive thing. You can spew as much blood, guts and gristle as you like onto a page or screen, but when it comes to carving out a lasting impression – to really shaking people – it takes something deeper, something closer to home.
Pennsylvania’s own princes of darkness Motionless In White have been walking a tightrope between those two approaches for more than a decade now, and though there’s still an uneasy, Jekyll And Hyde quality to this fourth album, Chris Motionless’ skeleton crew are more adept than ever at sending chills down our spines.
Instead of a radical overhaul, ‘Graveyard Shift’ takes the ghoulish thrills of 2013’s ‘Infamous’ and cranks them up a gear. While the shadows of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and (especially on ‘Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2’) Nine Inch Nails continue to loom large and there’s still a cut ‘n’ paste quality to some of these 12 tracks, head-stomping metalcore ragers like ‘Soft’ and ‘570’ are certainly effective. Every cut brings something new to the table, whether that’s the arena-sized, surprisingly poppy angst of ‘Voices’, the swaggering, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll chug of ‘LOUD (Fuck It)’ or ‘Hourglass’, which resembles a tauter, more streamlined take on the band’s early sound.
In ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Eternally Yours’ they’ve even produced a pair of undeniable anthems – the former a defiant hymn to triumphing over adversity, complete with a stomping rhythm, ready-made for festivals, the other a haunting, genuinely affecting love song, with a morbid twist. Frontman and mastermind Chris Motionless retains his poison tongue throughout, venting his ire on doubters, liars and social climbers alike – sounding like ’Manson in his censor-baiting prime, dragged kicking and screaming into 2017.
Yet for all its strengths, ‘Graveyard Shift’ carries over many of the issues that have long dogged Chris and the gang. Sometimes the knowing winks and nods to their influences spill over into something more – the opening riff of ‘Necessary Evil’ is a whisper away from Korn’s ‘Blind’, for example. A couple of the more experimental songs, for all their admirable ambition, end up as a tangled mess; especially the kooky electro-industrial mayhem of the aforementioned ‘Not My Type...’, which ends up like a twisted, off-kilter take on ‘Monster Mash’… and not in a good way.
And while Chris has always been a champion of equality and self-acceptance, a few lines on ‘Graveyard Shift’ feel a touch off – particularly on ‘The Ladder’ which, while sonically relentless and exhilarating, does reinforce lazy stereotypes about women ‘sleeping their way to the top’. As a clearly gifted lyricist, he could do better.
With that said, there are plenty of moments on this record where it feels like Motionless have grown into their own skin; tugging at the heartstrings one moment and cutting straight to the bone the next. Sure, the shock and shlock are still prominent (would we want it any other way?) but songs like ‘Eternally Yours’ will stay with you well after the curtains have fallen and the theatre’s emptied. There still might be a masterpiece in them yet.
Read more about the album inside this month's magazine, here's how to get it...