Disguise: Motionless in White Unmask

Intro:

Motionless in White (MIW) released their highly anticipated record, Disguise, on June 7. The band’s purple period is characterized by introspective lyrics and more diverse but equally as energetic instrumentals as their previous work. Disguise hinges on the focal point of identity, which reflects the band’s trajectory of personal growth.

“I recognized early last summer that I was in dire need of help and the lyrics were my outlet to speak about my journey to recovering from self-destructive mental spiraling. I felt even more comfortable to do so because of the fans overwhelming support for our song, “Voices” (Graveyard Shift) and the music video that came with it,” said frontman, Chris Motionless in a twitter post.

Track By Track:

The title track was released as the album’s lead single in tandem with second single, “Brand New Numb” on April 17.  Musically, “Disguise” leads with a horror-inducing, lullabye-gone-wrong xylophone that bleeds into a crashing rage of bass and deep guitar riffs, topped with high-pitched industrial synth. Chris sets the record’s tone with seriously unchecked and goose-bump worthy vocals, both clean and unclean. If you’re addicted to breakdowns that bring you to your feet this one’s for you. It’s a prime example of anger being applied productively to make necessary change and growth.  

“Headache” is the precursor to “Disguise.” It takes a peek inside the distorted thinking that Chris described in an interview with Rocksound, “When you keep things bottled up in your head, you get that tunnel vision and focus on it in a very different way.” Aesthetically and conceptually this song captures catastrophic thinking in a way that is expressive and healing, rather than triggering, for listeners. An intro bass riff somewhere between the Chilli Peppers and Tool melts into dizzying psychedelic guitar that brims with touches of bending and vibrato. The twisty, winding sound is a sweet concoction laced with brutal honesty, fear and apathy. This is another song where Chris’ ultra-dynamic vocals shine; he and the band continue to take risks that pay off throughout the rest of the album.

</c0de> is what a MIW feature on Linkin Park’s Meteora would sound like. In fact, someone has already posted a YouTube mashup of “<c0de>” and “Numb”. Between the vinyl scratches and plucky, high pitched hook there’s no doubting the track’s rap-rock roots. Lyrically, however, I’m a little confused. I think the title and binary references are clever, but my experience learning to code C and C+ in middle school was not the anarchist amalgamate MIW describes, rather a miserably lonely uphill battle. Perhaps the point I’m missing is that 2019 is an overwhelmingly digital age defined by isolation amongst a sea of “friends and followers.” Regardless, </code> falls back on cliche a little too much for my liking but is aesthetically on par.

“Thoughts & Prayers” is the hard-fast-n-loud metalcore that MIW originalists have been craving. Infamous and Reincarnate fury leak through the song- it’s target is also a familiar category of people for MIW: Facebook-trolling religious fanatics. It’s message is loud and clear- innocents are dying because of corporate and government greed; faith will only catalyze the phenomenon and action is required; “Thoughts & Prayers” simply are not enough. There’s something about MIW’s (critical and honest) description of religion that is completely unique. I’m grateful for this addition to the album.

“Legacy” is empowering as fuck. The stadium-ready declaration of strength releases endorphins with every listen. It probes further the questions posed by “Disguise,” you are not the mask of cultural norms that society has imposed- so who are you? The Pygmalion effect (otherwise known as self-fulfilling prophecies) describes the psychology between using the word “am” instead of “will” when discussing plans and ambitions and it is well utilized here.

I’m not usually one for sequels, but MIW is the exception.“Undead Ahead 2: The Tale of the Midnight Ride” revisits the band’s debut album Creatures. Horse hooves, bird song and snapping twigs create a serene ambiance that is quickly shattered by galloping violin, operatic chorals and theremin. It comes as no surprise that new bassist and gorehound Justin Morrow (previously of INK) contributed to the writing. Clobbering bass, ambling drums and adrenalizing guitar comprise both verse and chorus- guitarists Ricky Horror and Ryan Sitkowski, drummer Vinny Mauro and Justin should all be proud of themselves for this absolute banger (and Chris too for the brutal breakdown delivery.) Keep the horrific hits coming!

“Holding Onto Smoke” establishes the background of despondency that Disguise works to overcome. The track is MIW’s take on a lighter-waving rock ballad that rallies around the chorus, “I define who I become.”

“Another Life,” is by far my favorite. The stinging lyrics, wailing vocals and heartbeat tempo chorus make for a perfect heart-break song. It’s general enough to remind me of my past three breakups and yet specific enough to get me crying in the car over them. Instead of the typical splitsville blame-game, “Another Life” takes ownership for one’s mistakes and recognizes that not all loves are destined for success- at least on this plane of reality. The tear-jerking minor key, rolling drums and ardent decay that Chris emphasizes his words with really let this song sink in. Is it acceptable to send Spotify links to exes? No? Ok fine.

“Broadcasting From Beyond the Grave: Death Inc.” serves shock factor with a modern twist. In true Creatures fashion, “Death Inc” exalts the rise of the outcasts, misfits and underdogs, but where is the gore? The use of vintage samples, radio static and vocal filters feels quirky but the creative novelty of a radio broadcast is certainly not lost on me.

I couldn’t stop bumping “Brand New Numb” if I tried. It’s a foot-tapping anthem with an assertive but funky bassline. The concept of a brand new numb in and of itself is fitting for 2019- a disheartening year at best. The song focuses on owning one’s short-comings and is peppered with themes of capitalist oppression and the transactional nature of modern music. The lyrics are comparable to “Death Inc” but flaunt individualism rather than strength in numbers. The studio sound-clip intro (“I’m tryna fucking record this”) shatters the fourth wall, preparing listeners for the ensuing flood of unhinged defiance to follow. A strong and steady beat delivered by drummer Vinny Mauro makes the madness feel second-nature.

“Catharsis” was one of the album’s greatest surprises. It feels soft and simple yet still on brand for MIW. I think a song about the experience of listening to music is a little to metaphysical for most but I personally enjoy the song’s phrasing and word choice. The track is exemplary of MIW’s decision to move towards simpler, more commercially recognizable rhythms on the album. It showcases a different side of MIW and their own musical preferences but feels a little lackluster in comparison to their complex body of work. “Catharsis” would be a fun and unique addition to a party playlist.

Summary: Motionless in White has never released an album that I dislike and Disguise is no exception. They took an experimental but not abstract route- simplifying without slowing and adding without overwhelming. Every member of the band’s contribution is audible. Disguise illustrates how MIW is maturing- it takes accountability but stands its ground, it is proud and in your face because it understands and actualizes itself as a body of work. Certainly no fan will be 100% satisfied with every release and MIW has their fair share of ex-fans crying “sell out!” However, I would argue that Disguise exercises artistic liberty while still honoring the bands roots.

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