Motionless in White: 'Creatures' -- CD Review


When Motionless In White first came to my attention, they had already built a pretty sturdy reputation as a powerful-sounding band who obviously took pride in their horror influences – for example, last Halloween they did a dead-on cover of Rob Zombie's Dragula – while at the same time not strictly limiting themselves to the established sound and image of horror punk, gothic metal, shock-rock or whatever. It seems like the media has generally tried to pigeonhole them as metalcore, since they tend to alternate harsh and clean vocal styles, and employ classic hardcore breakdowns and catchy chorus melodies... but there's a lot more going on with these dudes than just pop-core appeal.

While the folks who saw them perform live were already hot for a full-length release, it was the band's first EP When Love Met Destruction that caught the rest of the world's attention, landing them prominent placement on MTV2's Headbanger's Ball (for their video of Ghost in the Mirror) and got them touring with high-profile acts like Bleeding Through and In This Moment. Tomorrow our wishes are coming true with the release of the band's first full-length studio album Creatures – a gothic metal epic pumped up with industrial intensity, dark ambient atmospheres, rock-opera melodies and horror-punk attitude. That's obviously a pretty potent brew, so we've got a lot to cover here... turn the page and let's get into it!

From the raven-filled cover art by Solomon Amstutz down to the horror movie-inspired lyrics and cinematic mood, Creatures is a gothic feast for the senses. When the band rolled out their superb first single London in Terror – with lyrics exploring the motivations of Jack the Ripper – I knew they were more than capable of blending a richly melodic vocal canvas with fast but simple flesh-ripping riffs, thrashy rhythms and smooth backing keyboards, plus a touch of Marilyn Manson-style creepiness. The album's title track was also recently premiered to their fans via an exclusive download, and in a lot of ways that one represents the opposite side of the record's thematic coin – with more emphasis on epic production and sweeping melody – but it doesn't hesitate to do a little sonic ass-kicking here and there.

The album itself doesn't mess around either – opening with a nightmarish explosion of drop-tuned riffs and overlapping screams in Immaculate Misconception, backed with simple but effective synth strings and firmly establishing the band's own brand of accessible cross-genre metal. Through it all, frontman Chris Motionless slips easily between hardcore yells, demonic screeches and heartfelt but hook-filled harmonies without missing a beat, and his energy is contagious. Bela Lugosi's immortal "Children of the Night" line from Dracula opens the heavy vampire ballad We Only Come Out at Night, a piece that seems to start on a nostalgic note before pulling out the rug with another blast of speed-riffage and old school synth arpeggios dancing behind layered vocal harmonies. Lyrically it's a totally straightforward love poem to classic cinematic bloodsuckers – no metaphors, no irony, just a warm cup o' hemoglobin served straight-up. The shifting rhythms and styles of Abigail, combined with the alternating vocal styles and gothic keys, calls to mind the grandiose feeling of symphonic black metal grafted to an iron frame of hardcore.

Those same epic arrangements infuse several of these tracks, including Dot Com Pt. II, which sports some sweet lead guitar harmonies and a wicked breakdown, but distinguishes itself with a chilling whisper-sung bridge that draws from the best gothic-rock traditions. Puppets (The First Snow) is another scary but superb mini-epic in full-on symphonic black metal mode, with only a few melodic interjections, one of which will raise an eyebrow or two when it lifts a lyric from The Smiths' How Soon Is Now? Strangely enough, it totally works, and if you like a good moshpit explosion, there's a sweet break for you at the end. Another effective use of this formula comes with the song's "sequel" Scissorhands (The Last Snow), which opens with epic keys before tearing ahead at a breakneck pace, as appropriately Danny Elfman-esque piano twinkles race to keep up with the super-fast riffs. A classic bridge comes after the halfway mark, this time conjuring a dark carnival feel with organ, piano and a waltz tempo. More of these fun-house ups and downs are put to good use in cuts like Undead Ahead, a cool and creepy atmospheric effort returning to classic monster turf with a sudden chilling tempo drop in the middle and some wicked guitar harmonics that stab through the mix like rusty knives.

While a departure in style from the rest of the record, City Lights is a fairly effective power ballad featuring minimal rhythms, gentle synth washes and cool guitar effects in the first half, then expanding the melody to a massive amped finish featuring goosebump-raising choirs. While Cobwebs manages to blend a touch of old-school cock rock with straight-ahead melodic pop-metal, it loses something in the fusion.... but one case where absolutely every element works is Count Choculitis, which not only has pretty much locked a win for my "Best Song Title of 2010" award, it's also one of the coolest horror-metal anthems I've heard in a while. Electro-industrial synth lines and reverb-soaked chants are driven by the album's strongest, most surgically precise rhythms, and the bass and kick combo is guaranteed to wake the dead. This one rocks like a marble mausoleum, and it'll be residing on my playlist for a long time.

If Creatures doesn't get you in the proper Halloween party mood, you might want to check your pulse to see if you're still living... not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; lots of our friends are undead, and they'd probably dig this record too (pun intended). But it doesn't have to end there... the band is currently co-headlining an October "Entertainment or Death" tour with goth-rockers Black Veil Brides and William Control, so be sure to check out their MySpace page for the complete list of venues.

But don't go away just yet... with Halloween rapidly approaching, we were also lucky to score an exclusive feature with Chris Motionless, where he'll reveal to FEAR fans his all-time favorite horror music videos. It's a sweet lineup, and it's coming next week... so don't miss it!