Review Summary: Motionless In White create a debut LP that shows they have more to offer than their peers, even if they're held back by old habits.
Motionless In White, a metalcore band hailing from my Pennsylvanian hometown, has caught the eye of the hardcore scene in the last two years. Between signing to Fearless Records, the 2009 release of their debut EP “When Love Met Destruction” and a spot on last summer’s Thrash and Burn along with Born Of Osiris and Asking Alexandria, the sextet has been practically catapulted into the much-talked-about status in venues and high schools across the country. “Creatures” is MIW’s debut full length, and it showcases the maturation of the band, as well as a surprising potential to stand out from the dozens of other cheap metalcore acts.
Motionless In White is:
Chris Ceruli – Vocals
TJ Bell – Guitar / Vocals
Ricky Olson – Bass
Josh Balz – Keyboards
Ryan Sitskowski – Guitar
Angelo Parente – Drums
There are several noticeable improvements on Creatures, the most prevalent being Ceruli’s drastically improved vocals. Sounding before like a bad impression of Rise Record’s entire roster, the frontman has increased his range to high shrieks, more natural sounding growls and a very aggressive mid. The harsh vocals are definitely one of the band’s strongest assets, at times even sounding reminiscent of Trevor Strnad (see the tortured verses of “Abigail”). However, the greatest thing I can possibly say about this band is they are learning how to make music heavy, and not by chugging on drop C tuned guitars or slowly beating your face in with breakdown after breakdown. No, MIW are learning the subtle art of atmosphere thanks to secret weapon Josh Balz.
The oft-overlooked keyboard player is the most powerful thing this band has to offer. Instead of layering tired riffs with cheesy dance beats or synth loops, Balz allows his signature style of haunted choir-esque keys to blend amongst the madness, creating a density that greatly surpasses anything the band has done before. From the eerie backdrops in “Scissorhands (The Last Snow)” to the simply fantastic breakdown melody of “Count Choculitis”, Balz shows that sometimes blending in is for the best.
The overall musicianship has improved vastly. Creatures shows the band kicking up the intensity, making everything tighter, faster, and harder. Even breakdowns that can easily be considered generic hit with a strength that is rarely seen in the hardcore scene. The overall musicianship has improved drastically, with more sophisticated riffs and more complex chugging patterns. Experimentation is welcomed with breaths of fresh air (“City Lights”) and two songs switching into 6/8, a time signature rarely attempted by MIW’s peers. The band has even improved lyrically, and although they still throw out a few cheeseball and uncomfortable lines, the majority of it shows serious passion. Album opener “Immaculate Misconception” seems to be a direct shot at the metalcore scene, openly calling out the trend of Christian hardcore that may be just that—a trend. “I’ve seen so many of you come and go/because you’re in it for all the wrong ***ing reasons/you can’t expect to live off of lies and survive” Ceruli roars, just before the eyebrow-raising “I don’t care if this offends you or your worthless God.” Nobody can deny that MIW take themselves very seriously.
Although Creatures fights a hit and miss battle against the plagues of modern metalcore, the album does fall victim to some rather tragic circumstances. Yes, the breakdowns are more complex and more intense, but there’s still quite a few of them. While they all may be preformed well, there’s no doubt that they would be ten times more powerful if they were used more sparingly. Another unfortunate addition is the over-production that the scene has become all too familiar with. It doesn’t necessarily get in the way of songs (The chorus of “Cobwebs” is still very catchy), but it hinders the band from realizing their full potential. For the title track, the band felt as if they should include fans by having them submit their own lyrics to be a part of the record. The entire concept of that is one that I respect and understand, but the results offers some laughingly bad and awkwardly mixed lines. There are some gems submitted, but with the hundreds of emails received, there’s no way the best they could find was “I tried to drown my sorrows/but instead they’re all drowning me.”
Overall, Creatures is a record that shows improvement, as well as room for some more. It’s honestly worth listening to a few times, if not only the key songs. Hopefully Motionless In White will take the road less traveled again for LP2, eliminating the things that still hold them back. “The past is the past, and I’m letting it kill me.”
Drastically improved screams
Keyboards add unique atmosphere
Breakdowns hit hard, but are lessened by their over abundance.
Scissorhands (The Last Snow)