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The Motionless In White we've been familiar with up until now has been a band known for looking outwards. Frontman Chris Motionless has crafted his lyrics mostly around his opinions on the society around him, and recent songs have seen him examine its treatment of the outsider, its attitudes towards sex, and the growing oversensitiveness of Internet culture, to name a few examples. This time around, however, his tune is changing. This time, he is looking inwards, immortalising the struggles of his recent personal battles with his constructed identity across the goth metallers' fifth opus.
"Mirror, mirror, tell me who you see/Am I you or me?" he ponders over the album's title track that is a standout right from the get go, sounding loftier and sonically bolder than we've seen from the Scranton five-piece before. It is a tone that is matched pretty consistently across the ten tracks still to come in a fusion of fury, brutality and vulnerability that reaches its high point on "Headache," where the sudden strain of emotion in Chris's vocal delivery creates almost heart-stopping moments. What we hear is a raw, previously unheard agony that proves genuinely affecting, and it's one of his best performances on record.
Although there's nothing radically new that MIW offers here in terms of their sound, Disguise still stands apart from its predecessors regarding its general quality and ambition. These guys have never sounded slicker or more streamlined— gone is the, at times, dissonant jarring found within some of the weaker tracks on 2017's Graveyard Shift, and in its place is tighter, more cohesive music that sounds genuinely huge. The nu-metal-esque "</c0de." is a prime example of this, and the defiant swagger of its verses and its massive, almost poppy chorus should be considered. What is equally commendable is the amount of musical variety seen across the album, the lack of which has been something the band has been criticised for in the past. Every song now stands on its own without blurring into the one which came immediately before or after it, which seems like an obvious necessity, but sadly, is sometimes lacking on plenty of modern albums.
Despite these improvements, however, the band still finds themselves making a couple of the same mistakes, occasionally foraying into sonic territories a little close to other bands. As ever, they crib plenty from the likes of renowned influences Korn and Nine Inch Nails, but "Another Life" carries shades of "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence, while the aforementioned "</c0de.>" could easily blend in with the songs of Linkin Park's Meteora. Of course, this might not be off-putting to every listener— they're learning from the best, after all—but it may leave some questioning where their true distinctiveness has gone. Similarly, the quality dips in one or two places, and "Broadcasting From Beyond The Grave: Death Inc." unfortunately sounds like a version of the band that they should've outgrown by their fifth album, both musically and, sadly, lyrically, as the lyrics come across as contrived and immature. Chris Motionless is typically an original, astute lyricist, and such a step backwards is quite a shame.
Fortunately, the positives of this album do manage to outweigh the negatives, and this is a record that should still be commended for the most part. MIW have stepped up for certain, and have even delivered some career highlights here. Most importantly perhaps, it's going to keep the Creatures very happy indeed, and at the end of the day, for some, this makes it an automatic success.