In This Moment – ‘GODMODE’

By Ian Kenworthy

In This Moment are masters of reinvention and rebirth. Even their name demands you pay attention to who they are right now. On each album, there’s a marked shift in the tone, style and way they present themselves. Masterminded by guitarist Chris Howorth and vocalist Maria Brink, their journey into industrial metal drew on staples like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails but with their own distinctive twists, manic energy and delightfully off-beat experiments.

After six albums, something started to go awry on 2017’s ‘Ritual’ which leant heavily on cover versions and interpolations, making it sound tired and over-familiar., and subsequent album, ‘Mother’, doubled down on these weaknesses. Worse still, they thought it was a good idea to make a girl-power cover of Queen’s camp classic ‘We Will Rock You’ the album’s centrepiece. Consequently, new album ‘Godmode’ arrives with a due sense of dread.

Press play and you feel the relief. Right off the bat, the album feels like a proper reinvention, as though they’ve stripped out everything and rebuilt the sound from scratch. It’s basically the same as their previous albums but pushes aside lush soundscapes for a dirtier, more lived-in feel. After being shackled to introverted cover versions, there’s a boldness – a hunger – to these songs that the band seemed to have lost. This is mainly due to an upbeat tone with songs like ‘The Purge’ and ‘Godmode’, mixing throbbing beats, keyboards and djent-style guitar riffs over a full-band rhythm section. In many ways, it harkens back to their first forays into industrial music, harnessing a kind of factory/production-line intensity, but with a very different twist.

Sketched out during lockdown, the album’s genesis was a contrast to previous records where Brink and Howorth had a penchant for turning up at the studio unprepared. Notably, this means it is more restrained than previous records and there are fewer wild creative impulses (You’re not getting anything as creative as 2014’s ‘Sex-Metal Barbie’), instead there’s a much clearer creative vision. Despite the songs having their own style, be that the djent metal of ‘Sanctified’ or the way ‘Fate Bringer’ throbs with unsettling dance rhythm, they flow together creating a constant feel of evolution and change. This feeling is mirrored in the songs themselves. Each is replete with ideas and constantly changes form, but rather than feeling Frankensteined together. they flow remarkably well. For example, ‘Godmode’ hammocks its druggy doo-wop chorus between a vicious verse to give the song a smile-while-I’m-stabbing-you aura.

The main draw here is, of course, Maria Brink’s voice. She’s hypnotic, beautiful, ugly, horrifying and absolutely intoxicating in equal measure, switching style almost constantly, contrasting phrases and sounds and always drawing you deeper into her world. Often she performs in a rough mewling tone like on ‘Army Of Me’ but each song has a defining characteristic like the croaky rap that opens ‘The Purge’, the swirling drunken singing on ‘Skyburner’, the screamed verses on ‘Sanctify Me’ or the rasp and screech of ‘Godmode’. In complete contrast, the delicate pronunciation that makes ‘Everything Starts And Ends With You’ so intimate shows off why she’s one of the most versatile vocalists in metal.

Brink has reinvented herself with each album, from porcelain doll, Alice in Wonderland, cowgirl, black widow, sacrificial virgin, mother figure, and finally to goddess. It’s interesting to consider how she casts herself as all-powerful and worthy of worship especially through her lyrics and imagery. There’s a certain wryness to all this and that undercurrent keeps everything playful. Given how the term ‘Godmode’ has origins in video games, and the way it is being expressed through electronic music, it implies your god is in the machine. This combination of ideas, an electronic world with its heart in theology, is a fascinating framework for an industrial record and by leaning on the idea of being an omnipresent observer without fear of recrimination Brink gives her lyrics a strange, detached quality. Either way, they’re far more interesting than regurgitating 80’s pop hits.

Having worked with producer Kevin Churko since 2008, the album introduces a new collaborator, who turns out to be his son, Kane Churko. This makes sense. There’s an overlap to their approach and it’s reasonable to assume his youth is driving the album’s relative freshness, leading to a really great piece of production. Notably the guitar tones change between soft or djenty depending on the context and feel remarkably heavy even when they’re understated. Equally, the vocals are often smeared, echoed or stuttered for effect but, importantly, this doesn’t detract from Brink’s performance or dim their power. However, the most impressive feature of his work is the way Churko balances each song’s many moving parts and disparate elements without compromising its vision. You can hear this in how the lofty vocals of ‘Skyburner’ are tethered to a driving riff or the way epic rock ballad  ‘I Would Die For You’ screws itself up into a hysterical tantrum only to open out again like a flower.

Despite its strengths, the record does have a few weaknesses. At times, Brink struggles to find a really striking chorus (possibly why she leant so hard on cover versions) and thus the album feels like it lacks a hard-hitting climax. This is also a feature of the album’s now-standard duet, ‘Damaged’., featuring Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills but the charged interplay between singers – the whole point of these types of song – is weirdly absent. Compare to 2020’s ‘Hunting Ground’ which used the double meaning of the phrase ‘One of us is going down’ to create an outrageous sexual tension and you’ll see just why it feels so oddly flaccid.

Once again In This Moment are rejuvenated. It’s not quite God level and more of a rediscovery than a reinvention but with a fresh perspective, solid songs and a consistent tone, ‘Godmode’ thrives on its unified vision and crackles with mischievous energy.

IAN KENWORTHY

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