Review Summary: Marilyn Manson manages to create an interesting album that, while not perfect, presents excellent and unique music that is a welcomed addition to the Marilyn Manson discography.
When Marilyn Manson releases a new album you never really know what to expect. They’ve never released an album that sounds exactly like another previous work. This ever-changing quality of Marilyn Manson can be a great asset or a horrible liability depending on how you personally feel about their latest incarnation. “Born Villain” is Marilyn Manson’s latest such incarnation. After grasping what this album has to offer it would only be natural to compare it to his earlier works, but we’ll get to that later. First things first, let’s talk about the quality of the album itself.
The musical composition of the album itself is great. Manson delivers everything from whispers to screams as we would expect. The lyrics themselves are some of the most interesting to come from the band in a while, Shakespeare quotes and all. The guitar work provided by Twiggy, Sablan, and even Manson himself is also the best to be presented by them in a while. Specifically the bass, which is greatly featured on “Born Villain”. The drumming on the album feels a bit mechanical at times, likely because it is mostly programmed. However, this is nothing new to Marilyn Manson. While the drums are sometimes mechanical in nature they aren’t obsessively boring, and do manage to add to the songs when it is all said and done. Vrenna generally does a good job with the programming and a great job on the keyboard. Overall the music is well written and feels fresh.
“Born Villain” manages to grab attention throughout its entirety, for the most part. There is a bit of a lull in the middle of the album that I can’t quite pin point, perhaps because it is not overwhelming. This is nothing major and does not detract from the album in a glaring fashion, but it does diminish its score just a bit. The album starts off strong, meanders a bit in the middle, and finishes off stronger than it started. It is important to note that not a single track is unpleasant to listen to. It just so happens that the best tracks are at the beginning and end, leaving a short gap in the middle. The production of the album itself is near flawless. The vocals, guitars, drums, and any other sounds heard throughout “Born Villain” are easily distinguishable and clear.
So where does “Born Villain” stack up against previous Marilyn Manson releases? Well it will greatly depend on who you ask. Opinions are likely to vary by large margins. But for me it’s their best album since “Holy Wood”. While I feel “Holy Wood” and “Antichrist Superstar” are both superior to this release, that is where it ends. This album reminds me of “Mechanical Animals”. Both have the same positive and negative qualities. With “Mechanical Animals” Marilyn Manson presented some of their most technical music and cleanest production, but that album also had a brief lull in it. Just like “Born Villain”. However, “Born Villain” itself feels a bit like a collection of each Marilyn Manson album. At times you can hear influences of each previous work of theirs in this album, which all comes together to create something new.
The end result is one excellent album. While it is not perfect or necessarily groundbreaking, it does feel as though it is a return to form for Manson. In "Eat Me, Drink Me" and "The High End of Low" it seemed as though he was trying to find himself again. In “Born Villain” he seems to have finally done so. In it he has crafted new, interesting ideas again. Marilyn Manson has managed to create an album that sounds unique and interesting. Suggested tracks on the album include “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day”, “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms”, and “Hey, Cruel World”. The cover track “You’re So Vain” is quite excellent as well. In it Johnny Depp delivers some great guitar and drum work to back Manson’s vocals. All in all, “Born Villain” is an excellent, though not perfect album.