Review Summary: Marilyn Manson finally has released the album fans have been waiting for.
Marilyn Manson reached their peak in the 1990’s with the release of a trilogy of concept albums called the “Triptych”. This trilogy started with 1996’s Antichrist Superstar, continued with 1998’s Mechanical Animals and then concluded with 2000’s Holy Wood. Marilyn Manson grabbed the attention of mainstream audiences and national news outlets due to their controversial lyrical content and often deeply symbolic imagery. Since the early 2000’s, the controversy and popularity of the band have slowly diminished and with their last two releases being poorly received by critics and fans alike it seemed as if the possibility of them churning out anything as memorable as their trilogy of concept albums was sadly, very low. Born Villain proves this assumption to be absolutely incorrect. It is apparent that the band put a tremendous amount of effort in to create something artistically and musically entertaining. Even though the album may not be of the same quality as the first half of their discography, there is a strong sense of inspiration and artistic vision that has been absent for many years now. Marilyn Manson has truly crafted a well needed “comeback album”, as he refers to it, and manages to impress, entertain and pleasantly surprise with their eighth studio album, Born Villain.
According to Manson, the album is musically influenced by post-punk bands such as The Birthday Party, Killing Joke, and Joy Division. The album is very rhythm based and beat driven and features both real drum work and programmed percussion. The programming, keyboards and drumming are all provided by Chris Vrenna, the former touring drummer for Nine Inch Nails. Guitar and bass, which have been very prominent in most of his work, have taken a back seat in the mix for several of the tracks that are reminiscent of Manson’s earlier industrial work. While keyboard and percussion are what carry songs such as “Children of Cain”, “Breaking the Same Old Ground”, and “Pistol Whipped”; the album isn’t absent of guitar driven songs. “Hey Cruel World…”, “No Reflection”, “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms”, and “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Everyday” are all heavy, catchy and mainly guitar orientated songs that are some his best rockers since the 90’s.
“Murderers Are Getting Prettier Everyday” resembles the driving, industrial, gothic metal of Antichrist Superstar and Holy Wood with a fast paced industrial beat, a heavy guitar tone, and Manson wailing about through a wall of vocal distortion. It’s definitely the heaviest thing the band has produced since The Golden Age of Grotesque. “The Gardener” is an interesting track that seems like a spiritual successor to the song “WOW” from The High End of Low. Musically, the album is comfortably familiar but different and interesting enough to keep the listener entertained. The album does have several low points with tracks like “Pistol Whipped” and “No Reflection” sounding empty and uninspired. The production is also another high note of Born Villain. The vocals, bass, guitar, percussion and all the sounds capes and little details scattered throughout sound great. It’s very evident that there was a lot of time put in to make sure everything sounded just the way they wanted.
Born Villain is very different conceptually compared to their last two releases. Songs about Manson’s inner struggles and broken relationships are not as numerous this time around. The lyrical content does occasionally consist of personal topics; such as “Pistol Whipped”, which discusses physical abuse, and “The Gardener”, which discusses women and their friends. There is a renewed sense of energy present on Born Villain; a sense of rebirth. There are numerous allusions scattered throughout the album. “Overneath the Path of Misery” opens with a haunting excerpt from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and he references the Hindu concept of Trimurti in the opening track. Manson’s melodies and lyrics aren’t as interesting as they once were but he is still a creative writer whose lyrics are hardly ever uninteresting or meaningless. Manson’s vocal delivery isn’t as sharp and aggressive as it once and occasionally he does sound exhausted, drained and bored; but he still manages to perform well for the majority of the album. The only major complaint to be had about his vocals is the massive amount of multi-tracking. Even though vocal multi-tracking has always been present in Manson’s work; it is done to the upmost extreme on Born Villain and can be slightly annoying at times.
Born Villain is the album that Manson fans have been waiting for and wanting for years. After the release of his last two albums, it seemed as if Marilyn Manson had lost all his hope, drive and ambition. He seemed content with singing sad, sappy songs about heartache and tragedy. With Born Villain, Manson proves that he isn’t quite finished yet and still has a lot of worthwhile things to say and create. Though, the album isn’t everything one could have hoped for; it sure does exceed what one could expect Manson to produce after his latest two album slump. Born Villain proves Marilyn Manson is back and once again doing what he knows how to do best; creating a theatrical, rocking, and always entertaining musical experience. Now let’s just hope he can keep it up after this.