Review Summary: Standing comfortably on the same old ground
Oh boy, Marilyn Manson. What was not said about this man? He’s been praised as an artistic visionary and panned as a pretentious nobody with ambiguous wardrobe. Some called him the Antichrist, some called him Genius, some called him Full Of Crap. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.
Before the guns of renewed MM fans will rip me apart I want to set a few things straight. I’ve considered myself a fan of Marilyn Manson for quite some time while being a middle-school-boy. As years passed and tons of new music run through my head I realized that MM was not that much of a high-quality-music phenomenon but rather a mass-media phenomenon. Everything about Marilyn Manson was in the scope of public eye. The man’s fame was based on massive manipulation acts. It was the imagery and controversy that got him media attention and not the music itself. Manson was the most effective “rock’n’roll” self-seller of his time: the eponymous band became one of the most successful rock affairs ever.
But those times are gone now. MM doesn’t do sell-out stadium shows anymore: he’s mostly playing in medium-sized club shows (still sold-out though), he’s no longer on the covers of the magazines (not totally absent though) and people start forgetting who was the all-kids favorite on MTV in the late 90’s and the early 00’s .
After two records that let most of the fan-base unsatisfied, Manson decided to deliver what people seemingly wanted: the “old-school” Marilyn Manson, angry, nasty, mysterious and vicious. Album № 9 was given the title “Born Villain” – and thus, playing a bad guy again, mr. Manson was eager to invite us to a ride full of violence, sex and dementia. Warner numerously stated that the record will be grim and heavy and even once called it “suicide death-metal”.
*Nota bene – “Suicide death-metal” is: 45% of “Antichrist Superstar”, 35% of “Holy Wood”, 20% the least spectacular moments of “Mechanical Animals” and 0% of new ideas.
But is that a bad thing really?
At first I considered “Born Villain” a perfect example of how one should not try to release old stuff while passing it as new. Nothing on “Born Villain” felt surprising, and I don’t mean – musically surprising overall, I just mean surprising to a man who listens to Marilyn Manson. If that’s what the crowd wanted – well, it’s great to be part of that crowd… I guess. But, being a massive fan of “EMDM” and “THEOL”, I hoped Manson would continue drawing shades from different styles bit by bit while wrapping them up in his own charm. That didn’t happen, and the resulting record seemed to be a real let-down.
But as the album was playing over and over in my headphones, I came to a realization, that staying true to your roots is not always a bad thing. “Born Villain” is not the comeback of a century, not a masterpiece and certainly not the best Manson album in years; but it’s a solid combination of good rocking songs, performed by a person who likes to nail cocaine bags to the wall of his mansion. What’s not to like?
Now, getting a bit more into detail…
To be fair, the album has it’s strong rocking hits. The opener, “Hey, Cruel World…” is a dynamic and wicked number that leaves you in the mood to kill something. The screaming parts are pretty bad-ass and the overall simplicity (a common trend to MM) works as good as ever: it’s just straightforward rocking, ranting and headbanging. “Overneath The Path Of Misery”, although obviously protracted, has some pretty sweet creepy moments. “The Gardener”, a warm hello from the “ACS” era, is capable of get your foot tapping from the start. “Disengaged” is loud, nasty and even sarcastic; it’s sounds a bit like a reworking of “Are You The Rabbit” from “EMDM”, but somehow doesn’t bore you during the listen. “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day” is another track that shares genetic inheritance with “ACS”, and frankly overdoes the task of being “heavier, heavier, HEAVIER I SAID” to the point of being funny and, somehow, still enjoyable. “Born Villain” and “Breaking The Same Old Ground” are good and almost touching melodic numbers sharing traits with “Mechanical Animals”.
The rest of the album provokes ambiguous feelings. “No Reflection” is just F-ing dumb. I do confess I ended up liking it: but it’s one of the cases when I know I like something dumb. “Slo-Mo-Tion” is neat and stylish in terms of sound but it’s melody NEVER bloody changes and the lyrics are laughable (and I doubt it’s Warner’s self-irony). “Pistol Whipped” and “Flowers Of Evil” are mediocre and un-inspiring. And there also two pretty weird songs that I still can’t get my opinion straight on: these are “Children Of Cain” and “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms”. The first one is sort of slightly gothic-influenced, has a poppy-power ballad-like melody, but Manson’s singing in the chorus is incredibly irritating: I appreciated the dramatic wailing-style on “THEOL” but here it sounds ridiculous. “Lay Down…” is an example of how you steal a stoner riff and put together a song around it: if it wasn’t for Manson’s singing I would never guessed it’s his product. I have to admit the song works and rocks, but it just sticks out the whole “good-old” conception and blurs the vision of the record.
Boy, what do we have left? Does “Born Villain” bring back the shock and the rock or does it just suck in all of possible dimensions? The truth is, as always, somewhere in between. It’s an OK product from a band, whose frontman was once on top of the world now is basically working for a modest time-proven fan-base. It’s solid and boring, it’s rocking and repetitive, it’s entertaining and unimaginative… it’s Marilyn Manson 101 done in 2012.
P.S. A message of hope. If there are those who feel let down by “BV”, than it’s probably time to turn back to “EMDM” and “THEOL”. In my most humble opinion, those records are great and only got panned by fans because they were not bastardishly-aggressive bile-spitting Marilyn Manson that was popular back in the day.