Review Summary: Manson finally gets out of the hole he's dug himself.
After two mediocre releases from the band, Marilyn Manson was absolutely desperate for a good record. Manson himself said that he was in a pretty dark place in his life when those two records came out, and that reflected on the music in a way. Now that he has (at least somewhat) dug himself out of that ditch, the band is back with 'Born Villain'. Ditching the romance aspects of the past two LP's and bringing back the industrial metal sound, 'Born Villain' was the true comeback album that the band needed.
The opener, "Hey Cruel World..." basically tells you all that you need to know: Manson is going back to his industrial roots and is coming out swinging with this one. The distorted and somewhat clangy guitar riffage, the catchy drum beat, and the screaming vocals spell it out nice and well what to expect from the album. "No Reflection", the album's lead single, is much of the same though with more of a focus on a clubby dance beat rather than being balls to the wall metal. This is a very fun song that is reminiscent of 'Mechanical Animals' while still adding on a new sound to the band's long list of unique styles. The dark, sadistic, and sexy "Pistol Whipped" adds the token sexually driven song to the mix. It's not the strongest song, the combination of arousing beats and whispering vocals go mix together impressively well despite the violent lyrics.
The first two tracks may tell you different, but this album is very diverse. Throwing together tons of different tempos and styles from the slow, bassy "Slo-Mo-Tion", the multi-tempoed and catchy "Flowers of Evil", or the industrial acoustic stylings of the title track, there is certainly a bit of everything in this package. The most satisfying of all, though, are the relentless and heavy tracks like "Murderers Are Getting Prettier Everyday". This track reminds you a lot of 'Antichrist Superstar' tracks like "The Beautiful People" or "Little Horn". The drums are fast and crazy, the guitars are heavily distorted, and the vocals are pissed and show some of Manson's better screaming. It is the accumulation of everything Marilyn Manson fans have been asking for since 'The Golden Age of Grotesque' and is the absolute highlight of this package.
There are also some aspects of a more artistic approach on several tracks. "Overneath the Path of Misery" starts with Manson quoting Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' before going into a catchy, thumping drum beat and almost rap-esque vocals (Gucci Mane not included). The drums are really the highlight of this song. The beats are so well done in the verses and appropriately heavy during the chorus and it really brings the song together well. "The Gardener" is mostly spoken word lyrics but to a bass and drum heavy beat with some very interesting lyrics and metaphors. "Children of Cain" is a very unique song, with interestingly put together vocals and a faint piano being heard in the chorus. It's not for everyone, but it's a curious song that's worth a look.
The only real issues I have are with Manson's vocals. He's got the Ozzy Osbourne syndrome, and he's got it bad. He's getting too old and he's done too many drugs for him to sound sober when he sings. This issue especially shows its head with his word slurring in "The Gardener". Despite this, his screams remain as strong as ever, and have somehow gotten better with his withering voice. Also, "Disengaged" isn't a very good song. The chorus is laughable and the instrumental works are lacking compared to the rest of the album. My final complaint is more of a nitpick, but the bonus track, a cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" features famous actor Johnny Depp on guitar. While the cover is solid (like most of Manson's covers), Depp doesn't really add much. Anyone could have been behind the guitar and it probably would have sounded the same, so the big name feature isn't really a selling point for the song.
'Born Villain' is truly a gift that fans of the Antichrist Superstar have been clamoring for for the past ten years: a return to his industrial roots with interesting lyrics, a good mix of heavy and slow moments, and a new take on his old, classic sound. Manson is back, and hopefully, he'll stay on this track for years to come.