Marilyn Manson: Born Villain – Music Review
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
I knew this day would come. Though I have been listening to Marilyn Manson for almost all of his career, I have never officially written an album review for the band before. Well, listening to Marilyn Manson is actually quite an understatement for me. Back in High School, which is when he was at the peak of his career for most of my time there, I was that kid that proudly wore a Marilyn Manson T-shirt almost every day.
Throughout the years I have kept up with Manson, though I am not nearly into it as much as I used to be. This is partly because of my natural ever expanding taste in music and party because, frankly, the last two albums (Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End of Low) weren’t quite up to my expectations. As a Marilyn Manson fan, I am in the majority opinion that Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood were the best of the bunch. Despite me not being satisfied with the last two albums, I did enjoy pieces of them here and there. I also found my yearning for the sounds and feelings the so called “Triptych” gave me in my youth.
Born Villain, Marilyn Manson’s eight studio album, has been described by the man himself as a comeback album. While Manson’s ego didn’t cause him to disavow all knowledge of the last two outings (and he shouldn’t do that), Manson did acknowledge in a recent interview, in his own way, that he also had problems with them, and that he wasn’t in the right mindset when they were recorded.
So, it is true? Has Marilyn Manson made a come back?
Well…mostly yes. While Born Villain won’t launch him back to superstardom, this album is definitely the best effort since The Golden Age of Grotesque. This album may go as far as even winning back fans who were totally put off by EMDM and/or THEOL. It’s out with the classic rock style with a Marilyn Manson twist and in with industrial/alternative metal with a dash of Mechanical Animals glam rock thrown in, though in a much darker shade.
In a way, this almost feels like longtime Marilyn Manson contributor/song writer Twiggy Ramirez’s comeback too. While Twiggy did return in time to work on THEOL, the sound still didn’t have that Mansonesue flavor fans adore. Thankfully, it seems that Twiggy got his groove back, again, for the most part.
While I do feel this is the best Manson album in literally nine long years, there were a couple of spots in Born Villain that I wasn’t too thrilled with. Part of my problems in Manson’s later years is that a majority of the tracks didn’t get stuck in my brain as easily as earlier songs did, or worse, I completely forgot about some songs. Having said that, I can honestly say that even the parts of the album I didn’t enjoy too much is still well ahead of other missteps Manson has made in recent years.
However, when this album hits the mark, I was smiling from ear to ear on how close it captured the spirit of my favorite Manson material. While most of the album sounds very familiar, thankfully it isn’t a lazy cut and paste job. “Hey, Cruel World…” provides the best opening track for the band for this kind of album. It’s almost as if Manson and Twiggy were thinking, “You thought we were done? Nope!” Even the first single that follows, “No Reflection” can easily fit in with the best Manson singles with its incredibly catchy chorus and a typical menacing bass line.
A new fan favorite is sure to be “Overneath the Path of Misery” that truly announces that Manson is back with a vengeance. Frankly, Manson and the band completely lets loose here to the point where this could have easily been a lost track from just about anywhere in the 90s. I can’t decide if this track is my favorite or if the winner is “Slow-Mo-Tion”. With a slick bass groove dictating the flow of the song, I found myself unknowingly nodding along as if it’s been part of Manson’s catalog for years.
Two tracks that remind me of a darker Mechanical Animals are “The Gardener” and “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms.” While the former has a spoken word verses, the chorus reminds me of the more over the top arena glam rock style found on Manson’s third album. Meanwhile, the latter reminds me of the more serious nature that album went in, again, especially during the chorus.
Fans who have been waiting for a “1996″ or “Burning Flag” style anthem will feel at home with “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day.” In other words this is the heaviest Manson has been in quite sometime, and it is nice to finally get a more energetic, fast-paced metal song after all these years. While the album does slow down in tempo once again to close itself out, both the title track “Born Villain” and “Breaking the Same Old Ground” have a certain Holy Wood calmness to them.
Manson even produced another successful cover with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Fun fact: Johnny Depp played both guitar and bass for this one, and he does just as good as job as anyone transforming the song to suit Marilyn Manson’s style.
I would like to emphasize that while I spent most of this review comparing what I liked on this albums to older Manson material, the album still has a fresh feel to it. Like any band that’s been around for a couple of decades, Marilyn Manson pulls off sounding familiar without leading down a worn out path. At worst it feels that you are on a familiar path, but hey, I feel this is an album that Manson fans have been wanting for ages.
Despite that, I would also like to point out that while I certainly enjoyed Born Villain, the quality still doesn’t come close to the big three albums most Manson fans constantly cite as the best of the bunch. Yes, this does qualify as a comeback album, but it’s still not quite up there…yet. I say that because I feel that Marilyn Manson has finally rebooted itself in a successful way. If both the band and the person keep this kind of work up, we may as well get an even better return to form.
Attitude-wise, the way Born Villain was approached felt like Manson’s first, Portrait of an American Family. Much like that album, it feels like everyone involved had more fun, even with the usual dark themes and cynical lyrics full of dark puns with Manson’s usual play on words.
Also, Manson himself feels more genuine this time. THEOL felt like he was trying way too hard to bring back the controversy he generated in the 90s. That greatly disappointed me because the man himself failed to realize that his fans that stuck with him throughout the years enjoyed the music, not the fact that his lyrics and actions pissed off religious figures, politicians and moral guardians. Born Villain does what a Marilyn Manson album should do both lyrically and stylistically — just simply be itself. It’s about time he realized that.
All photos from marilynmanson.com.