Talk about conquering your inner demons.
Born Villain, the first new record from Marilyn Manson since 2008, is surprisingly solid, and tailor-made to shock those who turned their backs on Manson after his last two underwhelming albums.
More than anything, Born Villain is Manson re-visiting what put him on the map. It’s a throwback to yesteryear, nearly two decades after he turned the world upside-down with his bondage suits, black mascara and David Bowie-inspired androgyny. Opener “Hey, Cruel World…” announces his return to the fold, with a lead riff reminiscent of something from Holy Wood and Manson’s rejuvenated-but-still-pissed-off howling on full display.
Multi-instrumentalist Twiggy Ramirez has called Born Villain Manson’s “best record”, and while it won’t quite replace Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals as his master work, it’s a solid set of industrial-rock songs that many weren’t expecting from him, at least compared to the brooding introspection and uneven feel of 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me and 2009’s The High End of Low.
That’s not the case with Born Villain. Instead, Manson did what many have hoped he’d do for years – return to the groove-oriented glam-shock-rock of the late 1990s. Lead single “No Reflection” does just that, a typically hard-charging and memorable guitar lick giving him plenty of room to snarl.
In addition to the return of the groove, the songs on Born Villain have an immediacy and dynamism to them that have been sorely missing from Manson’s musical output for the past decade or so. “Don’t wanna hit you but the only thing/ between our love is a bloody nose/busted lip/ and a blackened eye,” he laments on “Pistol Whipped,” a song featuring some of the album’s most ethereal atmospherics.
A steady heartbeat of industrial-rock drums powers “Overneath the Path of Misery,” while fuzzy electric bass matches up with another crunchy drum rhythm on “Slo-Mo-Tion,” one of the album’s best songs. Maybe it’s the chord progression, maybe it’s Manson’s lyrics, maybe it’s both – but the song seriously slays, allowing Manson to channel Bowie once again, his voice quivering every few lines or so.
Other notable songs include the almost spoken-word “The Gardener,” the haunting “Children of Cain” (sample lyric: “Don’t assume that I’m always with you/It’s just where my mortal body happens to be”), and the Soundgarden-like (yes, you read that right) “Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms.” That last one in particular is a slap in the face upon first listen – it’s basically a Kim Thayil guitar lead matched with Manson-ian goth-rock, and it’s one of the most engaging tracks MM’s unleashed in years.
There’s also a twisted cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” tacked on, with Manson’s pal Johnny Depp on guitars and drums. Yep.
If you weren’t going to give Born Villain a shot, you should – ESPECIALLY those of you that haven’t cared about Manson in years. This album is a remarkably (and, admittedly, surprisingly) high-quality addition into his nearly twenty-year career.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 Stars (out of five)