From an intense eagerness for and satisfaction from it is fair to say for many the jury has been out regarding Marilyn Manson over recent years and releases. For others it has been a time to rip into what musically has seemed like a confused and less than invigorated and enthused creative talent. His music has gone hand in hand with outrage and direct provocation to enflame and rile up but the world has evolved and swept past him in its ability to go to extremes so that his skill to shock and leave society raging has been dissipated alongside less than potent music. Since “The Golden Age of Grotesque” or arguably even “Holy Wood”, subsequent releases have found him wanting compared to his previous work, only offering sparks of the impressive Manson invention that once were rampant.
His eighth album “Born Villain” released through his own imprint ‘Hell, etc’ under the overview of Cooking Vinyl marks in his own words his ‘comeback’. It is the return of an artist who had not only grown tired of his musical direction but with himself as a person and it has to be said that from an isolated setting where he wrote “Antichrist Superstar”, a virtually empty apartment to fire up nothing more than focused creativity, he has emerged with the best collection of impressive songs he has spawn in a long time.
“Born Villain” does not quite find the heights of the sound that made him an important musician and presence in rock music but it certainly is a return to a form that enables his incisive thoughts and ideas to flow with confident ease and attention grabbing power. The album does not strike through into vast new territories or ooze with striking originality, nor does it have songs that remain with you once they have left off corrupting the ear but it is a vibrant and irrepressible captivation. Expecting more of the same hit and miss material from recent albums the release has surprised and instead turned out to be a thoroughly pleasing collection of inventive and imaginative songs. Though it does not venture near to being a classic it is a more than average album and the first in a while to enthuse persistent attention.
From the opening riff niggling ‘Hey, Cruel World’ the album emerges as a sleeker and more stripped down release in sound and production allowing the heart and essence of each song to show its hand alongside elements ensuring a perpetual additive edge. The opener is a ravenous metallic predator which rips slithers out of the senses with sharp guitar work from the returning Jeordie White (Twiggy Ramirez) and a knowing and complimentary production from Chris Vrenna.
The single from the album ‘No Reflection’ follows and though it is no ‘Disposable Teens’ or even a ‘mOBSCENE’ it offers an energetic and intriguing entrance into the album and the ‘new’ Marilyn Manson. It is like the album as a whole, unremarkable in the ability to remain after its departure but whilst teasing and playing with thought and attention it is very satisfying.
The man has not lost any of his anger and spite either, his venomous and provocative lyrical intent as harsh and distinct as ever and especially caustic in the likes of the excellent ‘Pistol Whipped’ and the stoner/blues tinged ‘Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms’, with both showing examples of the fuller diversity of sounds influencing the album.
Manson has said he revisited old influences that inspired him initially like Killing Joke, Joy Division, Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Bauhaus, and Birthday Party. This is apparent throughout with songs like the Bolanesque ‘Slo-Mo-Tion’ riding a definite Bauhaus/Tones On Tails feel and ‘The Gardener’ a pulsating mix of Iggy and Pete Murphy in an industrial metal fuelled frenzy. This is possibly the best track on the album though previously mentioned ‘Pistol Whipped’ and the heavy bristling aggressive ‘Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day’ give a good fight for the honour.
Despite a less than inspiring cover of ‘You’re So Vain’ featuring Johnny Depp on guitar, “Born Villain” can be heralded a return to form for Marilyn Manson even if not a full discovery of former glories. It is an easily satisfying and enjoyable release and we will take that eagerly.