Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

 This review may be a little more difficult to write as accurately as possible due to certain circumstances. At a younger age, as cliched as it seems, the music of Marilyn Manson saved my life. It changed the person that I was forever. At the time, I had emerged from a long spell of bullying and other various personal problems outwith school. It led to a state of self-loathing and dissatisfaction with the way my life was being led and my main focus in life became music and a desire to start listening to that which no one else was. Having heard the name of Marilyn Manson in the past due to constant snickering of how much of a freak he was and some of the dreadful rumours about him, I figured I'd be giving a giant middle finger to everyone around me if I actually started listening to the band's music. Not long after, having listened to every album from 1994s rampaging drug fueled stomp Portrait of an American Family to the melancholic grandeur of 2009s The High End of Low, I was totally immersed. At the time, listening to Manson felt more like a statement and I realised quickly that it was so much more than that. Albums like Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood and The Golden Age of Grotesque are filled with fist-pumping anthems that through their angry outlook are bursting with a sense of positivity allowing listeners to celebrate their individuality in their passionate sense of fury. And of course afterwards, my love for for Manson swayed me to listen to a whole new range of bands. I've never been the same since. And I've never been happier.

 So a few years later, my so-called depression days are behind me and though my music taste has advanced since my love for the double M has remained prominent. So I'm a little more reluctant to speak of their recent efforts in the way that many others have in terms of live performance and of eighth album Born Villain.
 The album is once again an enjoyable display of Manson unleashing his more dynamic mature artful range of music. It's an understandable sound for Manson. As he reaches his middle age, creating an album simply designed to be a collection of aggressive adrenaline pumped rock songs would undoubtedly sound forced in a Metallica Death Magnetic sort of way.
 But Born Villain still has that touch of Manson darkness. From the suspenseful opening of Hey, Cruel World with it's grim tone of guitar and subtly pulsing electronics, that launches into pounding chorus that conveys Manson's rich sense of refined fury, the darkened atmosphere of the album is all too real. This same kind of gripping darkened atmosphere can be found everywhere, from he gothic tinted industrial metal of No Reflection, the rapid fist pumping frenzy of Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day and the doomy feedback drenched riffs that make up Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms.
 This sense of atmosphere is more prominent on this album than before. While Manson's earliest work was a matter of using samples in the midst of songs, such techniques on Born Villain are used more for the purpose of soundscaping, which gives Overneath the Path of Misery and The Flowers of Evil that extra terror. In fact at one point of The Flowers of Evil, one is reminded of the twisted sampling that made 1995s infamous EP Smells Like Children as spine-chilling and terrifying as it remains today.
 But this is something to consider. The creation of the correct atmosphere is the only thing that gives this album any sort of terror. While Manson remains as creative and dark as ever, Born Villain is a sign that the shock factor has disappeared. Manson just doesn't have the ability to frighten listeners naturally anymore. His demeanor has become so much less chilling. It's like an older relative still trying to use a toy spider to scare you. While once terrifying you, it's just not doing the trick even though it's still as hairy and creepy as ever. What am I talking about? This is probably best summed up whenever he tries to whisper in your ear or intentionally sing in a disturbing manner a Capella. It's not scary now, but it seems like you should scream to it sarcastically just to keep him going.
 But, even if Manson can't shock now, he often makes up for it by being effortlessly cool. His spoken word verses on The Gardener are filled with such sly charisma that it makes the song intense and gripping enough on it's own and that's without mentioning the spell-binding chorus. And this coolness is displayed in the performance and overall nature of the bonus cover of Carly Simon's You're So Vain. Manson's darkened industrial take on the song once more displays his rousing performance and major hooking performance. Not even having Johnny Depp play drums on the song can steal from Manson's limelight.
 So, that review may have had some bias within it, I'll let you decide. But Born Villain is an undeniably strong effort from Marilyn Manson. Even as the venom that spiked his earliest work fades away, the album still packs several big punches, and obtains a major darkness and frightening charm throughout it's tenure. What's more is that it's a constantly interesting, dynamic and fresh effort across the album. It should be a fan pleaser, but if not it's definitely one that will please people who have managed to hold on to Manson's music in every phase. Such as myself. And as I make the choice to stop writing music reviews for the next few weeks as a means to put more focus on studying for exams and I think of how without the music of Marilyn Manson, I'd probably not be nearly as satisfied, fulfilled or have experienced any kind of escape or sense of uniqueness throughout the years that have led me to these important events. In extreme thoughts, who even knows if my life would exist today had it not been for me starting to listen to the double M. Yes, the music of Marilyn Manson is something I've been thankful for throughout my life and Born Villain means my praise can keep coming. Bye.

 Marilyn Manson's Born Villain is out now via Cooking Vinyl. The band will play at the O2 Academy, Brixton on the 5th of July with Lacuna Coil.

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