Marilyn Manson's 13th album is 42 cheesy minutes that feels like 42 long, LONG hours.
2020 has been a year of unexpected events and strange happenings. In the most recent instance of “because 2020 lol” we find ourselves in the presence of a new, Bowie-inspired album from goth-rock and metal legend Marilyn Manson. In perhaps an even more surprising turn of events, the shock-rocker famous for his terrifying style, eye-catching dress sense, and mortifying lyrics has somehow conspired to release possibly the dullest album of the year, and certainly of his career.
It must be said that amidst the buzz online surrounding this album, I seem to be in the minority and that many are praising Manson’s new, raw, emotional tracks and his gritty but reserved style. The inspiration of glam-rock artists like Bowie is clear to see throughout WE ARE CHAOS, but this slower, much less angry, sound Manson exhibits is sadly nothing short of boring. Just suggesting that THE Marilyn Manson, the man with the mythical missing rib, or the supposed breast implants, could possibly produce something boring should be a crime, but sadly nothing on WE ARE CHAOS stands out or grabs your attention. If it does, however, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
‘RED BLACK AND BLUE’ opens the album with a cringe-inducing cheesy goth spoken-word piece, featuring lines like “I am a bee. The King bee/ and I will destroy every flower” and “I will cover the world in honey/ and everyone will eat themselves.” Manson’s failed attempts at dragging his dark gimmick kicking and screaming into the modern-day result in lyrics that would look at home on Jaden Smith’s infamous Twitter feed.
Manson’s early work captivated audiences and terrified parents, and with WE ARE CHAOS I was hoping that at the very least, I’d be made to remember why I loved Manson when I was a young teen. Alas, I looked in the mirror 3 tracks in and found no trace of white face paint, nor thick black eyeliner. The album carries a sense of vapid nostalgia. Tracks like ‘INFINITE DARKNESS’ serve to be an anachronistic look at the early 2000s, when Manson peaked, rather than a rekindling of that magic he captured so long ago.
The hints at the old industrial sound of yesteryear are not the only archaic feature of WE ARE CHAOS. By ‘HALF-WAY & ONE STEP FORWARD’ I was already sick of his vocal style. That classic drawn-out whisper, into torn-vocal-cord growling, was fun and macabre at first, but when every single song sounds like pouring the weird black sludge that collects at the bottom of your bin directly into your ear, it gets old fast. This album simultaneously asks and answers the question “how much vocal distortion is too much?”.
Getting to the end of this album felt like a chore. The second half really drags, and when almost every single song sounds the same, it’s difficult to stay enthused. Were it not for wanting to give WE ARE CHAOS a fighting chance, I would likely never have re-listened to it, and none of the songs really stand out as something I would add to a playlist or even return to for a one-off. ‘KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER’ is probably the highlight. It’s nothing special but the lyricism is quite exciting, and the hooks are definitely there in the chorus. Other than that, the title track is at least interesting simply for how sizable of a departure it is from Manson’s older work.
Marilyn Manson’s contributions to the alternative music scene are undeniable. His outstanding character and his tantalising mystique justify his place in metal’s Mount Rushmore, but tragically, this latest offering is plodding, repetitive and most disappointingly of all… boring. It’s not a total failure, and there are some interesting concepts at play, but essential listening this is not. Check it out if you’re a fan of Manson, but if you’re looking to dip your toe into the strange and exhilarating world of the Antichrist Superstar, definitely don’t start here.
WE ARE CHAOS is available now via Loma Vista Recordings. Check out the video for ‘WE ARE CHAOS’ below!