ALBUM REVIEW: WE ARE CHAOS (MARILYN MANSON)
ALBUM WE ARE CHAOS // ARTIST Marilyn Manson
For years the name Marilyn Manson would invoke fear in the heart of every parent and coerce shock with every move; but it's on the dark lord's 11th studio album WE ARE CHAOS that Manson parts the veil and dives into an absorbing exploration of the soul, with a Bowie-esque gothic delight that is equal parts vulnerable and vitriolic.
Seemingly heralding the disarray lying in wait for us all in 2020, Marilyn Manson's 11th full-length album WE ARE CHAOS was in fact spun to life well and truly before the bizarre turn of events of COVID-19 and other grim realities took hold as the year marched on. An artist heavily laden with external stigma and expectation, Manson, once the crown prince of chaos in his much earlier days, has simultaneously found himself as both a public enemy and revered enigma as he flouted his macabre theatricality amid controversy and critical acclaim (despite the seemingly lackluster 2010s as his shock value and stylistic potency continually declined).
Amid a time when every man and his band/dog are staging comebacks or releasing new material decades after their heyday, the emergence of new material from artists like Marilyn Manson may seem to the uninformed just a half-baked attempt to line some pockets or ride the legacy train; but there's a reason why this moniker for Brian Hugh Warner is one that has seen endurance and shifted acceptance, and Manson's brand new release solidifies the true artistry and dexterity lurking behind any previously perceived gimmicks or exhibitionism. WE ARE CHAOS is not an album for fans who have come seeking the sonic squalor of Antichrist Superstar; rather, it's a fiendishly emotive jaunt that drapes 80s rock in a gothic velvet cape amid piercing and powerful emotives.
It's no secret that Manson has long-held David Bowie close to his heart, previously recalling watching Ashes To Ashes on MTV and the resulting confusion and captivation, as well as the life-altering experience of the vulnerability Bowie flexed on Diamond Dogs. And it comes as little surprise that opening track RED BLACK AND BLUE embodies some significant Bowie swagger, with slinky synths and menacing melodics shimmering as Manson gleefully melds industrial chic with swooning glam on this introductory ditty.
Title track WE ARE CHAOS follows next, offering a salve of spooky beauty that at times recalls the cosmic bliss of The Beatles' Across The Universe juxtaposed with caustic lyrics, while DON'T CHASE THE DEAD leaps out on a hazy cloud of dynamic desert rock.
From the piano driven PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE and HALF-WAY ONE STEP FORWARD, Manson flits between full-blown ballads and glamorous sleaze, before the dank truly bubbles to the surface on the sharp and slinky INFINITE DARKNESS, as Manson momentarily sheds his cheery trappings and oozes into a much heavier arsenal that'll please fans of Manson's earlier industrial wiles.
Following next is the stark, stomping seductress PERFUME that continues to flirt with more industrial tones, while KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER plies some Nick Cave-meets-Bowie-at-a-U2-concert vibes in a sturdy yet frothy outing (and robotically name-checks the track to come in its final seconds).
The closing moments of WE ARE CHAOS begin in sturdy anthemic territory on SOLVE COAGULA , as Manson oscillates between potency in the verses and stripped-back emotives as he repeats "I'm not special, I'm just broken//And I don't wanna be fixed". But it's on BROKEN NEEDLE that Manson culminates all of his stylistic and thematic might, opening with stirring acoustic simplicity, repeating the haunting phrase "are you all right, cos I'm not ok" before building into a profound bout of measured bedlam (with a massive shout out to collaborator Shooter Jennings on instrumentation duties both in this particular moment, as well as throughout the album).
A word frequently thrown around for this 11th album from Manson (including from the man himself) has been "masterpiece" - and it's exceedingly easy to see why, as this startlingly graceful release boasts the danger and dazzle you'd expect from a Marilyn Manson album, but with a calm and balanced spark of pure heart. For the majority out there, forget everything you thought you knew about Marilyn Manson; WE ARE CHAOS is a staggering journey into humanity and self-exploration from an indisputable icon which will shock you in the most beautiful of ways. With the world in tatters, perhaps the most chaotic thing Manson has ever done is respond with empathetic charm.
MARILYN MANSON'S BRAND NEW ALBUM WE ARE CHAOS IS OUT IN THE WORLD NOW VIA LOMA VISTA RECORDINGS. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER