Thursday, May 10, 2012

Album Review: Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

When I first heard the single, "No Reflection" - there were two thoughts running through my head: 1. The production value has diminished since he has gone indie and 2. The intro guitar, just as the drums are about to kick in sounded generic to me. After seeing the "Born Villain" movie that was done by Shia LeBouf, I was a little disappointed with the single. It seemed a bit weak after the powerful presentation of what would later be known as "Overneath The Path of Misery."

With that said, I was ready to dismiss this album. And this is coming from someone who actually GOT "Eat Me, Drink Me." A long time ago when the first Hot Topic opened, I went in while a friend stood outside the door, just to listen in as I asked the gothic girl behind the counter, "Pardon me but, do you have anything darker than black?" After several listens, one sleepless night I was lying in bed, staring out the window into the dreariness of the night when I threw the disc in. Midway through "If I Was Your Vampire" it dawned on me: I finally found something darker than black! While "EM,DM" was dismissed by longtime fans as whineful drivel, I devoured it.
"The High End of Low", his last album for Intercoke (oops!) Records, Was just that: Some highs and some lows. It was definitely more of a collective than most all of Manson's previous works which, had a flow and consistency. Instead, It had it's highs (Pretty As A Swastika, We're From America, Leave A Scar, Arma...Geddon), it also had its lows, (Four Rusted Horses, WOW, I Have To Look Up, etc.)

Enter a new era, where Marilyn Manson is now an indie artist, with full creative control over his work, without a label breathing down his back, disapproving this, editing out that, etc. Being on his own, he also has alot to prove since his last two albums were considered 'tankers' by the 'musical hierarchy.'
After my previous misgivings on the single, I was ready to be let down. I guess it started with opening the disc itself. Manson, long known for his elaborate booklets and intricate packaging, now has full control of his artwork content. Upon opening the CD, there is no book, no lyrics, and barely even credits! Instead, it feels more like an EP digipack. I knew right then that, this album would fall flatter than the single did. I was ready to dismiss Mary (my affectionate name for Manson), and write him off as a has been who drowned in a vat of premium Absinthe.

One thing I love, is to be proven wrong.

"Hey Cruel World" starts off the album with a very cool digital bouncing with an underlying beat as Manson whispers the chorus. When the verse kicks in, it hits HARD! His vocals sound like a timewarp back to the glory days of "Antichrist" and "Holywood" with its rage and contempt. Then the chorus hits even harder! By the end of the first track, it's all downhill from here, right? After all, "No Reflection" was the 'weak single' right?
Set in the context of following the raging opener, "No Reflection" actually resonates of a throwback of the "Mechanical Animals" era, mixed with a bit of "Golden Age." I was able to appreciate it more giving it a couple more listens. I also realized that, Manson is singing and screaming in ways he hasn't done since 2000's "Holywood" and meaner than "The Golden Age of Grotesque" was.
"Pistol Whipped" is really a throwback to the sound of the 80's goth rock bands, but again has that "Mechanical Animals" feel to it, as do cuts like "Slo-Mo-Tion", "Children of Cain" (which sounds like a lost 'M.A.' song), and "Breaking The Same Old Ground" are tuneful, memorable, and stick to your cerebral cortex and won't let go in the same way "Antichrist Superstar" and "Mechanical Animals" did.
However, there are some very nice surprises here. "The Gardener" and "The Flowers of Evil" display a new side of Manson we haven't heard yet, the latter song sounding heavily influenced by the likes of "Bauhaus" and "The Jesus and Mary Chain." Both songs show a tremendous growth in Manson's writing depth.

Make no mistake about it - this is Marilyn Manson on top of his game. "Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms", "Overneath The Path of Misery" and "Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day" have the same brutality as his first two albums, while the album as a whole catches glimpes of the 3rd, 4th and 5th albums. For those lucky enough to get a copy with "You're So Vain" on it with Johnny Depp on guitar, this is no doubt a rebuttal to Trent Reznor's "Not So Pretty Now" and "Starfuckers, Inc." but also one of his best covers to date!

After just one listen, I knew this would be an album I would have to slowly digest... on repeat!

I just hope the packaging on the vinyl is better than the CD, especially since I have the UK version on pre-order, as well as 2 copies of the US version (a single LP missing the bonus "You're So Vain" found on the UK double LP edition.) Yes, I like it that much, I give it 3 thumbs up!

Rating: 7 out of 7 Headknockers