Album Review: Marilyn Manson – Born Villain

The Marilyn Manson circus has travelled a long way over the last 18 years, weathering controversy, lawsuits, internal differences of opinion and apparently distressing comparisons to Lady Gaga.

The band has hacked an unabashed path through the masses using shock tactics as forms of expression and explicit marketing, although not necessarily in that order.

The mainstream fear of Manson’s 90’s grotesque sideshow has subsided, with man and band alike having fallen out of the public spotlight.

What started off as shocking had become contrived and what was once condemned as despicable is regarded as somewhat ridiculous by a new generation of listeners.

Manson, however, is back with aplomb.

[Caution: Strong video content]

Born Villain is the group’s eighth studio album and, prior to release, was slated by guitarist Twiggy Ramirez as a likely contender for their “best album yet”. For a group well known for reinventing itself from one record to the next it is tricky to define “best” in their case with clarity. Manson’s latest reincarnation is by no means groundbreaking or for that matter original, but it certainly cuts far deeper than his previous work.

Born Villain is arguably reinvention through imitation. By Manson’s own admission the record was heavily influenced by the likes of Joy Division, Bauhaus, and Killing Joke. Couple this with industrial beats, at times bordering on cybergoth, and Manson’s cunningly serrated vocals and you’ve got a heady progressive mix – evidence perhaps that Manson is either evolving from a muso’s perspective or simply mellowing with old age.

The record begins as it means to continue. The opening track Hey, Cruel World, kicks off with a decidedly The Velvet Underground groove before giving way to minimalist but nevertheless defiant and smoldering rhythm. The pace of the album remains consistent with the more riotous Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day being the only exception to the mold.

Drudging, ominous bass lines on tracks such as No Reflection and The Gardner, that bring to mind similarly threatening licks and patterns laid down by Nicky Wire on The Holy Bible, nicely compliment the sly, brooding mood Manson does well to sustain throughout the album. The camp but comic bonus track cover of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, featuring the ample strumming of Johnny Depp, is a slightly odd twist but certainly lightens the mood, albeit unintentionally.

Manson’s lyrical delivery has changed little from previous outings, although there seems to be a more introspective and autobiographical approach at work here than the usual provocative stance he’s famous for taking.  That notwithstanding, Born Villain packs a masochistic punch akin to Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals that could leave the casual listener unsure of their ground.

For staunch Manson fans, Born Villain is a must-have – the latest chapter in an increasingly precarious legacy. But those with little more than a passing interest are likely to be of the opinion that it’s been done before, just better”.

Frisco rating: 6/10

Frisco Rosso

With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.


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