We were actually quite excited about Marilyn Manson‘s eleventh studio album WE ARE CHAOS. Intrigued by the prospect of a co-production between Manson and country artist Shooter Jennings (the son of Waylon Jennings), we had high expectations for what a dark, gritty rock album would sound like with Southern twist. The question is whether or not we were sorely disappointed.
WE ARE CHAOS opens with RED BLACK AND BLUE which epitomises the phrase “to lull into a false sense of security”. With its terrifying distorted vocals, heavy guitars and dark synths, this was the true Manson horror that we’ve come to know and love. It’s honestly a bit of a highlight.
However, once it leads into the title track, the album completely changes tack. Now we’ve got a melodic ballad with a bit of a post-punk edge. It tries way too hard to be anthemic and infectious, and Manson’s voice is frankly jarring throughout the restrained verses, and not in an intense, formidable, Nick Cave-esque way – more in a “has Marilyn Manson lost his mind?” kind of way.
We not just saying that because we think Marilyn Manson shouldn’t do melodic ballads, because DON’T CHASE THE DEAD actually does it quite well. It’s dark and mournful, but still with warm synths that kind of reminds us of Bauhaus. HALF-WAY & ONE STEP FORWARD is another decent gothic track, led by piano with occasional country twangs.
But there are too many tracks where Manson is trying too hard to create something artistic and unique, to the point where it just sounds jumbled and incohesive. PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE and SOLVE COAGULA are two such examples, the former switching from a dreamy pop tune to a classic rock anthem in a clunky arrangement and the latter giving us 2005 emo but with inexplicable pedal steel intermissions.
INFINITE DARKNESS is a spooky track and more on the heavier side; not too far removed from the Marilyn Manson we’re used to; while PERFUME is about as upbeat as Manson gets, although it sometimes comes off a little cheesy. Still, it’s quite hard to get that “Get behind me, Get behind me, Get behind me, Satan” refrain out of your head once it’s in there.
KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER and album closer BROKEN NEEDLE are forgettable songs, the latter unforgiveably so – no album should close with an anti-climax.
It’s not a terrible album altogether, but it’s certainly likely to divide opinion between a lot of Marilyn Manson fans. We’re not denying it’s a ballsy move for a “shock-rocker” to produce an album that’s a little more serious and heartfelt, but it moves along at such a sluggish pace and the weird melancholic rock surprise wears off after a couple of songs. Disappointing? Decide for yourself…