Manson’s career has been on a downswing since the late 2000’s. He released two subpar albums that had many saying the “God of Fuck” was dead. Things looked up in 2012 with the release of Born Villain, the strongest album of his later career. With his latest LP, it seems like he’s finally back in his element. Moving away from the shock and hard rock that made his name, Manson finds a new musical direction that may just add the excitement and fire in his career.
The album opens with the slinky groove of “Killing Strangers.” While it doesn’t pack a punch like you might expect based on the title, it’s still a promising track. The thumping pace of the music and the muted sensual guitar riff gives the whole thing a sinister undercurrent. Manson shows he hasn’t lost his knack for provoking lyrics with the chorus: “We’re killing strangers/so we don’t kill the ones that we love.” It’s not until the end that Manson’s vicious side comes out when he growls “You better run” sounding like a snapping dog. It may not be the best on the album, but it is one of the strongest.
For the most part the record is pretty quiet and moody. Tracks like “Warship my Wreck” and “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” are both on the slow side with softer and, in the case of the first song, ethereal music. Though Manson does do his fair share of yelling on certain songs, the music rarely gets in your face and smacks you with over the top with distortion and fuzzy guitar riffs. The only track that comes close to his former hard rock self is the excellent “Deep Six.” This is the one that has the bad ass, punch in the face vibe to it. It has a bit of a dance groove infused with some glam rock influences as if to recall his older material. His voice is also on point as he lets out some shivering screams and wails. It’s something that will satisfy long time fans.
A notable difference with the music is how the blues seeps in. He gave fans a taste of it with “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” but it’s found in other tracks as well. “Birds of Hell Awaiting” has a heavy blues groove to it giving it a well worn, weary mood. The same influence is found in the lengthy closing track “Odds of Even,” where it sounds like Manson is draining your soul with the music. As soon as it starts you can feel the sadness setting in. “Cupid Carries a Gun” has more of a wicked Western feel that works well for the spooky vibe. The track was used for the WGN show Salem and it’s easy to see why with its opening line mentioning witches, tolling church bells, and a hint of the supernatural. The last thing you would expect from Marilyn Manson is the blues, but he infuses in subtle ways that works really well.
While the album isn’t perfect or even the strongest of his career, it works on so many levels. Manson has finally found a sound that seems appropriate for where he is in his career. His past albums have failed because he was trying to keep up with the rock music he made over a decade ago. Here, it doesn’t sound like he’s reaching for something from the past. He doesn’t sound like he’s forcing anything or being unsure of himself. Rather he sounds genuine and confident. This bluesy, sort of mellow side to Manson works well for him because it’s easier to believe than another record where he’s finding things to be angry about. It even offers some moments of reflection, like on “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” with the opening line: “I don’t know if I cannot open up/I’ve been opened enough/I don’t know if I can open up/I’m not a birthday present.” This seems to refer to his 2007 and 2009 LPs where he tried expressing his feelings with little success. It’s as if he resisted change, but now he’s embraced it for the better.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. As I mentioned before this is far from Manson’s best effort, but it does show the fire hasn’t died in him yet. While he hasn’t fully abandoned his hard rock side, he embraces the blues and mellow music to make an honest, genuine album. The songs aren’t perfect, just like Manson, but at least they’re strong. He doesn’t sound like he’s trying to prove he’s still the shock rocker that made parents wet their pants in 1996. He’s obviously moved on and if we keep getting albums like this and his 2012 effort, the future looks good for Manson’s career.