Album Review: Marilyn Manson

born villain (hell etc / cooking vinyl)

So called shock-rocker, Brian Warner, A.K.A. lead singer of Marilyn Manson, has returned with their eighth studio album. It's the first record to be released via Manson's own label, Hell Etc and has been dubbed heavier than its predecessor, The High End Of Low. But with the music hardly groundbreaking in its shock-factor, have we finally become tolerant to Manson's attention-seeking charade?

The opening track, Hey, Cruel World, sets the tone for the album's direction; heavily processed industrial beats and sleazy glam-infused distorted guitars accompanying Manson's distinctive growl and crackle - the very stuff we're all familiar with, and the sound they made their name with in the early days. After the band's slump in the mid 2000's due to a dwindling public profile, it's clear that Born Villain is the band's attempt at a comeback album, hungry for a taste of the limelight once again. In parts, however, the record offers nostalgic hints of the band back in their prime; a cacophony of pulsating, multi-layered rhythms, controversial lyrics and big guitar riffs.

The album's lead track, No Reflection is a commercially accessible Rock tune with an exploding chorus as Manson, true pantomime villain, screams, whispers and moans sinister lines like, "You don't even want to know what I'm going to do to you". Pistol Whipped is probably one of the most 'out there' tracks on the record in terms of lyrical content, playing upon a theme not unfamiliar with Manson's previous material; sexual violence. The track opens with the sound of Manson rhythmically panting and breathing heavily in time to the drum. The line ,"You look so pretty when you cry. Don't want to hit you but the only thing between our love is a bloody nose, busted lip and a blackened eye", is repeated three times with an overlay of a high-pitched, quivering vocal providing a helpless and vulnerable side to the track. The chorus, a simple, three-chord hook, is full and catchy - the use of contrasting dynamics being one of the tricks the band use to add definition and variety through much of the album. Nothing shocking there then!

Slo-mo-tion is a slow, building dirge with a standard Rock/Punk guitar riff , while Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day is an onslaught of fast-paced double-pedal percussion, screaming vocals, frantic guitar parts, swirling sirens and cleverly produced ominous sound effects. Title track, Born Villain is a sombre, brooding affair featuring the freshness of an acoustic guitar contrasted with obvious manufactured-style beats. The inclusion of Carly Simon's You're So Vein is a rather tongue-in-cheek step out out of the darkness, a nod towards Manson's lighter side - much like the band's previous covers; Soft Cell Tainted Love and Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. Drenched with Grunge influences on Lay Down Your Goddamn Arms, the band deliver sludgy riffs and huge melancholy choruses, while Children Of Caine is a hint at the Electronic, Glam-Rock style pioneered by David Bowie. Manson's vocals fit perfectly in this kind of genre, each elongated syllable and vibrato-struck note embellishing the music in with a compellingly theatrical stance.

Despite occasional moments of dynamism and captivation, the album lacks any real substance. Lyrically, there is nothing surprising about Manson singing about teenage rape, abuse or violence, blood and gore anymore - that's what he does. Musically, the formulaic structure of each song often features tedious similarities; quiet, minimal accompaniment, shifting to loud, guitar-driven chorus and catchy hooks. By the end of the album (which halfway through becomes a little wearing) the numerous hints at diverse musical genres and past material reveals itself to be the album's only saving grace. However, for a band deemed so outrageous and controversial, I can't help but feel distinctly average towards this record's offerings.