Album Review: Marilyn Manson - Born Villain
By Jeremy Brentham

Summary:Where Brian Warner finally remembers how to be Marilyn Manson again

Throughout the past few years, Marilyn Manson has been somewhat of an enigma. The band and its notorious frontman have been on a thin line, one that has seen them walking between what once was and the terrible mess that could be. With the release of 2007's Eat Me Drink Me the band seemed to stray far away from its industrial metal roots in favor of a classic rock sound. In 2009, when Twiggy Ramirez returned to the fold, the band went for something that sounded like a cross between previous works and the ideas Manson had already hashed out on Eat Me Drink Me. This however, still proved somewhat redundant. Although Manson claimed to be re-invigorated, his lyrics were still wallowing in his up-and-down relationship with actress Evan Rachel Wood. This, along with the music that was void of anything classic Manson, is what pushed so many away from where he was going with the bands music. Now; two years later, a change has finally occurred, one that the band drastically needed.

Manson himself has stated in numerous recent interviews that during the writing and recording of Eat Me Drink Me and The High End of Low his mind wasn't in a good place at all and that he had lost what had motivated him to write some of his classic work. On Born Villain, he harkens back to the days where his music did have meaning by finally ditching the love-in-ruins relationship theme running throughout his previous two outings. He has finally returned to his initial style of doing albums and reverts back to actually singing lyrics that have real meaning. The relationship theme is used scarcely on Villain and when it is (see "Pistol Whipped") its certainly better than anything off the previous two records. Although nothing on Villain comes close to the concepts of The Disintegrator, Omega, or Adam Kadmon (the three main characters that the concepts of Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holy Wood revolve around respectively) its a welcome return from such atrocities as singing about Evan with his Heart Shaped Glasses. His vocal performance, though somewhat over produced at some points, is also spot on. His wails, screams, spoken word antics (which are ever prominent on "The Gardener") and his distinct low melodic voice are emphasized more than ever throughout Villain.

Twiggy Ramirez has also in a sense remembered who he is as well. Being a critical aspect to the sound of the band in its glory days, his return on The High End of Low was greatly welcomed, but his performance was certainly lacking. although there is no doubt the music on the album was made to fit the heart wrenching theme Manson was trying to convey, Twiggy's riffs and bass lines are what drove most of the bands music in the past and his noodling with clean tones and filling an albums worth with mediocre power chord riffing and poor songwriting wasn't what everyone was hoping to hear. On Born Villain, however, he has returned to scathing industrial metal/distorted punk rock guitar tones similar to the ones he used on Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. The riffs are once again memorable, and the bass lines are as huge and distorted as ever (something thankfully always ensured when he plays on a Manson record). These qualities are all present in first single "No Reflection", which can easily sit among the bands previous singles "Rock Is Dead", "Disposable Teens", and "mOBSCENE" with its stomping distorted riff and memorable chorus.

Once again playing out as an album recorded by Manson, Ramirez, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Vrenna, Born Villain sees Vrenna handling all of the drums and percussion as well as a majority of the keyboard work across the album. His keyboard work adds a thick blanket of textures across the fourteen tracks, and his drum work is solid. "Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day" proves to be a highlight not only for Vrenna but for the rest of the band as well, as the song has all of them firing on all cylinders for what might be he heaviest Manson track since "1996". The atmosphere of the album is very dark throughout, with Vrenna's work being a huge contribution to how Villain sounds. Seeing as he has since left the band, his final performance on a Manson record is a memorable and vital one. Another welcome suprise comes from none other than actor and guitarist Johnny Depp, who contributes lead guitar and drums to the bonus track and cover of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". Depp's superb leads and drum work compliment Manson's vocals perfectly and proves to be yet another successful cover of Manson's.

When most of us listen to Manson's music post -2000 there is always going to be a sense that things just aren't the same. After the long gap in which Manson left music and even through his previous two albums its very evident that the frontman has been struggling with the fact that people just aren't going to react the same way anymore. The media in the 90's was perfect for Mansons shock rock antics, but given the state its in now in 2012, its just no longer shocking to people anymore. On Villain, it sounds like Manson has finally learned to accept that and that he's going to keep doing what he's doing and not give a ***, whereas on recent works he's been trying too hard to be something that he isn't in the process of finding solid ground in his music again. This is where the album really succeeds, and even though the bands live show still leaves much to be desired when compared to the glory days of old (the keyboards have been taken out of the live setting completely now), here Manson and his band truly do sound reinvigorated.

Given everything that Manson has been churning out since the early 2000's, it actually comes as a shock that Born Villain is in fact a well made comeback album. For the first time since Holy Wood, Manson and his band have actually shown signs of life that have been long since lost. Its not a perfect album by any means, but its still damn good to hear when held up to the bands previous two outings. Manson has realized finally that though things have changed, he doesn't need to, and simply not caring is something he hasn't done in a long time.