Manson’s writing has been on a stellar path since the ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’ transformation album. He has never been afraid to lay his soul bare and create the music that hordes of followers can relate to. Whilst his earlier success of ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and ‘Holy Wood’ would make most artists sit back on a musical algorithm that has been successful for them, Manson understands the requirement to remain present both within an ever-evolving bloodthirsty business but also to keep himself and his fanbase interested throughout the years. I don’t believe his earlier shock value albums and live sets were ever to bring a decaying critic and media to its knees whilst screaming ‘wont someone think of the children’. He has only written what a mass of people already feel and try to scream out, but unfortunately their voices aren’t heard, the joy for us is Marilyn Manson’s voice IS heard and echoes through the vast webs of the current deceitful and horrific, rotting society.
‘We Are Chaos’ follows suit of his prior two albums, ‘Heaven Upside Down’ and ‘The Pale Emperor’, its Marilyn Manson taking his abilities within new experiences. Whilst this may not suit most fans who only like the harder industrial side of his works or the more popularized elements of ‘Antichrist Superstar’ this is a concept that shows he is an extraordinary artist regardless of the stage props and mirrored masks. The collaboration between himself and Grammy Award winning producer, Shooter Jennings exposes newer elements that we haven’t seen before whilst remaining true to the blood and bones of a great Manson record.
As Marilyn Manson has spoken himself “This concept album is the mirror Shooter and I built for the listener - it’s the one we won’t stare into. There are so many rooms, closets, safes and drawers. But in the soul or your museum of memories, the worst are always the mirrors. Shards and slivers of ghosts haunted my hands when I wrote most of these lyrics. The concept is a work of art and fells along the lines of a movie soundtrack, each track has its own emotive stamp connecting with the listener in its own unique way.
The record opens with an echoed spoken word over the top of an industrial warp, as Manson reiterates his disdain for organized religion. As the drums kick to backing screams alongside the bass ‘Red, White and Blue’ takes on a familiar feel to the Manson we know, the industrial elements, the angst and the solidarity of a genre he has refined over his thirty-year span. Its ballsy, hitting in with a catchy chorus he screams ‘…Am I garbage or God? Church or a trashcan? Either way you're a waste of my time’.
‘We are Chaos’, the title track is a hymn to the faithful fans who have walked Manson’s career with him, it’s an almost heroic rock ballad with indie undertones. It gives an impression of an anthem in the background of an independent movie as the people stand up against the oppressors, chanting the lyrics of ‘…..We are sick, fucked up and complicated. We are chaos, we can't be cured’. This will be a stadium moment of raised lighters and unity when we get to see this record toured across the world.
Leading straight into ‘Don’t Chase The Dead’ we’re hit with a massive eighties feel, the synth, the pop indie feel that was across MTV and Top Of The Pops, besides its lyrics the rhythm still gives a positive feel, a want to live for the moment. I particularly love the levels of the instruments within this track, every aspect is showcased throughout. The backing vocals hauntingly sit amongst Manson’s chorus and the synth section.
We are then treated to the exceptional work of Shooter Jennings, as his style of blues oozes onto ‘Paint You With My Love’. It’s a ballad with a romancing display from bass and piano, that hits into a crescendo with Manson’s gravel-soaked screams and vocals. This is an symbolizing track for me on the album, whilst I’m open enough to say I am a lover of the heavier, industrial Manson, there is something about this track that speaks to my soul.
‘Half Way And One Step Forward’ is the blended spiral of a rock and synth track, the elements sit amongst the background, only peering out at opportune moments to signify an emotive change within the lyric.
At this point we come to the end of Side A, yes, I know you’re probably streaming or listening on a CD but ‘We Are Chaos’ was created like the good old days of vinyl and has a very distinct two-sided story to tell. Side B or the last five songs of the album have a different vibe to it, its more of the industrial feel that have seen in earlier albums.
The artwork that adorns the cover of the record is a piece that Marilyn Manson created himself, it’s a watercolour self-portrait, titled ‘Infinite Darkness’. The track that shares the same name, pulls the same heavy emotion from it as the artwork does, as an almost tribal trance beat comes in those sinister almost possessed vocals resonate in a heartbeat. His lyrical content expressing his antipathy for the celeb culture with ‘….Just 'cause you're famous doesn't mean you're worth anything In this world or the next one or the one before’
Within the next track it’s a sound and texture within the layers that were have seen more within prior albums, as the second verse and pre chorus almost lends an industrial riff from ‘The Beautiful People’. ‘Perfume’ is sure to be a crowd pleaser to every Manson fan, it’s got energy, and an older feel like looking back amongst memories that we have shared as an audience with the artist.
Following comes a stomper of a rock track that is drenched with components from the eighties, again the simplicity within the layering on this album allows a gritty bassline and almost angelic synth to play amongst each other without overbearing the vocals. ‘Keep My Head Together’ gives more of an insight into Manson’s make up as he states ‘…..Don't try changing someone else
You'll just end up changing yourself. I keep my head together, Better keep your head together. A very relevant message to many out there trapped within the conforms of this broken society we drift through.
The marks of Shooter Jennings again decorate ‘Solve Coagula’ his Southern Rock creeping through a rolling bassline and guitar riff as Manson states ‘…I'm not special, I'm just broken, And I don't wanna be fixed.’ The last few words of this at the end of the song has a synth that heightens into what I expected to be a massive breakdown yet eerily stopped dead. You know it works, it intrigued me to listen again for something I had missed, I can’t wait to see how this is played out live on stage, will there be a further breakdown or is this it? I’d for one love to pick his brains about the why’s on this track.
Finishing the masterpiece that is ’We Are Chaos’ is the epitomising track of the collaboration of Manson and Jennings. It’s a rock ballad through out the first half, concentrating on Manson’s vocals amongst an acoustic background, as we heighten through the chorus, we see added piano and guitar with a simplistic bassline to accompany. As we hit into the verse after we are taken on that Southern Country Rock feel as the bass and drums fill the space that emotes a soundtrack to a modern western movie. Manson finishes the track and album with tormented vocals of ‘….I'll never ever play you again, I'll never ever play you again, I'll never ever play you again, Then I'll put you away.’
The concept of the album is clever, it’s an artist showing where he has come from and what he has learnt. If you’re listening this expecting to hear the latest shock value piece, go and turn the mainstream media on, as you are wanting music for the wrong reasons. This is Manson stripped, and bare, showing what he has always excelled in, writing music that comes from the depths of his soul.
RED BLACK AND BLUE WE ARE CHAOS DON’T CHASE THE DEAD PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE HALF-WAY & ONE STEP FORWARD INFINITE DARKNESS PERFUME KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER SOLVE COAGULA BROKEN NEEDLE
Album review conducted for The Rockpit, Australia 28 September 2020