With a variety of both lineup changes, and style adjustments; Marilyn Manson are not the same band they once were. The only original member of the band, vocalist Marilyn Manson (aka Brian Warner) has been able to successfully navigate throughout the Shock-Rock music scene since the band was founded in 1989. Since the band's formation, they have been a source of controversy and in-your-face rhetoric with the release of their first five albums; Portrait of an American Family (1994), Antichrist Superstar (1996), Mechanical Animals (1998), Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000), The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003), and Eat Me, Drink Me (2007). However, with the release of their later albums; The High End of Low (2009), Born Villain (2012), The Pale Emperor (2015), and Heaven Upside Down (2017) the band altered their image to focus more on self-destructive themes, and nihilistic points of view. The band's current lineup is Paul Wiley on guitars/backing vocals, Juan Alderete playing bass/backing vocals, and Brandon Pertzborn on drums. On July 28th, the title track from their 11th studio album WE ARE CHAOS was released, and a release date for the album was set.
On one hand, WE ARE CHAOS ultimately explains Manson's own God-like influence on the world – whether it be unto man, woman, or child. However, on the other hand Manson reveals that he's just an ordinary person like you or me. On first track on the album, "RED BLACK AND BLUE" Manson says in a spoken word introduction, "Now I'm a bee, the king bee/And I will destroy every flower/And I will cover the Earth in honey/And everyone will eat themselves." He goes on to say, "My eyes are mirrors/All I can see are gods on the left and demons on the right." These quotes indicate that Manson possesses a god-like ability of reflecting society back at itself. Once this action is done, the Earth is saturated in the sweet knowledge of self-analysis and self-awareness, thus destroying anything that had previously grown there. Coincidentally, a bee hive functions as a matriarchy, so there is no such thing as a king bee. The song eventually progresses into a chant-like chorus, "Red, black and I'm blue" which sounded similar to a few tracks on The Golden Age of Grotesque given how heavy the guitars played. Other savage lyrics in this track included, "Am I garbage or God/Church or a trashcan/Either way you're a waste of my time" which also help to show Manson's ambivalence towards his own mortality.
The second track to this album "WE ARE CHAOS" was slower moving, and more ballad sounding than the last song. This was a surprise because alone, this song sounded solid, however the song's melody, and placement on the album felt underwhelming after "RED BLACK AND BLUE." The lyrics behind "WE ARE CHAOS" reflect how people share the same commonalities as being "Sick, f***ed up and complicated," which ultimately bring us together. In order to bridge that gap and help bring us together, Manson offers to "be your misery." The music video for this track helps to further this idea of togetherness by broadcasting and transforming everything onscreen into Manson's face or appearance.
The guitar and drums on track three "DON'T CHASE THE DEAD" sounded like they were pulled from the closing credits of an 80's horror movie. They also help ramp up the pace of the album. In this track, lyrics like "Angels in exile/Here lies the dead/An ice cream truck in your inferno" paint the contradictory picture of Hell serving ice-cream. To close the song, repeated lyrics "Don't chase the dead/Or they'll end up chasing you" groaned in the outro. This somehow made the song smoothly transition into track four "PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE."
During this track, a piano is played during the introduction and Manson throttles the pace back down and sings "Honky-tonk devils glitter in/Like royal rats in kitten skin." Further into this song he sings, "To kill the man behind the crowd/Would be viewed as amateur/Because the king is invisible/And death is a profession." This relates back to the demi-god like persona Manson was referring to in "RED BLACK AND BLUE" and also gives his own view of a (n)ever-present or irreverent God. "The man behind the crowd" and the "king is invisible" are also evidence that Manson reveals to the audience, ultimately saying that they are being shown things that this "invisible king" wants them to see. Essentially like a puppet master is in control. However, we can also see Manson's own ambivalence about this through the lyrics "Death is a profession." These lyrics show that even though Manson knows about "the man behind the crowd" he knows that we're all going to die anyway, so there's no point in doing anything about it.
The fifth song on this album "HALFWAY & ONE STEP FORWARD" helps to close out the first half of WE ARE CHAOS by relating back to that metaphor discussed in "DON'T CHASE THE DEAD." Lyrics in the first verse "Smell your blood/It's like a carnival, or state fair/Skin is cotton candy/So easy to melt in my mouth" relate back to "An ice cream truck in your inferno" because both seek to give pleasure while also giving pain. We've already discussed the oxymoronic way that ice cream would certainly melt in Hell, however maybe that's what Manson is after. From the lyrics in "HALFWAY & ONE STEP FORWARD" we can see that while other people are focused on happiness (i.e ice cream trucks, carnival's or state fairs), Manson is focused on vulnerability at such occasions. It's this exact vulnerability that Manson focuses on, and why it's easy for that vulnerability to "melt in my mouth." My favorite part of this track is during the slow, and catchy refrain "I don't wanna know/Don't need to know/You got champagne problems." These lyrics show Manson's neutrality towards anyone else's vices, because he has his own to deal with.
The artwork for WE ARE CHAOS – a ghastly painting of Manson, also shares the same title as track six "INFINTE DARKNESS." This song starts the second half of the album with heavy tones, however when the lyrics come in, the song seems to move in slower motion. In the first verse the lyrics, "My dirty dreams are filled with ghosts/Drowning in a shallow puddle/My muck and mud is thicker than the quickest of my demons" help describe how Manson is faster than the demons haunting him. Consequently, the "muck and mud" of this song stagnates the listener's attention due to repetitive and obvious lyrics. This includes the pre-chorus, "Someone's gonna die soon/Don't get in the way" and the chorus, "You're dead longer than you're alive." The shallowness and indisputable blandness of these lyrics are surprising to hear because one would think that Manson could come up with a better metaphor to summarize how death is always lingering, rather than simply saying "You're dead longer than you're alive." It's almost on the same common knowledge basis like, "If you eat raw meat you'll get sick" or "wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of Covid-19."
Track seven "PERFUME" and track eight "KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER" paint a similar picture of Manson attempting to find a balance between his god-like persona, and being a mortal man. Lyrics in the bridge of "PERFUME", "Am I Superman/Am I superstitious" help back up this point of Manson being in two different stages. Additionally, the lyrics in the second verse of "KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER", "You hand me a shovel and expect me to dig my own grave" show that although Manson doesn't quite know himself, he does know that he won't listen to what anyone has to tell him. This point is nailed down by how he declares "Get behind me, Satan" in the pre-chorus of "PERFUME." According to the Bible, this is what Jesus told those who didn't believe in his words. It relates to Manson because like Jesus, he won't stop just because people doubt him.
Track nine "SOLVE COAGULA," and ten "BROKEN NEEDLE" help bring this album to a close due to their slow rhythm, tempo, and beaten-down lyrics. In Latin, "solve coagula" essentially refers to the breaking down of materials into something new, which is exactly what we see in this song. At this point in the album the listener feels how broken down, defeated, and debilitated Manson is. This information is even spoon-feed to the listener in "SOLVE COAGULA" by him singing "I'm not special, I'm just broken/And I don't wanna be fixed" during the pre-chorus and outro. We can see these feelings bleed over into "BROKEN NEEDLE" given the lyrics in the pre-chorus, "Are you alright/'Cause I'm not okay." Manson ends this song, and album by repeating the lyrics, "I'll never ever play you again/Then I'll put you away" as if to say that once he uses you up like an object, he'll toss you aside like you are such.
Throughout WE ARE CHAOS we can feel and hear a struggle happening within Manson. From tracks like "RED BLACK AND BLUE," to "KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER" we can hear how Manson attempts to find himself, and define himself. Whereas in tracks like "WE ARE CHAOS," and "INFINITE DARKNESS" we hear Manson trying to relate his demons to that of the listeners'. He does this by inherently making the statement that we all experience darkness in our own way, and that we are all bound together by that same darkness and eternal chaos in all of our lives. This album proves that Brian Warner isn't all powerful, and he isn't a God. He's just a man who lives with darkness inside him, just like other men.
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