We Are Chaos by Marilyn Manson | An Album that Captures The Madness That Is 2020
Admittedly I was never the biggest fan of Marilyn Manson, even during my younger days as a wannabe scene kid I never gravitated towards his music. I always found his imagery repulsive and his music never resonated with me. It wouldn’t be until I started my undergrad 5 years ago that I somehow got exposed to him (and a myriad of other musicians) through 2015’s The Pale Emperor, suddenly I was intrigued. I ended up going through most of his discography, educating myself more on his lyricism and his place as music’s astral vampire. Safe to assume I’m actually a fan. Nowadays whenever Manson’s name is dropped, I’m always keen as to what he’ll do, especially when it comes to new music.
In his 25+ year long career, Marilyn Manson reveled in the rock scene as the goth rock king with albums such as Mechanical Animals and the acclaimed Holy Wood. He would become the ultimate provocateur for every right-leaning Christian conservative who needed a scapegoat to blame. However, that was the past and Manson is no longer the almighty shock rock god he once was, his recent efforts in this past decade such as Eat Me, Drink Me, and Born Villain were good examples of him slowly falling off. Thankfully, the aforementioned The Pale Emperor and 2017’s Heaven Upside Down signaled a resurgence for Manson that would bring forth a much-needed maturity in his sound.
In a day and age where the world feels a little crazier than it once was, who better to guide us than the self-proclaimed God of Fuck? On his latest album, We Are Chaos, Manson wrestles with death, strife (as he always does) as well as himself over some of his most haunting and cinematic production courtesy of outlaw country singer Shooter Jennings. The result is an album that can stand toe to toe with his cult classics and quite honestly, his most accessible album ever.
To summarize, We Are Chaos sounds like a mix of his last two outings and continues the upward trajectory brought forward by those two albums. It mixes the rough, bluesy, and hard-edge sound of Pale Emperor and the industrial metal vibes from Heaven Upside Down. Chaos also brings forth elements of glam rock and 80’s darkwave into the mix, the result is an album that follows a consistent tone which each song building on each other. Sonically, Manson embraces his inner David Bowie on the lavish “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD” with its melodic guitar riff. He stomps about on the dance floor throughout the bouncy “PERFUME” with its dark hook (“get behind me, get behind me, get behind me, Satan.”) and screams his lungs out on the ghastly “INFINITE DARKNESS”. Manson howls and croons all of over this album, using his low gravely voice in ways like never before. Genuinely I don’t think Manson has ever sounded this good on an album before in a very long time.
Lyrically, Manson’s words have never sounded more cathartic, as evident by the title track “WE ARE CHAOS” as he sings along over a Beatles-Esque inspired groove (“We are sick, fucked up and complicated. We are chaos, we can’t be cured.”) It’s a hook that could best describe how we’ve all fault throughout this mess of a year we call 2020. He admits to his faults and his presence as a damaged man on “SOLVE COAGULA” as he croons (“I’m not special I’m just broken, and I don’t wanna be fixed.”). He reflects on the idea of mortality on “INFINITE DARKNESS” as he howls the harsh reality right into the listener’s ears (“You’re dead longer than you’re alive! You’re dead longer than you’re alive!”.) He aims to include a bit of positivity as he reassures listeners to keep on their path and to never change for the benefit of another person on the infectious hook of “KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER”. Mind you, Manson isn’t here to be the messiah to help us, on the album intro “RED BLACK AND BLUE” he reaffirms listeners who may have forgotten who he was on the spoken word opening (“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.”).
We Are Chaos ends on an extremely high note with the acoustic guitar tinged “BROKEN NEEDLE”. Here, Manson becomes as vulnerable as ever as he compares himself to the needle of a broken record player who will scratch every record he’ll come across. This allegorical representation of his personality is possibly the most mature song Manson has ever put out, hearing him become brutally honest about his ways on the chorus (“I am a needle, digging your grooves, scratch you up, then I’ll put you away”.) is surprising as it is freeing to hear him shed his layers for the finale. Even the pre-chorus (“Are you alright?, cause’ I’m not ok”) is a sentence that I feel has been running through everyone’s minds these past few months as we all try to cope in this post-pandemic/racially charged time, and who better to summarize the madness of this year in such a simple way than the Antichrist Superstar himself?
Overall, We Are Chaos is an excellent album, certainly one I’d recommend for those who are admanat about the former shock rocker. The production is the perfect blend of industrial, gothic rock, and folksy blues. Lyrically Manson has never sounded more present than ever before as his takes on society, his own persona and so forth feels surreal, not to mention his voice sounds better than ever as well. It’s most certainly an album that Manson fans are going to talk about for years to come, and definitely, one that will take a spot on my top 10 list for sure.
Essential Tracks: “RED BLACK AND BLUE”, “WE ARE CHAOS”, “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD”, “INFINITE DARKNESS”, “PERFUME”, “KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER”, “SOLVE COAGULA”, “BROKEN NEEDLE”.