Three years after the release of his last studio album, The High End of Low, Marilyn Manson returns with Born Villain, an album of power and fury, punching its way out of the gate with the opening track “Hey, Cruel World,” then plowing on through a harsh aural landscape that’s relentlessly dark, but also enticingly seductive.
It’s been rightly hailed as a return to form for the shock-rocker. The sound is heavy, but not hardcore. The lyrics burn with anger, but it’s the kind of twisted rage that springs from self-loathing; Manson himself has described it as “suicide death metal.”
The industrial beat keeps up the pace while the guitars lash out; this is music that’s tightly wound, ready to strike at any moment. There’s full on explosiveness, as when the taut pulse of “Overneath the Path of Misery” breaks out into sudden screaming (the song also opens with some spooky lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth), the grinding dirge of “Lay Down Your Goddam Arms,” and the dreamy blur of “Slo-Mo-Tion,” which has the lines that best sum up Manson (or at least the character he portrays on his records): “I hate you all/But somehow/You find me/Incredibly charming.”
The final capper is an unexpected cover of “You’re So Vain” — yes, the Carly Simon song — which also features Johnny Depp in there somewhere. It provides a welcome respite from the preceding onslaught — but like a hair-raising roller coaster, Born Villain is one ride you can’t wait to take again.