Always unpredictable, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson sticks true to form on his 11th studio album, the aptly titled WE ARE CHAOS. The album not only digs into Manson’s heavy industrial rock side but also mixes his more ethereal and atmospheric tendencies in a more pronounced way than on past records. He brought aboard collaborator Shooter Jennings on this album, a pairing that one might expect would create for more of a Southern rock vibe. And that assumption would be wrong. Jennings’ presence influenced the artist’s vocal delivery and some of the instrumentation—a direction he may have already been heading in last year with a cover of 1940s standard “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”—but the songs themselves are still all Marilyn Manson.
WE ARE CHAOS opens with a spacey phased-out spoken word intro. “Now I’m a Bee/ The king bee/ And I will destroy every flower,” he states over an apocalyptic mix of screaming crowds and bullhorns. It’s truly a portrait of chaos that surrounds the album. “Red, Black, and Blue,” the first song on the record, kicks in with a bass-and-drum-heavy intro before slick thrashing guitars and Manson’s signature scream enters on the punishing chorus. The song covers expansive ground.
The title track goes in almost the entirely opposite direction, opening with a surprisingly bright acoustic intro. It sounds like a hell-bound Mumford & Sons with driving layered acoustic and electric guitars, pulsing percussion and some piano accompaniment. There’s a uniquely infectious chorus with the repeated sing-along lines: “We are sick/ We are chaos/ We can’t be cured.” It’s not a song you’d expect to come from Marilyn Manson, while also somehow managing to still make perfect sense.
“Don’t Chase The Dead” begins with a piercing scream from Manson that blends into the upbeat, guitar-driven track. The track manages to create a feel not unlike that of Tom Petty while still achieving Manson’s intensity. Again, it’s a song one wouldn’t expect from Manson but would still be pleased to discover. “Paint You With My Love” slows things down even more for probably the most distinctly Jennings-influenced track. Manson’s vocals here are surprisingly restrained and cutting over the lush, dark and bluesy arrangement. Despite the quiet start, the song builds to a frenetic finale—with Manson screaming over a pulse-pounding dramatic breakdown.
The industrial-leaning “Half-Way & One Step Forward” brings a more piano- and beat-driven version of Manson. The melody is dark and haunting, and his deep vocal range supplements the music well. “I don’t wanna know/ Don’t need to know/ We got champagne problems,” he sings before some light strings enter at the finale.
The album begins to veer back toward more of a traditional Marilyn Manson sound on “Infinite Darkness,” which melds darkly brooding verses and an unrestrained, unrelenting chorus. Manson has said that his and Jennings’ goal was to create a side A/side B effect with the album, and that tonal shift is most evident with the introduction of this track.
“Perfume” is an all-out blues rock stomper while still keeping the heard metallic edge for which Marilyn Manson is known. Toward the end Jennings melds Manson’s screamed vocals with a more infectious sung chorus. “Keep My Head Together” is heavy on beefy drumming, but again works in a fuzzy blues-guitar riff that helps balance the two sounds.
The expansive “Solve Coagula,” meanwhile, directs listeners in a number of surprising directions—from hard rock balladry to dirty blues-driven guitar and dramatic industrial metal. The song fades to a moody, layered half sung and half-spoken outro. The dramatic final track, “Broken Needle,” takes all the ingredients and combines them into one stylistic soup. At times heavy, at times soft, emotional and rage-filled. “I’ll never ever play you again,” Manson repeats as the music fades off into the the dark abyss.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.