There’s a tendency with artists whose careers have spanned as long as Marilyn Manson’s has to cast a lamenting eye on the glory days when each new release arrives. In this case, it must also considered that we’re dealing with a man who spent a number of years holding the prestigious honour of middle class America’s favourite hate figure around the turn of the millennium. Sure, the glory days of that era and Holywood, the album spawned as a result of the incredibly vitriolic campaign directed against the band after they were blamed for influencing the two teenagers for the Columbine High School massacre is now twelve years gone. It’s only natural that Manson eventually fell from the public consciousness and each new release since 2003 and the classy, stylised anthems of The Golden Age of Grotesque has seen falling interesting and declining quality. Time has certainly meant that the Marilyn Manson of 2012 is a far cry from a band who were once openly slated and hated almost daily by the media, politicians and every Christian league you could imagine, but Born Villain confirms that it’s also blunted their approach, their spirit and their ability to, at the very least, write a decent song.
The basic ideal of simplistic, thudding, rock songs coupled with Manson’s bleak poetry that has preserved a career remains largely unchanged on the band’s eighth release, but from start to finish Born Villain is a dull, sloppy album. Devoid of any hooks, it has no engaging tunes to speak of and offers little reason to come back for a repeat listen. Admittedly, long–term collaborator Twiggy Ramirez has written some great songs for this band in the past but this is a poor, loose and surprisingly juvenile collection. The main riff on first single No Reflection sounds more like something a twelve year old banging away on his first Fender Squire would come up with as opposed to a band that’ve existed for almost twenty years in some shape or form. Musically, Marilyn Manson were never going to be a progressively-engaging beast, but the lack of basic development or polish here is startling. The drums are heinously soft on the ears with an unforgivably sparse quality to them that limits any power these songs might have, and that’s even before you get to Manson himself. This is what awaits you for the chorus on Pistol-Whipped; “You’re a little pistol, and I’m fuckin’ pistol-whipped,” sounds as juvenile and weak as it looks, and this lowbrow stamp is all over the album.
Having recently managed to catch some footage of Manson performing The Dope Show from 1998’s Mechanical Animals along with No Reflection at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards last month, Born Villain simply helps to confirm everything that was apparent from that brief set; there’s nothing vitriolic or interesting left within this band. On that night, Manson stalked the stage almost as a parody of himself with some truly abysmal vocals and his band looked passive and disinterested. Manson has also described this record as having a “suicide death metal” style, which just goes to show you how far removed from reality his world has become. Everything about Born Villain, from the desperately schlocky lyrics and sloppy music suggests that Marilyn Manson almost believes that his band is still dangerous, still edgy and still subversive. What this actually represents is far more worrying, because this is a record of exceptionally low quality that Manson seems to assume that he can simply get away with it. God knows who he’s trying to fool, because there’s nothing dangerous and barely anything listenable on Born Villain.