Don’t let words like ‘accessible’ and ‘relatable’ make you believe that Marilyn Manson’s latest work can’t still crawl under your skin. The shock rock artist’s new record, We Are Chaos, goes places that might bewilder listeners, that is if they haven’t been following Manson’s later-day efforts.
His consistent push to a hazier, more introspective approach continues here in its most moody form yet. Though We Are Chaos is possibly the most anthem-prone set of songs Manson has ever compiled, it also dives deep into his own back-catalog of styles and ideas, particularly Mechanical Animals’ Bowie-esque glam. The mid section of the album, “Don’t Chase The Dead,” “Paint You With My Love,” and “Half-Way And One Step Forward” get so especially Bowie that it’s almost as if “Lazarus” has a b-side.
The other parts of the record are a little more surprising. The opening, “Red, Black And Blue” is pretty standard political fare comparable to the Pale Emperor days but its “We Are Chaos”, the title track and also lead single, that exemplifies this record was made with country music legend Shooter Jennings. It’s Manson at his most cuddly and least intimidating but he fits his signature drone in there with ease. It’s actually pretty exciting to hear Manson being this world-wise on a record. “Don’t chase the dead, they’ll only end up chasing you” could also just be a great theme song for a zombie flick. Maybe Manson is a Sturghill Simpson fan. He also sneaks in lines like “You’re dead longer than you’re alive” in an imposing fashion. That’s from the song “Infinite Darkness”, the song that sounds most like the booming darkness fans could expect from usual Manson tactics. Seems fitting.
The most scathing commentary comes from “Perfume”, with its poignant lines about playing victim and fake vulnerability (“You wear your damage on your sleeve”, elsewhere “You’re as famous as your pain, victim is chic”). This record is immensely quotable but that’s also a standard Mansonism. One may not expect how “Broken Needle” ends the album with twangy acoustics and piano breaks amid realizations of “Wake up and wash away all this pain” and “I’m not okay”. Before that, “Solve Coagula” builds up like a Hans Zimmer movie score. The palette of sounds here might actually be the highlight and it all consistently works together to create this incapsulating dreamy night sky. To bring up Sturghill Simpson again, the wash of atmospherics and moody textures with the guitar dynamics particularly standing out is reminiscent of his record’s sonics from last year. And it fits Manson very well.
While We Are Chaos is not the guttural, primal electro industrial Manson rave of past, this album sounds like the more chill after-party where the DJ spins My Bloody Valentine and Type O Negative in between New York Dolls and Hank Williams Jr. This is the exciting career point where Manson can and will do exactly what he wants in whatever genre and, if you ask this writer, this is still his gothic wonderland, just matured.