It’s not every day that a new Marilyn Manson album comes out. Back in the day, you could expect a new one to release every 2 years. After that, the release schedule became less predictable, which I appreciate. In 2017, we got Heaven Upside Down. Remember when I reviewed it? And in 2015, The Pale Emperor was released to the world. I reviewed that too! Let’s get into We Are Chaos. I mean, WE ARE CHAOS, as it is usually styled.
Let’s take this song by song. Spoiler alert: This album is awesome. Plus it’s only 10 tracks, so here goes.
RED BLACK AND BLUE
I need to mention this. I don’t care how crazy it makes me sound. The name of this song is “RED BLACK AND BLUE.” Do you remember a song I recorded in 2006 or whatever called “Around the World?” Remember the first line? “A mothereffer from America, red and black and blue.” When I first saw this song title, my mind immediately thought of that, but I didn’t freak out about it. But when I actually heard the song and the lyrics…yeah…this needs a new paragraph. Hang on.
The first line of “RED BLACK AND BLUE” is “Set fire to the tree of life.” Do you still remember my “Around the World” song? Good. Remember the line “Shot down from the tree of life?” Yeah. How crazy is that? I don’t know if Marilyn is ripping me off or what, but I like it!
Okay, so this is the first track on the album and begins with this kind of cool spoken word intro. It sounds a tad too…digitally manipulated for my tastes, but it’s still good. After a minute of that, we get some pounding drums and throbbing bass and the aforementioned “Set fire to the tree of life” line that I’ll never shut up about. I feel like it’s safe to say there is some intentional Antichrist Superstar-esque vibes put into this song. The drums and bassline, the chuggy guitar, the synths. Good, heavy stuff.
Lyrically, I’m not smart enough nor do I even know all the lyrics to be able to speak much to them anyway. It probably isn’t out of line to assume it’s some political statement. The lines about being “sick from you” is oddly appropriate for these times.
WE ARE CHAOS
This song got released as a single a while back. I believe it debuted on YouTube, but whatever the case, that’s where I first heard it. I grew to enjoy the video to some extent, but I think the visuals hindered my ability to like it the first time I heard it. In some ways, it’s almost a ho-hum tune, but it takes you some places in others.
The chorus is certainly one you can sing along to. And I would love to do so at a concert when we can have those again. There’s a ton of instrumentation on this album, and it’s definitely on display here. It’s so big, and you can hear so many guitars and pianos and backing vocals. It’s awesome.
DON’T CHASE THE DEAD
Hey, do you want some Mechnical Animals vibes? Here you go. If the vocals were a touch cleaner, I might have believed you if you told me this was an outtake from 1998’s Mechanical Animals recording sessions. Here you get some David Bowie flavors, and they taste good. RIP.
I don’t have much more to say about this one, but as I mentioned before, there are so many little musical things happening almost constantly. It’s not distracting though. It just makes me want to listen to it over and over again. So I will.
PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE
Is this song some kind of sweet metaphor for, you know, a facial? The world may never know. But if you tell me no, I don’t think I’ll believe you. This is super Beatles-sounding song. Some nice clean acoustic guitar. A twinkling piano. Falsetto vocals. It’s all here.
The second half takes a turn. It gets super Mechanical Animals. There’s these droning synths and distortion getting thrown at you, and it’s very refreshing to my ears. I didn’t immediately like this song, but it has turned into one of my favorites after repeat listens.
HALF-WAY AND ONE STEP FORWARD
I haven’t done it yet, but I know I’ll find myself listening to this song lying on back in the dark. Don’t judge me. It’s a mid-tempo, piano driven dirge, probably about turning 50. A good word to use might be “mature.” That may sound like a disappointing adjective to hear for a fan of 90s Marilyn Manson, but I’m not sure if I’d want to see a 50-year-old Marilyn Manson sing or act like he did 20 years ago, as cool as that was.
Every teenager in the world probably wrote a song or poem called “Infinite Darkness” at some point. Ignoring the title, this song rocks balls. The drums and distorted guitar reckon back to the first track, “RED BLACK AND BLUE.” Some of the drum and vocal patterns remind me of “The Love Song” from Holy Wood and even some stuff from The Golden Age of Grotesque.
I’ll say that I do not like when Marilyn Manson employs that weird warble vocal technique. I feel like I first heard it live in concert maybe in 2006 or something. Then it started showing up in studio recordings. That style of singing shows up here in the chorus, and it keeps me from being able to understand what he’s saying. Regardless, I dig this song. The repeated line of “You’re dead longer than you’re alive.” does a little something to my psyche. Hm.
Gimme some hot 70s rock! This song reminds me of some older song, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on which one yet. The pace is driving and swingy, the guitars are heavy as eff, the falsetto vocals rock my socks off, and I don’t even know what the song is about. I do enjoy the “Get behind me, get behind me, get behind me, Satan” falsetto parts. There’s also some very “The Beautiful People”-esque guitar palm muting thrown in for good measure as well.
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is that all these songs are a bit slow. I would say this is the only song that, to me, could have benefited from being a few beats-per-minute faster. Still awesome though.
KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a song similar to this one before too. The honking bass and drum beat stirs something up in my memory. I just can’t think of what it is. The passages where everything drops out besides the vocals and bass sticks out to me as something special. It’s not the most clever thing to do or anything, but I can’t think of any other Marilyn Manson songs that do that. I don’t know.
The lyrics here are worth mentioning, I think. Again, it’s probably not the most clever bit of wordplay, but I rather enjoy the line of “I fucking love you. I love fucking you.” Uh…reading it doesn’t have the same effect as listening to it. Trust me. There’s a certain ring to it when you listen to it. It’s a particularly airy, atmospheric portion of the song. Really.
We can add this song to a few lists. Add it to the list of songs I’ll listen to in the dark. Add it to the list of songs that could have almost appeared on Mechanical Animals. And add it to the list of songs that are also phrases that appear on Marilyn Manson’s tattoos. All the guitars sound great, but there’s a rawness to it that you didn’t find on Mechanical Animals. The vocals are more real sounding too. Towards the end of the track, you get some trippy guitar parts spread around the Mechanical Animalsy chorus. Then there’s the repeated line of “I’m not special. I’m just broken, and I don’t wanna be fixed.” that I can’t decide if I like or not. Maybe I relate to it more than I like it. Hm.
The last one. The drums are very programmed and not natural sounding. My guess is that this was either an early or late song recorded for the album. It has a unique tone in general. The acoustic guitar has a certain sound. The piano is a little overdriven. It’s not bad, but just seems to offer a little less production than the rest of the tracklist does. Not to take away from its goodness though. I actually love this song. Once I memorize all the lyrics, I imagine I’ll love it even more. It’s just…sad…and good. I think it’s those piano lines and just the overall feeling I get that gets my emotions rolling. Referring to the title, there’s a line of “I’ll never ever play you again. I’ll never put you away.”
Before I give my final verdict or whatever, let me rattle of some things.
First, Target is offering an exclusive version of the CD that contains acoustic versions of “We Are Chaos” and “Broken Needle.” Guess who is going to Target tomorrow. I believe the first acoustic version of a previously non-acoustic version of theirs that they did was “Man That You Fear” back in 1997. Since then, more acoustic versions have popped up, usually as bonus tracks like on this Target CD. I’m really looking forward to hearing the acoustic version of “Broken Needle.” I should probably pick up some tissues while I’m there. I’m going to need them.
Oh. Like, from crying or whatever. Just to be clear. I love this album, but not like that. Geez.
What else? Aside from the CD version, vinyl and even cassette versions were produced. I’m not sure of the reason, but…I heard that only the vinyl version got leaked on the Internet early, and it was only about a week ago. I also heard that the CD version didn’t leak until yesterday. That’s interesting to me just because I’ve heard most albums leak weeks before their release date.
Half-jokes aside, yeah, that vinyl rip that started going around last week was a situation. It sounded kind of bad. There was a constant hiss. There were pops and skips. It wasn’t good. And if you weren’t conscious of the fact that it was a vinyl rip rather than a CD rip, you might opine that that’s just how the album sounds.
Alright, so my final thoughts. WE ARE CHAOS features instrumentation from about 2 handfuls of people. I haven’t heard of half of them. That’s kind of a weird thing. Typically, a Marilyn Manson album only features a few people with writing/performing credits. The previous two albums, while good and stood on their own, mostly came from the hands of Tyler Bates. They had a very bluesy thing going on. WE ARE CHAOS eschews that for the most part and goes in a slightly more Bowie direction and more acoustic.
I really don’t want an Antichrist Superstar Part II or something, but I would like to be more blindsided by a direction of a Marilyn Manson album. Going from Antichrist Superstar to Mechanical Animals was awesome. Holy Wood to The Golden Age of Grotesque was awesome. TGAOG to Eat Me, Drink Me was…interesting. Since then, I feel like overall, there’s been a certain flavor to Marilyn Manson’s output.
Don’t get me wrong, most of it has been good and new sounding and everything, but I suppose I yearn for more honest angriness here and there instead of whatever you would call this. Again, this album rules. I’m not trying to speak ill of it. It did come out on 9/11, but WE ARE CHAOS is like, the opposite of a disaster.
As time goes on and as more Marilyn Manson album are released, I find it harder to rank them. So this isn’t my 100% official opinion, but right now I’ll say that I like WE ARE CHAOS more than Heaven Upside Down, more than The Pale Emperor, more than Born Villain, more than The High End of Low, and more than Eat Me, Drink Me. In other words, at this point in time, I think it’s the best Marilyn Manson album since 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque. Maybe I’ll change my mind though. Who knows?
Buy it. Stream it. Just listen to it.