It’s been a hot minute since we had a new album from Marilyn Manson to listen to. The glam-goth singer and his (increasingly loosely-assembled) band last released a long-form recording in 2017 with ‘Heaven Upside Down’ – a record that polarized critics and failed to excite the public. Some of the reviews of that album were perhaps a little harsher than they should have been, and perhaps they were partially to blame for the unspectacular sales figures that followed. We don’t know if Manson has spent the past three years licking his wounds or not, but if he has, he’s finally ready to try again with something new. He’s not too shy to tell us how he feels about it, either. According to Manson, it’s going to be a masterpiece.
Although he’s still adored by the fans who grew up listening to him, Manson is not the same shock-rock performer he once was. Back when the band was new in the 1990s, the internet didn’t exist, and it was a lot harder to find out who the performer behind a stage persona was. You couldn’t look at Wikipedia or social media to discover Brian Warner’s real name, or see pictures of his home, his partners, or the details of his day to day life. The lack of ‘real’ information helped him to cultivate an image, and the image was one that terrified middle-class parents throughout the United States of America. As ridiculous as it sounds now, we remember a time when Manson and his music were considered to be a threat to America’s moral fabric.
Times have changed a lot since then. Brian Warner is a middle-aged man, and the harder edges of his music have disappeared. In his more recent recordings, there’s been a touch of commercialism to his sound, and perhaps that’s to be expected. Rock, electro, and goth music were once a protest against the mainstream, but these days they’re so mainstream that you’ll even find them featured on online slots websites. Some of Manson’s contemporaries and heroes, Alice Cooper included, have already ‘sold out’ by licensing their likenesses and recordings to online slots. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Manson do the same. Maybe a Marilyn Manson-themed online slots game could even be quite cool if it were made the right way, but it would still be a far cry from the band’s establishment-challenging, anti-mainstream origins. Will this new album take Manson closer to those roots, or is it another step further away from them?
Based on nothing more than a few posts on Instagram, we suspect it’s going to be a commercial-sounding album. We say that because we already know that Manson has once again worked with country music singer and songwriter Shooter Jennings on the record. Manson was talking about wanting to make a ‘southern’ sounding record as long ago as 2018, and the presence of Jennings seems to confirm that he went ahead with that idea. We don’t know what to think about the idea of a Marilyn Manson country album. We can’t even imagine what it might sound like. It could be an artistic revelation, or it could be entirely unlistenable.
In a further sign that he was divorcing himself from his own past, Manson gave an interview to Kerrang Magazine in mid-2019 in which he said that he wouldn’t compare his new album to any of his previous recordings. Anyone hoping for a follow-up to ‘Mechanical Animals’ or ‘Anti-Christ Superstar’ should abandon those dreams right now. We’re not getting that, nor anything akin to ‘Holy Wood,’ nor anything that sounds like a successor to ‘Heaven Upside Down.’ If we’ve had any hint at all as to what we might reasonably expect from the album in terms of its soundscape, it might have come in the form of his cover of The Doors classic ‘The End,’ which was released as a standalone last year. Shooter Jennings was also present on that recording, but it sounded more like classic Manson than classic Jennings.
Whatever the record sounds like and whatever themes it covers, Manson could currently use some good press. His former partner Evan Rachel Wood has recently been speaking to the press about her history of abusive relationships, and although Manson isn’t mentioned by name, it’s heavily implied that some of his treatment of her during their time together left a lot to be desired. Somewhat troublingly, Manson once claimed that his song ‘I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies’ was written about Wood, and also said that he fantasized about murdering her every day. At the time, the comments were written off as being made while ‘in character’ as Marilyn Manson rather than Brian Warner, but when placed in the context of Wood’s subsequent words, they take on an unflattering light. Nobody has directly accused Manson of anything – yet – but he’ll be hoping that a new album gives the press something else to talk about.
Even though we know that the album is finished, we’re yet to hear of a release date for it. Given that the recording and mixing are complete, we presume that Manson could choose to release it any day now. The concept of a new album having a specific ‘release date’ has become somewhat unfashionable in recent years, with artists as big as Eminem (himself a former Marilyn Manson collaborator) taking the world by surprise by releasing multiple tracks onto streaming services without warning, and only publicizing them after the event. While that would have been an unthinkable strategy ten years ago, the subsequent media coverage of the ‘surprise’ albums is often more extensive than the coverage the album would have received under normal circumstances. As an added bonus, it also gives fans the chance to hear the music first without having their opinion clouded by the words of a reviewer.
Now he’s in his fifties, it isn’t reasonable to expect Manson to sound like the angry young man of the mid-1990s anymore. He might even be past the point of the jaded rage that he had in his forties. Whether this is a country record or something new and different, it’s likely to show us a new side to Marilyn Manson. We’ll soon find out whether or not it’s a side anybody wants to see.
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