Marilyn Manson Brings Order to 2020 with We Are Chaos

Marilyn Manson, 2020 (Photo credit: Travis Shinn)

Chance Barkley | Go Venue Magazine

When Marilyn Manson announced that Shooter Jennings, country music star and son of the legendary Waylon Jennings, would help write and produce his eleventh album, I got very nervous. Picturing Marilyn growling over a steel guitar just didn’t feel right. Although he described the new sound as being more “southern” than country, I had serious doubts that the collaboration would work. It didn’t help when he released a picture of himself in a Stetson, to which I had an immediate visceral reaction.

Then it hit me: for the first time in a very long time, Manson has made me uncomfortable. Artists are supposed to challenge preconceived notions about life, death, love, society and sometimes themselves. The last place an artist wants to be is in a box, where they are forced to become a parody.

The cover of We Are Chaos is a watercolor self-portrait by Manson.

I was surprised when I heard the single and titular track, “We Are Chaos.” Like many fans, the title made me picture the song would be full of fury and angst, not unlike something from Antichrist Superstar. However, it is very light and sounds like a homage to David Bowie. With the lush, stadium-ready chorus, “We are sick, fucked up and complicated, we are chaos, we can’t be cured,” “We Are Chaos” proves to be the perfect anthem of 2020.

However, I still had my doubts. As soon as the full album was released, I crossed myself, my fingers and listened. I then began a pleasant journey that was in some ways very new and in some ways very familiar. It is a clear and beautifully cohesive vision that visits various composition styles that Manson has explored before, while adding some new instruments into the mix. With songs like “Red Black and Blue,” “Infinite Darkness,” and “Perfume,” we have the reassurance of Manson in his element. The driving, distorted guitars, tongue in cheek lyrics and screaming backing vocals should make any of his fans feel right at home. This is the Manson we know and it is a comforting in this context. “Perfume” has a great groove and would be at home on any number of his previous albums.

Part of the familiarity is that, some of the songs feel as if they could have been part of a follow up to 1998’s Mechanical Animals. The compositions and the recording sounds much lighter than some of his earlier work. Many of the tracks are composed and mixed in a way that allows for space. The instruments have room to ring out with plenty of reverb, which gives the album a larger than life and dreamlike quality. “Don’t Chase the Dead” (another track that evokes the spirit of Bowie), “Keep My Head Together” and “Solve Coagula” have spacious and beautiful guitars that almost sound like something from The Edge, sonically very different from the heavy distortion used on Antichrist and Holy Wood.

A big difference when compared to its predecessors is the prevalence of several newly incorporated instruments, most notably the piano, which is used throughout the album in various capacities. I love how it is detuned and coupled with a fiddle on “Half-Way and One Step Forward”. It is also featured on “Broken Needle,” which feels somewhat reminiscent of “Coma White.” We Are Chaos even has the steel guitar I initially dreaded, but it is subtle and works well.

We Are Chaos was released on September 11, 2020, contains 10 songs and is 43 minutes long. During my first listen, I was surprised at how quickly the time passed. I really enjoyed the ride and was still hungry for more, so I listened to it three more times in a row. The collaboration between Manson and Jennings has been a successful one and this concept album it brings its own type of order to the chaos of 2020. I have to say that I love this it and I definitely recommend you check it out. If you have enjoyed Manson’s ever-evolving work over the years, you won’t be disappointed. 

Listen “Don’t Chase the Dead” below: