Welcome to the very first offering of The Misanthreport: Black Metal and Beyond, my new blog devoted to, but not limited to, Black Metal. Since this is an introduction, like planting a seed of sorts, I decided to begin by discussing a recent release from an artist I’ve listened to for many years, preceding my journey into Black Metal, and who undoubtedly earned his legendary status.
A couple of years before answering the call of this uncompromising breed of metal music I heard Marilyn Manson for the first time. This was over two decades ago, and like many older Manson fans, “Antichrist Superstar”is one of my all-time favorite albums. My perceptions of each subsequent release are as varied as the continuous musical evolution presented on those albums, and while none of them quite captured what was achieved on “Antichrist Superstar,” I’ve always taken the time to appreciate each one for what they are.
With 2020 being a record-breaking year on the shit scale, the September 11 release of Manson’s new record, “We are Chaos,” was a welcome treat. Musically, the collaboration with Shooter Jennings produced a diverse and interesting result. It sounds like elements from all of Manson’s past eras were precisely concocted into a David Bowie inspired album with many layers that I’m still picking apart after many listens. Songs like the title track and ”Half-way and One Step Forward” sound almost like ballads, with the latter having a section towards the end that creates something like a transcendental or shamanistic type of spiritual vibe for me. The first half of “Let Me Paint You with My Love” has an Outlaw Country feel, but then takes a hard turn into dark psychedelic territory and is further complemented with some of Manson’s more aggressive vocals. Then you have more of a banger like ”Infinite Darkness,” the song that shares the same title as the album cover art, which has a dark, heavy, and raw industrial sound that could fit in on “Antichrist Superstar.” The trademark swagger that dominated “Mechanical Animals” is presented again on “Perfume,” which also has a guitar hook that evokes the blues rock sound we know from “The Pale Emperor.” This blues sound is manifested again with the use of tambourine and a guitar solo on “Keep my Head Together.” I could go on and on about the many hidden gems on this album. These are just a few of the moments that caught my attention.
Lyrically this album covers its share of dark subject matter, and the beast of contempt I have for humanity rears its head in affirmation when listening to the title track, “We are Chaos.” Though it was written well before the crazy times of today, it provides an eerily accurate commentary for our current situation with the pandemic, civil unrest, and political divide which have exposed and amplified human ignorance in all its miserable farce. It is an unfortunate truth that “we can’t be cured,” unless they can create a vaccine for this ignorance, and I think if Covid-19 could talk, “maybe I’m just a mystery, I could be your misery” is what it would say to us. I also couldn’t help contemplating another dismal fact, “you’re dead longer than you’re alive,” which Manson hammers home on the chorus of “Infinite Darkness.”
Despite its darkness, there is also plenty of positivity to be found. In “Half-Way and One Step Forward” Manson says “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the sunlight gets in.” It’s true that nothing is perfect or ideal, but it must be realized that flaws and imperfections exist for a reason, and they can become the greatest of strengths. The title of the song “Keep My Head Together” speaks for itself and is where a lot of us probably are right now. Here Manson talks about accepting the past and striving to move forward and seize control of the future. These lyrics get right to the heart of the matter for me. Part of being into a dark artform like this or Black Metal is to explore that darkness and find inspiration to drive towards reaching our full potential instead of being content to eat, shit, fuck, and kill like so many other people in this world; to rise above the level of dumb beast. “Fucking love you, love fucking you” is another lyric in this song that I just found amusing and is an example of how Manson likes to play with words.
Lastly, I understand that “Broken Needle” is more about Manson’s experience with bad relationships, but art is open to individual interpretation. I want this blog to be an escape from modern politics, but when I hear “all of these lies are not worth fighting for,” I can’t help but think of the idea of an impending civil war in the United States. The truth is that no one has all the facts, and everyone is being deceived to some extent no matter which side of the divide we may be on. It seems there are those who would be willing to fight this war without having all the facts, and despite being lied to. This is unfortunate because it really isn’t worth fighting over half-truths. These are my own impressions, and of course everyone is entitled to their own, but I encourage everyone to venture past your own personal biases, incorporate as much of the big picture as possible into your perspectives, and be sure you are thinking for yourself and not being a sheep. That’s what Black Metal is all about.
In my experience, albums that are “growers” tend to have the greatest impact over time, and this was definitely a grower for me. I could tell immediately that it contained the substance that characterizes great albums, but the new sound still took a minute to get used to. My earholes ultimately found it to be a very fresh and entertaining listen after giving it time to digest. While still Manson, this is not the angst-filled shocker we know from our earlier years, so listeners who are set in their ways and still waiting for another “Antichrist Superstar” may be disappointed. Instead we now have a more mature Manson who seems to have finally come to terms with himself. If you approach this with an open mind and an appreciation for different musical styles, “We are Chaos” offers an adventurous and rewarding experience.