Lord of horror and purveyor of shock antics, Manson seems to finally take a step back and see himself being almost sincere. WE ARE CHAOS still blends in the industrial metal/rock of his previous ten albums, but Manson seems actually willing to spread out and show that he isn't just a one trick pony who relies solely on his scare tactics.
RED BLACK AND BLUE would easily trick you into believing you were in for the same old affair with Manson, with his typical layered vocals of a deep and gothic growl under him shouting as industrial tones and heavy guitars thrust their way through. But right away leading off the opener there seems to be a pretty distinct shift in tone. WE ARE CHAOS is like a art rock anthem hidden under Manson's recognizable voice, which will never be seen as moving but seems to at least maintain the ship on these new waters. DON'T CHASE THE DEAD is synthy in an almost 80's goth turn, like Manson is nodding to a group like Depeche Mode. Closing track BROKEN NEEDLE is the kind of finale that signals that Manson has gone down the most arduous musical journey of his career, with folk influence and bigger instrumentation billowing over.
Don't let the diversions fool you, Manson is still his gloomy, villainous self. HALF-WAY & ONE STEP FORWARD is a dim number, with a haunting piano structure and Manson presiding over the doom. PERFUME, a notable miss on the album, is far more directly borne out of his past styling.
But largely, the album is at least refreshing for its willingness to be different. Not different in the sense of a societal oddity, but instead different meaning that Manson isn't relegating himself to parlor tricks for the sake of memorability. When your music has remained irrelevant for two decades, it must eventually become easier to step out from your comfort zone.
However, this shouldn't suggest that just by being different from his usual self that Manson ultimately mystifies. Granted, this is likely one of his better works just for its ability to do something diverse. But at its core, Manson has never been a stellar vocalist and relies on his campy performance to guide him forward; trying to mesh it with new regions doesn't always seem fitting, nor does it sound like Manson really knows how to make it work. At the very least, at 51, Manson is finally trying something new and one can only hope it ends up being a point of growth for him as an artist.
Favorite track: BROKEN NEEDLE