For more than 20 years Marilyn Manson has been the snake in pop and rock’s Garden of Eden. Modern music’s most famous Satanist has thrived there, hissing at any cherubic newcomers, warming his cold blood near his beloved fires of Hell. These days Brian Warner’s antics are cheeky rather than outrageous; he recently flicked a journalist’s testicles mid-interview and berated Justin Bieber over a T-shirt design.
But back in the mid-’90s he was a genuinely disruptive cultural force. The pale-faced, bondage-obsessed industrial-metal-playing antagonist was everything conservative, Christian America feared and despised. Album covers were censored, gigs were boycotted. At its peak, he was erroneously associated with the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. For an artist who feeds on outrage, even he admits that was a difficult moment. But this is a guy who calls himself The God of F**k, brags about collecting human bones and appears on his album covers depicted as Christ – he’s not afraid of any backlash. He welcomes it.
Now, as he approaches 50, the schtick of playing Public Enemy No. 1 is well rehearsed. His 10th LP is no different. It’s the regular Manson themes – sex, religion, guns, violence, drugs. Sometimes all in one song, as on the full-blooded ‘Je$u$ Cri$i$’. But mostly, it’s about himself. More specifically, the perpetuation of the Manson Myth. “I’m not a showhorse / I can’t be bridled,” he slithers on ‘Tattooed In Reverse’, adding “I’m a legend / I’m not a fable” on ‘Say10’. Even the police sirens on opener ‘Revelation #12’ suggest he’s still somehow ‘wanted’. And in the rare moments he’s not self-aggrandising, he’s writing electro-pop murder-ballads like ‘Kill4Me’ – which could be a Charli XCX song, if it didn’t reference shooting someone in a garden shed.
For Manson fans this is familiar territory: the same mechanical riffs, same whisper/scream vocals heard on his regular stream of albums. Here, most songs are entertaining rather than groundbreaking. Occasionally they’re neither, as on the meandering ‘Saturnalia’ and ‘Blood Honey’. In recent years he’s successfully crossed over into acting with parts in Sons Of Anarchy and Salem. No surprise. He has, after all, had two decades’ practice playing the villain. He remains tremendously good at it.