There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to make a Marilyn Manson album feel, well, nice. Released during a year where practically everything feels upsetting and uncomfortable, it’s oddly cathartic to listen to an artist who once reveled in exactly those things. While the soaring title track sing-along may have been written in 2018, it feels like something of a 2020 anthem: “We are sick, fucked up and complicated/We are chaos, we can’t be cured.” WE ARE CHAOS was produced in collaboration with outlaw country artist Shooter Jennings, his influence immediate, obvious, and exciting. The album carries all the musical hallmarks of Manson’s twisted persona, forged over 25-plus years—huge riffs, heavily distorted vocals, industrial sound effects—and the controversial rocker’s long-favored themes of death, discord, Satan, etc. However, it’s all balanced out by tender acoustic guitars (“BROKEN NEEDLE”), glammy melodies (“DON’T CHASE THE DEAD”), and even the odd positive affirmation (“Don’t try changing someone else, you’ll just end up changing yourself,” he sings on the Brian Jonestown Massacre-goes-darkwave highlight “KEEP MY HEAD TOGETHER”). The album’s not without pounding drums and epic howls (particularly the one towards the end of “PAINT YOU WITH MY LOVE”) that’d give Mechanical Animals-era Manson a run for his money, but it’s the other, more surprising moments that stand out the most. It’s that perfect storm of old meets new, and diabolical meets rather lovely, that makes WE ARE CHAOS such an enjoyable ride amidst a definitively unenjoyable year.

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