The High End of Low
"My pain is not ashamed to repeat itself," Marilyn Manson screams in the chorus to "Devour," the first song off his new album. And thank the god of Fuck for that, because without this exorcism, he would never reach a point of cathartic rapture as rich as he does in his most revealing tracks. To use this album as the example, we can't enjoy a song as poignant and beautiful as "Running To The Edge Of The World" without going through the motions of something like "Leave A Scar," a more Manson-esque joint.
Marilyn Manson is always best when he is permitted, either by producer or by self, to play with sounds or material he hasn't previously explored. Mechanical Animals may have cost him many black clad one trick fans, but it's still his most erogenous and expansive work. Golden Age of Grotesque, Manson's celebration of vaudeville and bondage, found him working with hip-hop vocal patterns and indulging his true gift for sharp as a lance literary word play. The same applies here, when MM is unleashed on the Western ("Four Rusted Horses").
Even when he's up to his same old devices he gets you jazzed up for honest brutality, rather than yawning and rolling your eyes. Very few artists carry enough weight to get away with singing something called "Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon" without it coming off as simple shock value.
What Manson has proven, with each passing album, is that there is much more to his complex self than the caked-on persona of in-your-face risque grotesquerie. Here is a brilliant and tortured man who hates you all almost as much as he hates himself. But he hates because he's sick of the love he can't help but harbor. It's the classic battle of the human contradiction, of the vulnerable and defensive soul in tailspin. But in the hand of Mr. Superstar it takes on a whole new dimension...no matter how many times he revisits it.
"I wanna fuck you like a foreign film/And there's no subtitles to get you through this."
Strong words? Maybe just confusing? That's because you haven't been where he has. You've never walked the long, hard road to Hell and arrived at an impasse in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, with absinthe eyes fixed on a reflection of the effigy that is you. Living in a loop, but somebody keeps splicing in cigarette burns and there's a different desperate girl masquerading as his Dulcinea in each frame, a different actress playing the same part...and by the next reel, his protagonist is back where he started.
"I can see a new beginning/Rise behind the sun/But we can never reach it/As fast as we run."
Your CD jacket would take up as many smeared and blackened pages if you suffered the hurt of the ego, the id and the overall consciousness of the Sentient. In the Omega the Mechanical Man isn't mechanical...he's hyper-human...and that ain't easy, babe.
Say all the ugly things you want about Brian Warner, the worm that metamorphosed into the so-called monster we call Marilyn Manson. But there is one thing that you can never accuse him of; You can never say he is quiet. Even when it seems like nobody's listening any more he hollers a hell broth of heaving half-truths and hateful haruspex, rattling off a barrage of dexterously-assembled verbal bombs and visionary verses that take you inside his dark and psychologically-compelling factory.
Industrial music never had its Roald Dahl or Shel Silverstein or George Orwell until Manson came on the scene and, once he was here, the grim fairy tale only evolved. Like it or not he wears the dope hat well and, with the right ears, his big top tricks will always make you happy...or understandably defensive of your surroundings.
Marilyn is back! And he can't fail with his old bandmate Twiggy working with him once again. All other original members or recruited members are absent this time around, with exception of a brief cameo by drummer Ginger Fish...who isn't playing drums. What?
From the signs of his vocal output here, Marilyn is grateful to have such a valued friend and collaborator as Twiggy at his side. The results may vary.
"Unkillable Monster" is the most nostalgic and sincere song on the disc and, probably, several others in his canon. Manson strives harder here than usual to produce an impassioned, heart-broken vocal that recalls "Coma White" and the band's old bootleg of "Rose & A Baby Ruth."
The High End of Low is a smart and versatile compilation of haunted compositions. The scariest thing about it is its potential for backfire. If young soldiers are greasing Middle Eastern villagers to "We're From America" this time next year then Manson's long-overdue prophecy from the Antichrist Superstar days may just be true and into the fire we go...