Marilyn Manson – an estranged relative?

With Marilyn Manson’s ninth studio album, The Pale Emperor, on the horizon, I thought I’d take a look at the four albums that followed the critically acclaimed triptych of Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. The four records that followed varied greatly in style, as he flirted with new ideas, attempting to rekindle the same shock value, and ultimately success, that once saw him remain firmly in the media’s attention in the late nineties.

Despite Manson producing many decent tracks since his musical peak, the albums that followed didn’t always get the credit they deserved, leaving Manson being portrayed as an estranged relative to the music scene, which he once dominated so emphatically. In today’s blog I will briefly review these four efforts and hopefully show that Manson has much more to offer than just the percussive march of The Beautiful People.

The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003)

Coming three years after the hugely successful Holy Wood, The Golden Age of Grotesque featured a vastly different sound that was based more in industrial metal, than the goth-drenched sound of its predecessor. This change is often attributed to the arrival of Tim Sköld from the industrial band KMFDM, whose impact is immediately obvious as the electronic beat-driven intro of This Is The New Shit begins.

Like the previous three albums The Golden Age of Grotesque is a concept album, which helped to focus Manson’s lyrics and once again he delivered on providing an intriguing, if somewhat over-indulging, storyline backed with both historical references and pop culture commentary. The strong lyrical themes are complimented perfectly by the harsh industrial music beneath them, resulting in a sonically abrasive record, realising Manson’s ambition for a Weimar Republic-themed album.

My Score: 8/10

Recommended Listening: mOBSCENE and The Golden Age of Grotesque

Eat Me, Drink Me (2007)

Eat Me, Drink Me is by far the most adventurous record currently in Manson’s discography. The music is bordering on progressive rock, with multiple guitar solos dripped in classic rock tones, combined with a husky voice achieved by recording his vocals laying down. The album focuses on themes of love and vampires, as well as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which as normal, provide the album with some fantastic lyrical imagery. Eat Me, Drink Me stands out like a sore thumb in Manson’s catalogue, yet despite the average media ratings, I believe it stands out for all the right reasons and is a great testament to his experimental nature.

My Score: 9/10

Recommended Listening: They Said That Hell’s Not Hot, Evidence and Mutilation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery

The High End of Low (2009)

The High End Of Low is an album of two halves. If this effort was cut down to just Devour, Leave a scar, Four Rusted Horses, Arma-Godd**n-Motherf**kin-Geddon, Blank And White, Running to the Edge of the World, Into the Fire and 15, then following a spot of re-sequencing, Manson would have had a brilliant record on his hands. However, sadly the rest of the tracks are extremely unfocussed lyrically, especially the laughable WOW and the equally shameful We’re from America, which when combined with Manson’s tired voice, completely undo the solid musical foundation beneath them.

However, looking at the content that does work, Manson opted for a much more stripped down sound and remained on the boundary between rock and metal, just as Eat Me, Drink Me had done previously. Many of the tracks that work are actually the quieter ones, such as the poignant Running to the Edge of the World and the bluesy Four Rusted Horses. That being said Manson’s old angst makes several successful appearances, notably in Arma-Godd**n-Motherf**kin-Geddon and Blank and White, showing that the aging shock-rocker still had some bite left.

My Score: 5/10 (8/10 for my newly ordered, but not very official version)

Recommended Listening: See above, especially Four Rusted Horses and Devour

Born Villain (2012)

Sadly the same problem of lacking enough content to fill a whole album applied to Born Villain too, leaving another case of selected listening. However, the tracks that are worth listening to are up with the best from the triptych-era, such as The Gardener, which is a groove-led, semi-spoken word trip into a spiraling metaphor and the aggressive headbanger Pistol Whipped, which would fit right into the dark themes of Holy Wood.

Unfortunately, the later cuts on the album have much less personality and decay into Manson’s gloomy groan as they plod along until their much-awaited conclusion. Fortunately the positives far outweigh the negatives on this album and Born Villain is a rewarding listening experience if it is given the time for its secrets to be revealed.

My Score: 7/10

Recommended Listening: The Gardener, Pistol Whipped and No Reflection

It seems that despite Manson disappearing away from the mainstream eye, his music, although increasingly varied, has been continuing to throw up great tracks that fully deserve the same attention that his earlier records received. It will be interesting to see exactly where he goes with The Pale Emperor, which is due for release on January 19th in the UK.

Thank you for reading. Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and as always press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

– James


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