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Album review: Marilyn Manson's 'The High End of Low'

May 26, 2009 |  6:47 pm

Manson Thanks to the general decline of Western civilization — taken a look at next fall’s reality-TV lineup? — Marilyn Manson’s rock doesn’t shock like it used to. Whether or not Manson himself is aware of this fact is up for debate: On his latest album, America’s leading goth-metal ghoul keeps up his usual barrage of lyrical firecrackers, some predictably inane (“I wanna kill you like they do in the movies”), some surprisingly potent (“We don’t like to kill our unborn / We need them to grow up and fight our wars”). There’s also a lead single with a title that’s unprintable in a newspaper like this one.

At its best, though, “The High End of Low” suggests that Manson is no longer content simply polishing his public-enemy persona. There’s a newly introspective edge to tracks such as “Devour” and “Leave a Scar,” for example, that complicates Manson’s now-familiar attack on middle-class morality. “And I’ll love you if you let me,” he sings in the former, seemingly questioning his own complicity in the rituals he once ridiculed.

Manson explored similar territory on 2007’s synth-heavy “Eat Me, Drink Me,” which detailed his split from ex-wife Dita Von Teese. But “High End” makes a deeper impression as a result of Manson’s reunion with longtime guitarist-bassist Twiggy Ramirez; together with producers Sean Beavan and Chris Vrenna, they sculpted a sound both harder-hitting and more finely detailed than on any previous Marilyn Manson record.

They even manage a surprise or two, as in “Running to the Edge of the World,” a lush acoustic power ballad complete with pretty falsetto vocals. At this point in Manson’s career, sophistication is perhaps as big a shock as he can deliver.

--Mikael Wood

Marilyn Manson
“The High End of Low”
(Interscope)
Three stars

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