Marilyn Manson – The High End of Low (Album Review)


‘Forbidden in Heaven, useless in Hell’

Anyone who knows me has a pretty good idea that I hold Def Leppard up high as the greatest rock band of all time (well, my personal favorite) but few know that I attribute Marilyn Manson as being directly responsible for my association with the music world today. How, you ask, do tell eh?? Or shut the fuck up and talk about the album maybe? Well I’m reminiscing so skip a couple of paragraphs if you don’t like it.

In 1992, I was introduced to Leppard, something I’ll write about in much more detail some other day. From there I discovered Guns N Roses, Meatloaf and Iron maiden. I was eight at the time and before these bands I had only ever heard Kyle Minogue, R.E.M., Michael Jackson, Madonna, Dire Straits and a hand full of others. In 1993, I discovered Nirvana and Green Day which left little room for Leppard and Guns. As I got older, Nirvana just seemed to make more sense and off course, for a kid trying to act like a surfer by the beech with a bunch of sixteen year olds, you had to like the coolest band or you were just a kid. After Kurt’s death, the MTV unplugged album and Green Day’s Dookie, my attention was diverted with new schools and soccer. Before long I was twelve listening to nothing but the radio on the school bus, passing no heed to the music world around me and things stayed like that until 1998 when I first heard Antichrist Superstar.

The album wasn’t really knows in Co. Leitrim and I only heard it after a new guy started in school and shock things up with his long hair and Slayers logo printed across his folder. Before him there was no interest in heavy Metal in my year, or any other can I can remember. The summer before he arrived, I’d been in London and one of my cousins had mentioned Marilyn Manson and how disgusted she was by him. Now, I had never heard of the man in my life but obviously I wanted to know more. Leitrim is quite a closed off place, even for someone who watched TV as much as me and since the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, there was no-one I could ask for info about this illustrious monster. That was until (let’s call him – Metal Head 1) arrived. One of the first conversations I had with Metal head 1 was about MM. ‘Who was he? Why was he so hated? Oh, he’s a musician, what sort does he play? Metal eh, I used to like Def Leppard ya know, so I know I thing or two about metal’. Glad of someone to adopt as a protégé (or annoyed by the pesky prick asking him questions), he brought me in a very rough recording of Antichrist he made from Vinyl to Tape. The sound was distorted and muffled but absolutely incredible. Manson’s music was dark, frightening and, at the time, anything but cheesy or done before. He painted a horrifying world filled with the worst evils and bleakness man can force on its self. From the opening beats of Irresponsible Hate Anthem, to the fade out of Man That You Fear, Antichrist is one of the angriest, dirtiest, assaulting albums of all time. Sure there’s heavier out there and more graphic lyrics, but very few to compare to the tearing hatred behind Manson’s wastelands. Forget the singles and video’s, this was an album to be listened to in full, not a handful of hits that would ever fit right on a 4.99 greatest hits completion in Tesco. Needless to say I was hooked and couldn’t listen to anything else for months. Not even when Mechanical Animals was released could I stop, but eventually I moved on and spent another two or three months devoted to Animals. Needless to say, I became a fan.

Fast forward eleven years and as Billy Connolly put it, “in an uncertain world, it’s good to know that some things never change”. Manson has managed to produce another mind-bendingly great album. Although his last album, Eat Me Drink Me, managed to earn him a shocking amount of negativity, it also managed to disappoint all the emo’s looking for another album like The Golden Age of Grotesque (without a doubt, Manson’s worst to date) and lifted the public pressure a little. Instead, it saw him writing a full albums worth of unique love songs and moving his focus from the usual religious and social targets to a more personal topic. It wasn’t a typical MM release which put him right back on track as, no Manson album should be a typical MM album, it defeats the purpose. With the Billboard Number 1 phase over, he’s put the head down and managed to produce some crackin tunes with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

The High End of Low catches Manson in rather a weird place. Instead of trying to reinvent himself as he’s done with almost every album beforehand, he’s decided to take the music back to a mid way point between Portrait of an American Family and Antichrist Superstar. It isn’t as wacky or theatrical as Portrait and isn’t as horrifying as Antichrist, just a nice even mix. Although similar in styles, the music’s over all feel is that of upbeat anthems trying to escape the clutches of hell. Twiggy;s bass is a welcome return to the band and he’s rejuvenated the overall feel of the songs. Instead of tired old Beautiful People rip off’s, The High End of Low sounds like a band working to regain their creditability…with a few misses along the way.

Right, lets get the shit stuff out of the way first. Songs like Arma-Goddam-Motherfuckin-Geddon, We’re From America and I want to kill you like they do in the Movies are not the best. AGMG grows on you but still manages to sound like a poor attempt at recreating those Beautiful People, Fight Song moments. While We’re From America and I.W.T.K.Y.L.T.D.I.T.M. have the shock value of a librarian working on a Sunday.

In sharp comparison, tracks like Devour, Leave A Scar, Four Rusted Horses, Running To The Edge of The World, Unlikable Monster, I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell and Into the Fire are some of the best songs the band have ever written. The number of different styles on this record is not typical of a Manson album as the band jumps from hard riff driven animals like Pretty As A Swastika, Arma-Goddam-Motherfuckin-Geddon to more stripped back rock and roll sing alongs like Leave A Scar and Black and White before tearing through some brooding, slow, bellowers such as Running To The Edge Of The World, Wight Spider and Unlikable Monster before confusing everything with the likes of Wow.

On first listen, this album sounds a little weak and takes several listens to adjust but it’s worth it afterwards. When released, Leave A Scar will become a major airplay song and Manson will once again surprise his audience. While the likes of Despite first sounding like laid back versions of previous songs, The High End of Low really manages to carve out it’s own identity, one that doesn’t go out of it’s way for shock value or a character behind it like previous release and for the first time since the early nineties, Marilyn Manson sounds like a band again, not a decaying antichrist leading his devotees through hell.

Well worth your attention for the next few weeks and a welcome addition to the MM discography.



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