Portrait of an American Family

Marilyn Manson


Portrait of an American Family is kind of like a good B-horror movie.  It sounds cheap and amateur-ish at times, but it delivers the shock-rock goods for the most part.  Truth be told there's not much particularly "shocking" to be found here, aside from the general manevolant and perverted vibe that is flaunted by the band at every turn.  The songs themselves are nothing particularly special, but they all have a good groove/grind to them (with pretty satisfying sludgey riffs to boot).  There's a vaguely industrial flavor to the album, but overall this is Manson's most stripped-down, direct record.  Plenty of satisfying riffs and attitude to be found here...it's dark and dingey for most part, but menacingly playful at the same time.  In a nutshell, would much rather listen to this than anything Manson made after Antichrist Superstar.  I still dig it's cheap B-movie grade horror show vibe.


Smells Like Children

Marilyn Manson


Creepy, perverted, trashy, sadistic, surreal, and druggy (with a few great cover songs to boot).  Play it on Halloween and enjoy Mr. Manson at arguably his most depraved.


Antichrist Superstar

Image result for antichrist superstar

Marilyn Manson


This is Marilyn Manson's best album overall.  It's his magnum opus, his grand vision fully realized, and it's a pretty impressive album to absorb, especially considering the amateurish (yet entertaining) nature of this prior 2 albums.  Credit that to Trent Reznor's production prowess, as Antichrist Superstar has Reznor's industrial-tinged fingerprints all over it.  Mind you, this is Manson at his most menacing, his most intense, so the entire album feels epic, but, as you might expect, it all sounds like hell too (in a good way).  The general nature of this album is extremely nihlistic, menacing, decadent, and disturbing at times, and the overriding manevolent mood of the album can be a strain on the senses.  It's not that it's that heavy (although there are pretty of tasty riffs to be found here), there's actually an impressive variety of industrial horror-show soundscapes that really enhance the atmosphere, but it's a really hellish atmosphere, which is equal parts compelling but also hard to take seriously at the same time.  At the end of the day, this is one of the more impressive concept albums of the 90s, by one of the few bona-fied rock stars of the era and it deserves respect and praise for it's boldness, vision, and uncomproming sound.  It's a classic in my book.


Mechanical Animals

Marilyn Manson - Mechanical Animals.png

Marilyn Manson


OK.  Quite a transformation here, and unfortunatley it's not just limited to his image.  He went from sadistic antichrist from the pits of hell to a unisex glam-rock alien.  OK, apparently part of some broader overarching concept that nobody really cares about.  That's all well and good, but what the hell happened to the music?  There's literally, for all intents and purposes, nothing heavy or particularly menacing to be found here.  It's all glossed-over, extremely polished glam-rock.  And did I mention it's beyond bland and generic?  With the exception of literally a couple of songs, it's all incredibly mundane.  I mean, isn't glam-rock supposed to have some flair, or maybe some avart garde tendencies?  Because there's really none of that to be found here.  The "flair" that is here is to sedated and uninspiring to really be enjoyable.  There's just really nothing compelling here.  I mean, you can kind of give the guy credit for significantly changing his style, but, unfortunately it just cemented his status as a pop-culture icon as opposed to the menacing and compelling rock-star from hell that he once was.  Oh well...apparently Marilyn Manson was nothing to be taken seriously after all...


Holy Wood

Marilyn Manson


Holy Wood was a pretty respectable return-to-form for Mr. Manson, after the incredibly bland and disappointing glam-rock influencd Mechanical Animals.  The problem is that Holy Woods seems a bit too calculated, a bit too pre-meditated.  It's supposively the completion of his "trilogy" of albums, but only people that took Manson way too seriously cared about that.  Holy Wood has some compelling, atmospheric industrial-rock soundscapes, and a fair amount of pretty good songs to boot.  The problem is Holy Wood lacks the bite, rawness, or menacing quality that made Antichrist Superstar such a great album.  He's not wallowing in his own depravity as much here, but he's way too comfortable with his generic call-and-response goth-metal anthems/choruses or melodramatic goth-ballads which unfortunately come off as more than a tad predictable and cheesy at times.  On Antichrist Superstar, Manson sounded like a genuinely evil and sinister individual who wanted to take over the world, and expose it to his truly disturbing and ugly vision.  On Holy Wood, he sounds like a big bad rock-star, shouting anthems and indulging in the album's generally over-produced sound.  It all comes off as a tad too polished and predictable as a result, despite a few compelling songs.  That said, this is also Manson at his most viable lyrically, as he really comes out swinging against all the Columbine critics, etc.  Probably the last album Manson made that had some balls to it.  So overall, not a bad album by any stetch of the imagination, and arguably his most well-rounded album, but one misses the rawer and more sinister aspects of his older albums.


The Golden Age of the Grotesque

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Marilyn Manson


Is my boy Marilym Manson trying to be...cool?  I certainly do not mean that in a good way...GAOTG sounds like he's having a mid-life crises or something.  This album sounds like some goth-dude that all of a sudden wants to party hardy or something...and has an affinity for 1930s Nazi Germany memorbilla...OK.  If that wasn't lame enough, the songs themselves are pretty weak for the most part.  His whole call-and-response, generic, goth-metal anthem thing was getting pretty pathetic, but GAOTG is even worse.  It's like he's trying to go in a semi-accessible direction, dare I say poppy direction.  Anyway, it just doesn't work...it all sounds super hollow, uncompelling, plastic, utterly lacking any artistic merit, etc...this is where I stopped paying attention...certainly worse alt-rock/metal albums you could have gotten at the time, but, uh, yeah, this is just borderline pathetic to these ears.  Not that anyone cared about Manson in 2003 anyway, but, just saying...


Eat Me, Drink Me

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Marilyn Manson


I suppose the best thing you could say about Eat Me, Drink Me is that it's an honest record.  But it honestly paints a pretty sad, pathetic picture of Mr. Manson essentially in a mid-life goth crisis.  He broke up with his wife/girlfriend/what have you, so now he's super depressed, and the music reflects that.  As a result, the music is incredibly bland and generally draining to listen to.  It's got no teeth, no bite whatsoever, as Manson basically just wallows in his melodramtic goth-rock pretensions throughout the entire album.  It's tired, kind of like Marilyn Manson in general in 2007.


The High End of Low

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Marilyn Manson


I apparently get some sort of sick pleasure in reviewing washed-up rockstars I fancied during my teenage years, and there's really no better example of that than Marilyn Manson.  For a guy that used to be compelling artist and a truly menacing and intelligent force in alternative-rock, he continues to pump out borderline pathetic albums as he grows into a middle-aged goth-rock has-been.  It's sounds cruel, I know, but that's basically what he is at this stage of his career.  The Manson of 10+ years ago would eat this sad sap for breakfast.  Manson basically went middle-aged "emo" on his last record, and that general vibe still pervades most of The High End of Low.  He's now pandering to the type of emo-goth rock suburb kids who get their asses kicked on a regular basis.  In other words, he's lost his balls, and his music reflects that.  It's all kind of cliche at this point.  Although The High End of Low has slightly more bite than Eat Me Drink Me, it's basically still another dud.  Manson is a shadow of his former self, but I still hold out hope that he comes up with something challenging or something with artistic merit at some point in the future.  He probably has it in him, but he's clearly not motivated to make anything remotely interesting/compelling at this stage in his career, probably because he doesn't have to (he's rich, semi-famous, so he's playing it safe with these hapless records, made for hapless loser emo kids).


Born Villain

Born Villain

Marilyn Manson


Far from a return to form, Born Villain is probably the best album Manson has made in the past 10+ years.  Unfortunately, that's not really saying much considering his past 3 albums have been pretty pathetic in their own way.  He dumbed it down with the hollow "Golden Age of the Grotesque", had a goth mid-life crisis on "Eat Me, Drink Me", and continued wallowing in his melodramatic emo-pretensions on the slightly less-worse "High End of Low".  On Born Villain, there are actually signs of life to be found here.  "No Reflection" is probaby the first new Manson song I've actually enjoyed listening to since the year 2000.  A couple of other songs are actually up-tempo, and attempt to conjure up some aggression, adrenaline, and the menacing vibe of his 90s heyday.  Unfortunately though, most of the album is same type of boring, draining, and lethargic goth-rock that plagued his last two albums.  They weigh the album down, but it is somewhat nice to hear Manson attempting to rev things up again.  All things considered, this is a modest step in the right direction, but it's still overall a below average album in the grand scheme of things.  Certainly difficult to take seriously, and hard to say it's worth the time of old school fans (unless you're just mildly curious like me).


The Pale Emperor

Marilyn Manson


Mr. Manson continues his modestly upward ascent from the bowels of shittiness that characterized most of his 2000s output to the pit of mediocrity with his latest release, The Pale Emperor.  And really, although his albums are continuing to approve, he's really just now getting back to respectable territory, and that's the best description for this album: respectable.  Underwhelming as that sounds, it is an encouraging achievement for the self-proclaimed "God of Fuck" as he hasn't made a genuinely good album in 15 years.  That's largely because, on the Pale Emperor, Manson has stopped pandering to the emo-teenager demographic, and as a result, the album feels less contrived.  It's got a confident (albeit subdued) bluesy swagger to it, and most of the songs actually have a good groove/rhythm to them.  Hard to put my finger on it, but this album seems to have a more tangible/authentic dark atmosphere to it, so it feels less tacky/predictable/cliche than his prior 4 efforts.

So these are all good things, but I would hesitate to call his a "good" album, much less a "return to form".  It's the sound of an artist continuing to slowly improve and get back in touch with his artistic sensibilities.  His best album in 15 years (even though it's not in the same league as Holy Wood), but considering his incredibly disappointing output during that span, it's not much of a compliment.  At least he's back up to respectability, so cheers to that I guess.


Heaven Upside Down

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Marilyn Manson


Marilyn Manson had a somewhat modestly respectable winning streak going with his past couple of releases, but unfortunately that has come crashing to a halt on this his latest album Heaven Upside Down.

In a nutshell, this is basically the 2017 version of his misguided foray into clubby and trendy territory last explored on 2003's incredibly disappointing The Golden Age of the Grotesque.  Like that album, Heaven Upside Down goes for cheap, dumbed-down, overly-produced thrills, except this time around it's even more accessible and radio-friendly (with less bite to boot).  In fact, I'd go so far as to say Heaven Upside Down is probably Manson's most overtly poppy album in his catalog.  This should come as no surprise considering he cited Rihanna (of all people) as an inspiration for this album. 

Mind you, this is Marilyn Manson we're talking about, so it's not like these songs are poppy in a cheerful sense, but more-so in a tacky, plastic, somewhat douchey posturing type of way.  A lot of these songs have that down-tempo, beat-heavy, wannabe trip-hop/90s production to them, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but it just comes off as incredibly trendy and cliche sounding. 

And speaking of cliche, Manson's lyrics have never been more generic and eye-roll inducing (i.e. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, revelation's coming through, say it again", or "you say God, I say Satan!").  Granted, a big complaint I've personally had with Manson's music post-Antichrist Superstar is his move to more generic rock shout-along anthems/choruses that just makes his music sound too predictable and formulaic (and significantly less dangerous). It's a great formula for rock radio, and, in fairness, occasionally hits the mark in a somewhat satisfying way, but it's not great if you actually want to make compelling/artistic/experimental music (like one of his idols David Bowie for example).  This whole album just sounds like a corporate-rock Hot Topic parody, with pretty shameless synth-pop undertones that only enhances it's overall accessibility.  

Heaven Upside Down is particularly disappointing coming on the heels of the borderline-good Pale Emperor, which found Manson maturing and somewhat pivoting in a potentially more avant-garde/less tacky direction.  Heaven Upside Down sounds like a regression in that it seems to be pandering to a more dumbed-down audience with it's general lack of depth, nuance, and misplaced posturing.  In other words, if you're a teenager that's a newcomer to Marilyn Manson, I can see how you might think this is a cool record, but for fans that have seen the man at the height of his powers in the mid-90s, this just feels like a cheap imitation, and a trite and trendy one at that.


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