Review Summary: An improvement from Eat Me, Drink Me, and while still not great, it's worth a listen.
Marilyn Manson hit his critical and commercial low in 2007 with the whining and pining Eat Me, Drink Me. He then promised a new album that was "ruthless, heavy, and violent", and that was "much more like Antichrist Superstar".
OK, it's not like Antichrist Superstar. But it's not bad. In fact, Manson boasts his new style (devoid of all metal influences) that is soaked with glam and alternative hard rock. He himself seems to notice that he's not scary anymore - even the most conservative Christians aren't protesting him anymore. He tries to return to being the "god of f**k" once more. It fails, but the music isn't bad.
He opens with "Devour", a poppy love song that is somewhat reminiscent of the themes of Eat Me, Drink Me. It seems as if The High End of Low takes place right after that album - the state where Manson decides to turn around again and darken the atmosphere. It succeeds, too - "Pretty as a Swastika" is a new form of the old Manson, and with reckless guitars and a brutal "Let me show you where it hurts!" chorus (literally), it's a wonder this isn't the album's finale. "Leave a Scar" is next, a number about his ex-girlfriends that has little dry wit. Songs like this and "WOW" make you wonder if he's really forgotten the burlesque Dita von Teese. The latter is a dirty industrial speech about sex, wet with Nine Inch Nails influence. The lyrics are poor, but it's an amusing and catchy piece that is definitely worth a listen.
"Four Rusted Horses" is a slow but heavy acoustic song with strong lyrics ("Four rusted horses strangled by their own rope... Everyone will come to my funeral to make sure that I stay dead"). Perhaps the landmarks of the album are the songs "Arma-Godd**n-Motherf**kin-Geddon and "I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies", two songs that Manson earlier declared would be present on the record. "Arma... Geddon" is filled to the brim with a heavy glam sound combined with a reckless bass line (Ă* la Twiggy Ramirez). He swears lazily in an attempt to cause some outrage. Of course, no one cares, since they're all words we've heard before, but again, it's not a bad song. "I Want to Kill You..." is 9 minutes long, but it all feels diluted. There's really nothing special about it (though the lyrics are interesting, referencing... film), so it's a bit of a waste.
Acoustic guitar is ever-present on the album, notably in "Running to the Edge of the World" and "Unkillable Monster", both of which are veering to the pop angle. "We're from America" has the silliest lyrics on the album, with verses like "We're from America, where they let you cum on their faces". The title song is "I Have to Look Up Just to See Hell", where he actually repeats "The high end of low" persistently. The album ends with two songs; "Into the Fire" and "15", respectively. The former is powerful, and Manson sings with the utmost emotion alongside... piano!? "15" is strange, let alone for a finale. It seems to adopt much of Depeche Mode's synthpop (the group has always been an influence for Manson). It leaves the listener with a strange feeling of discontent
Manson's voice is more or less the same as it was in Eat Me, Drink Me, with slightly less distortion. The guitar here is more crunchy, more reckless, though Manson has a long way to go to reach the ruthlessness of Antichrist Superstar or Holy Wood. The album feel is similar to Mechanical Animals more than anything. While that album was more enjoyable, this one does indicate a step in the right direction. After all, no one can run a mile without taking baby steps.
"Pretty as a Swastika"
"Four Rusted Horses"