Review Summary: Manson's anger at everyone and everything is perfectly channeled with his fifth album.
Marilyn Manson has never been a man ashamed to admit he is a psychotic son of a bitch and it was only a matter of time before his persona was reflected perfectly by an album. This album eventually came about in the form of 2003's The Golden Age Of Grotesque, an album that serves as a means to tell Manson's own tale, from his initial presumptions of having no future through to his life as a world-renowned symbol of the aggressive and the controversial. It is also used as a meant to satire the society of today and also as a means of taking sly digs at those who have previous insulted Manson and said that he would never amount to anything. This is perhaps the angriest this man has ever been on record and at the same time serves as the ideal introduction into his discography with many songs that have gone on to be hits, and is also one of the darkest Industrial albums and most honest glances one will get into the mind of Manson.
The instrumental work to The Golden Age Of Grotesque is very simplistic, primarily revolving around open strings and the most primal form of guitar playing imaginable. There is never a whole lot happening in the instrumental department, with the rest of Manson's band seemingly holding back to allow Manson to weave his tales of anger and alienation and to attack the morals that men stand for. This is not to say that the backing tracks for the songs here are not of a high level of quality as the introduction to the song (s)Aint and the thundering bass line and drum beat to This Is The New Sh*t show off really well. This album also nails the idea of jumping from the soft to the aggressive flawlessly with a whole lot of conviction, as is displayed on a number of the songs here. mOBSCENE is has a fairly relaxed series of verses with the guitar work firing on all cylinders only during the chorus and the introduction, with a marvelous drum fill found half way through the chorus. Para Noir is also a song that is worthy of a mention due to its creepy atmosphere and feelings of despair it invokes through the haunting web of sexually oriented thoughts spun by Jessicka of Jack Off Jill fame. This song is another example of how a song can be slow and soft for the verse before leaping out at the listener with one hell of an emphatically delivered chorus.
If one thought that the instrumentals speak for themselves by consistently creating an eerie and haunting background, then Manson is the icing on the cake for this release. His gruff and angry sounding voice compliments the high pitched guitars and the dynamic pacing of the album perfectly using a variety of techniques. He primarily sticks to a middling range of vocal sounds but often jumps into a very well executed scream such as the longer one in Para Noir that continues on in the back ground for around fifteen seconds with a lot of distortion added to it. The vocal effects added in studio only serve to emphasize some of the better moments of the album before usually leading into a soft and more groove-driven instrumental only section of a song. He occasionally signals the transition in music with a quick dose of creepy whispered vocals that do not feel forced as with many bands who attempt this nature of vocals but in fact are used sparingly and work very well within the context of the album. The lyrics for this release are disturbing, morbid and dark and are more than often fueled by feelings of isolation, be it from females (Para Noir, Slutgarden) or from people in general (mOBSCENE) or perhaps from the music industry and the fame that accompanies it (This Is The New Sh*t). The lyrics to this album are written with absolute venom as has become the standard with Marilyn Manson and are about as child-friendly as a public execution. Manson more than often hinges his songs around catchy choruses but fills his songs with an influx of the F-word that is actually far less annoying than when it is used by a band such as Slipknot. Marilyn Manson is, in essence, a more mature and intelligent version of Corey Taylor, using rage and his own personal experiences and anger to make for a disgusting ride through his own messed up mind. There is also some genuine thought gone into making his lyrics appear clever as is evidenced by the play on the words Saint and Obscene in a couple of songs, but at times this album also appears to descend into mindless rants such as on This Is The New Sh*t.
A real negative to be singled out about this release is that at times it dwells on the instrumental work too much, often for prolonged sections lasting a minute or more. Para Noir could have at least been cut back by two minutes as it fast becomes repetitive after the two verses, ditto The Bright Young Things and This Is The New Sh*t. The most questionable song on the album for its length however is Better Of Two Evils. This song really has no place on the album and drags on for too long, despite the fact that it clocks in at a mere three minutes forty seven seconds, which makes it one of the average songs on the album. This is more of a filler song than anything that is purely there to continue the tale that the album tells, and takes too long for its closing section and reusing the chorus over and over again to the point that it fast becomes grating on the ears. This is the one song that could have completely been cut out of the album as it really goes nowhere and feels like a catchy song for the sake of it that has no real purpose other than to get you singing along. Also worth noting is that the second half of the album marks a massive change in quality, as until (s)Aint the album is absolutely top notch but after that there is only Para Noir that really sticks out and that is purely for the atmosphere that accompanies it and there is nothing that really stands up to Use Your Fist And Not Your Mouth or mOBSCENE.
The Golden Age Of Grotesque is a mixed bag of an album that is definitely a great listen and really has a lot going for it from Manson himself, and even makes its minimalistic approach to instrumental work fit the album perfectly. Many of the lyrics on the album have a lot of relevance to everybody today, so kudos to Manson for writing such lines as "I wake up for today and wish for tomorrow", perfectly reflecting on the feelings of the general public whilst channeling his own anger. The lyrical content and vocal performance is definitely top notch and many of the instrumentals thunder along and nail the dynamic of jumping from soft to heavy really well, but unfortunately the pacing of the album, particularly in the tail end of it, is really messed up.