Review Summary: Manson is free from restrictions of a concept for his writing, but he somewhat abuses his power.
With the Tryptich at a close, Marilyn Manson moves back into the world of albums without concepts. He reenters with 'The Golden Age of Grotesque' a sex and violence driven joyride with some early 1900's influences and yet another fresh, new sound brought by the Manson family, bringing back the industrial sound of 'Antichrist Superstar' and adding a heavier influence on a more traditional metal sound. It's not that simple though, with Manson adding his own flair and creativity in numerous parts of the LP.
The first three tracks on the album are by far the best on the album, so it does a great job of hooking you in. "This Is The New Sh*t"'s electronic beats and headbanging good chorus with some of the best screaming Manson's done completes this impressive track. "mOBSCENE" has an extremely catchy guitar riff performed by the ever talented John 5 with an equally catchy chant near the end of the chorus. "Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag" is an absolutely fantastic song and is easily in the top 10 Manson songs ever. It can only be described as swing metal with such a wonderful groove to it that will
get you moving. The insanely catchy vocals, as well as the guitar and drum work, are all so perfectly done, giving you a wonderful mix of classic swing and a modern industrial metal feel, and it's one of the most creative and fun songs you will ever hear.
While these three songs are fantastic and must listens, the rest of the album has a difficult time holding up to the standards set by those songs. On the surface, the later tracks seem pretty good. Lots of well done heavy industrial metal tunes with catchy vocals, but dig a bit deeper and you find lyricism that makes you stop and say, "What happened?" The lyrics on this album range from pretty good, to kinda cheesy, to just plain stupid. Coming off three albums with some of the most well written lyrics of the 90's and early 2000's, this is an impressive step down, with lyrics focusing on sex and violence but, instead of having them tie into a story, they seem meaningless and lack emotion. Some of the draws of his concept trilogy were the emotion and meaning behind each song, specifically slow and sad tracks like "Man That You Fear" or "Coma White". This song lacks anything of the sort. "Slutgarden" is a perfect example of what this album feels like. Well done instrumentals with a pretty cool riff in the verses but really dumb, overly sexual lyrics that repeat itself a bit too much. "(s)AINT" is another good example of a combination of sex and violence in the lyricism that just ends up making it cheesy. While songs that are basically 100% sexual and doesn't stray from it for a second like "Para-noir" are more than likely satire of some sort, they're not done in a creative or interesting way the way songs like "I Don't Like the Drugs" does it. If you don't care about lyrics, you'll probably enjoy these songs, but if you do, you'll just wish you were listening to 'Holy Wood' again.
The saving grace for this album is that it does still venture into areas that Manson has never gone before. The title track feels like an early 1900's circusy track that really can't be classified into a certain genre. While the annoying vocals may turn some off, it is certainly worth a listen. "Spade" is very reminiscent of Manson's past efforts and is the closest thing to real emotion this album has. Even then, the lyrics aren't fantastic. There are also times where Manson experiments with rapping vocals. "Better of Two Evils", despite having some laughable lyrics, has some interesting and surprisingly well done rap-esque vocals with some decent flow. "The Bright Young Things" is more straight up industrial rap metal with some good speed and impressive flow as well great instrumentals. The lyrics aren't quite as bad as the rest of the album either.
Musically, the album certainly stays fresh, and there isn't a doubt that there are some must listens in this package, but "The Golden Age of Grotesque" will disappoint anyone who likes Marilyn Manson for the inventive and intelligent lyrics. If you don't really care much for the lyricism and just want some well done industrial metal to listen to, then you'll more than likely enjoy this quite a bit. This album isn't for everyone, and some people will certainly enjoy it, but it's certainly a big step down from the three masterpieces released before this.