Review Summary: The High End of Low is a perfect way to describe Manson's seventh LP.
Anger and angst are dangerous things when it comes to music. When a Musician or Artist gains critical success from an emotion such as hate – gaining a living from hating every living, breathing thing on the planet, wanting nothing short of watching the world burn to dust – you are effectively dancing with the Devil. Many Artists, like Manson, start their careers off with very simple intentions: channelling all that negative emotion into music. These types of Artists in turn cause a lot of controversy and thus the snowballing of their success begins.
Irony plays its part in these peoples careers though, ever lingering. Once the Artist becomes hugely successful they try and maintain that same selling point, because their market is now millions of angst fuelled fans who look up to the Artist for having the same connections and relations. The thing is, as you watch their careers move from year to year, if they haven’t put themselves in an early grave through drugs, alcohol or any other cliché, the high life tends to take away the fire in their bellies. And what you’re left with is an Artist with nothing to talk or write about, trying to rediscover the success they once had.
This pretty much sums up Marilyn Manson at this point in his life. Before the making of the surprisingly solid ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’ record, Manson lost 80% of his members, giving him the opportunity to mix things up and change his musical style, and it ended up paying off for him. It was going to be interesting to see where he’d go with a follow-up though. So two years later and another line-up change for the ‘High End of Low’ album, Tim Skold ended up departing and long time bass player Twiggy returned to the band, now the main songwriter, also switching to guitar as his primary instrument. With the return of Twiggy and the band saying the record will sound more like ‘Antichrist Superstar’, anticipation for the album was high.
The finished product however is unfortunately Manson’s weakest record to date. ‘The High End of Low’ is inconsistent and never really knows what it wants to do. From consciously picking sounds from past albums to appeal to fans to stumbling forward with awkward new sounds. ‘High End of Low’ mostly sticks close to the Rock driven sound found on ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’, using pop-style melodies and simple riffs. However, the formula doesn’t work this time round, and lacks any real continuity or focus. It never keeps its eye on one target, rather spray firing and hoping for the best.
‘Pretty As a Swastika’ is a desperate attempt at trying to reach out to the raw animal sound of ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and ‘Running to the Edge of the World’ is another grab at past times, sounding like a cross between ‘The Nobodies’ and ‘Coma White’ mashed together; whilst other tracks try to evolve his sound like ’Arma-goddamn-mother***in-geddon’ which tries to move forward, but when the song kicks in with the note progression from the iconic Billy Idol track ‘White Wedding’ guitar riff, with little attempt or pride in trying to change it up, it quickly became a little hard to swallow.
The majority of criticism goes to the experiment tracks that try and move the band forward. ‘We’re From America’ is probably one of the worst songs Manson has ever written: instrumentally bad, lyrically terrible and vocally both. ‘WOW’ is another one that is instrumentally inadequate and can’t hold up the weight of Manson’s babble of a dysfunctional relationship. In fact, Manson’s vocal performance and lyrics do more damage to this LP than good. Lyrical topics, again, try and tap into the golden age of his career, aiming at the media and politics, but come across so contrived he’d have done a better job just talking about getting his dick sucked again.
There are some positives to the album though. While the riffs are extremely lacklustre for the majority of the LP, you can really feel Manson and Twiggy had a strong connection writing this record. Songs like ‘Unkillable Monster’ has some cool reverb layered guitar riffs under Manson’s okay singing. ‘Four Rusted Horses’ is a catchy track, that has a John Carpenter vibe to it and it oddly works really well. And despite the obvious grabs to the past ‘Devour’, ‘Pretty as a Swastika’ and ‘Running to the Edge of the World’ are still enjoyable.
Overall, with Twiggy back in the game with Manson, there was a lot of pressure on this album being good. The progression of ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’ worked in Manson’s favour, but with the departure of Tim before the creative process of the album it ended up leaving an unfocused, inconsistent collection of songs that lack any real flow. If you’re a massive fan of his works, check it out just to see if you find anything worthwhile. For anyone else, it’s not worth the time or money. Some ideas on the album work okay at best, but for the most part this was the waning sign of an Artist who lost his identity.
Die-Hard Fans Only.