Remember when everybody was afraid of Marilyn Manson and Eminem? Then it turned out Detroit's white king of rap was a celebrity-obsessed one-liner machine with a pathetic array of mommy issues, and Florida's homegrown Satan went through a bad breakup and released 2007's weepy (relatively speaking) Eat Me, Drink Me. Now, on The High End of Low, Manson is trying to regain his dark throne once more, and frankly, it's unlikely to work. The track titles read like Manson-by-numbers: "Pretty as a Swastika," "Arma-godd**n-motherf**kin-geddon," "I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies," "I Have to Look Up Just to See Hell," and perhaps the most unwittingly revelatory, "We're from America." This album marks the return of former bassist Twiggy Ramirez to the band, but as ever the Manson personality/persona towers over everything else, and his two or three musical ideas are repeated throughout the disc, with only a few exceptions. It doesn't help that he's never even tried to become a technically proficient vocalist; his desultory croon and hoarse shriek are the same as they've been since the early '90s. There are a few catchy riffs here, and a nice tone on "Blank and White," but lyrics like "If you touch me I'll be smeared/You'll be stained for the rest of your life" (from "Leave a Scar") and "Everyone will come to my funeral to make sure that I stay dead" (from "Four Rusted Horses") feel like he's trying to convince himself as much as the audience. The album's middle stretch is a hard slog, with the six-and-a-half minute "Running to the Edge of the World" followed by the nine-minute "I Want to Kill You..." The former is a Bowie-esque ballad/epic (acoustic guitar, strings) that could have been great if it had only been two minutes shorter, while the latter is a one-riff trudge that never builds up any momentum. The aggressive "We're from America" has bursts of lyrical wit, but when your opening line, "We're from America where we eat our young," is cribbed from Funkadelic circa 1972, you're pretty much advertising that you're out of ideas.
AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman