Sound — 9
After watching the latest Blu-ray release Guns, God, & Government: Live In L.A., one thing becomes even more obvious than before: Marilyn Manson is just as much of a visual artist as he is a musical frontman. While recorded versions of songs like Sweet Dreams and Beautiful People have remained true to the creepiness that Manson delivers in person, it's not until you see the vocalist's live show that you fully recall why the controversial artist came to prominence in the first place. Guns, God, & Government, which was originally released as straightforward DVD release back in 2002 and featured a variety of footage taken during the world tour of the same name, now has been upgraded to Blu-ray quality and features the Los Angeles show in its entirety. Manson has an uncanny ability to jam-pack his shows with a variety of strange, sometimes disturbing imagery. When you see the L.A. show from top to bottom, it's easier to have an appreciation all of the work that goes into the making of a Manson show. Costume changes are par for the course, and you'll see the vocalist don everything from a Pope's vestment (The Love Song) to a dictator's outfit (Antichrist Superstar) and even looks somewhat tarred and/or oiled in the final song Lunchbox. One of the most dramatic visuals arrives in Crucifiction In Space, which features those creepy-looking monster stilts covered by a dramatic black robe as seen in the Beautiful People video. You really can't complain about Manson's stage show in terms of novelty and/or keeping the audience's interest. The camera's shots of the audience shows a group of devoted Manson followers, singing every word to every song, and often providing their own lewd reactions (check out the extras to get the full extent). Musically, the hour-and-a-half live show is packed with all of Manson's most well-known hits, including Beautiful People, Sweet Dreams, The Dope Show, and The Fight Song. It's more likely than not that Manson was lip-synching during a good portion of the show and this fact may piss some fans off, but it never is overly distracting. The stage show relies just as much on the stellar lineup of guitarist John 5, bassist Twiggy Ramirez, drummer Ginger Fish, and then-keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, all musicians who match the energy and drama of Manson.
Content — 8
If you're already an owner of the 2002 DVD that shares the same name as Guns, God, & Government, this is one case where you're actually getting new features. While it's true there was a wider variety of concert footage in the original release, you have more continuity with the new edition because it all comes from the same L.A. show. Still included in the extras is The Death Parade, a 30-minute documentary montage directed by Manson. If you weren't satiated by Manson's onstage antics, the debauchery seen in the bonus film should tie you over to the next release. You'll see everything from a transvestite peeing (with an extreme close-up of the process) to boob-flashing women to a gruesome look at Manson getting his bloody gash sewn up.
Production Quality — 9
The upgrade to Blu-ray certainly enhances the Manson concert experience, and this is one stage show that does deserve to be witnessed in the best-possible DVD quality. Just about every camera angle is explored, including great shots of Manson squatting, face-to-face with the front row (that crazy crystal eye of his comes through amazing well). The director made a smart choice of not switching between different film types (as many do for an artistic touch), and there wasn't any reason to given that Manson doesn't need any extra video enhancement.
Overall Impression — 9
Whether or not you're a fan of the consistently intriguing Manson, you'll still likely find yourself pretty mesmerized by Guns, God, & Government. It's true that many people probably have greater expectations for his stage show (given all his past antics and visually disturbing music videos), and he does an efficient job in the end. The vocals might not be 100 percent live, but the instrumentation is still incredibly vibrant and it does appear/sound that John 5 and the gang's music is not canned. The bonus video might appall/shock/annoy some of you out there, but that is probably Manson's end goal anyway.