Sound — 4
It still remains a debate of whether the addition of Tim Skold to the infamous fold of MM was a good idea or the knell for the band. The album is much more influenced by industrial and electronic music than even Antichrist Superstar was. Skold, of KMDFM and MDFMK fame, first appeared on the horizon as a producer on Holy Wood, and as most of us know by now, replaced Twiggy after he left (or was fired). Skold's influence is easily spotted. While some songs are reminiscent of Holy Wood (thanks to John 5, Pogo and Ginger the track Mobscene is very Manson) there is much more emphasis on loops, easy riffs, and one could say even a bit of nu in there. Rhythmically it has a much more machine-like militant feel, although Doll-Digga-Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zagg, besides its strange name also has a very rock'n'roll beat to it. Overall, the sound has been somewhat of a disappointment, in that the album seemed to be much more production and image-inspired, rather than the sonic and emotional finesse that Manson has become known for. The album comes off blatant, pretentious and dead, and while some tracks (notably, Para-Noir) are quite interesting, the album is consistent in the low points rather than highs. It's consistent, but not the consistency that you'd want as a fan. Skold being the producer, the production of the album is excellent. You have to give credit where it's due, and the cd is crisp-clear. Skold knows exactly, it seems, what the big picture is, and is pretty good at convincing Manson that it's good sound. All the same, it misses the spark of spontaneity and sounds a bit dated. Of course, the album is theatrical and a dark-sounding one, there's no denying that. There is also no denying that the general inspiration of the album of the 1930's Berlin, as well as children and their uninhibited imagination and creativity, have shaped the album, and that the music was probably a less of a focus, with Marilyn preferring to capture the atmosphere and the feel of a particular time, but the sound has suffered significantly.
Lyrics — 6
As I've mentioned before, the main inspiration for The Golden Age Of Grotesque was predominantly pre-war cabaret and impressionist Berlin. This alone will provide some of the most significant clues as to the album's lyrics and presentation, especially if you are willing to do some serious research on that era - the culture, artists, film directors etc. This is an important point, because initially the album's lyrics will come off pretentious and weak, I was bitterly disappointed initially with the fact that the person I admired for his craft to speak out and cause so much controversy through intelligent and well-researched lyrics has managed to let this album down. But in reality, the album is just as well researched and full of hidden and cryptic messages as ever before. On the outside, it's a rather childish self-indulgent opus. It's not Manson's greatest by all means, but at the same time it's not as terrible as most people will say it is. Childish-sounding rhymes are also a component, which will make sense if you consider that children were another inspiration. Children tend to make up words or phrases, and some certainly sound like that, yet there is a deeper meaning behind all those phrases. Even Doll Digga Buzz Buzz Ziggety Zagg is more than just a bunch of words, but is in fact a subtle drug reference. Manson's voice has never really changed, or has never been that versatile. That said, it complies perfectly with his music, as it always have. The often-mentioned grazingness of his voice (I know that's not really a word, but still) adds the sonic element that makes the rest of the music work quite well. But at the same time I don't see Manson singing opera any time soon.
Overall Impression — 4
This time around, the focus of the album seemed much more visual, and for the general presentation and theatre-like feel it's quite amazing. The album seems to transport you directly into the era that Manson was inspired by, and is soaked through with cabaret, impressionism and live-for-the-moment atmosphere. At the same time, musically it has been a disappointment. It's a solid album, but quite honestly I find most of the music somewhat boring. In anticipation to the new album in 2006, hopefully it's merely a stepping stone, but while production is excellent, the album is definitely missing some spark that made every other album work. There are a lot of fist-pumping anthems, but they seem to come off very self-indulgent and pompous rather than genuine. That said, the videos that have been released are amazing, which highlights yet again that this album has been primarily visual, and approached as a work of art as opposed to a collection of music.