Marilyn Manson

The time has come to tear down the false deities which imprison us. If you've been oppressed, you are not alone. Our sort is legion. Nobody understands how torturous this existence has become. Not even excess is excessive anymore. We have but to implode. Yet the world will continue on, as oblivious to our absence as it was to our presence.

And so it goes, in yet another installment of The World as Seen by Brian Warner (a.k.a. Marilyn Manson). The message is the same as it ever was, and even some of the songs sound a little tired, as if recycled one too many times. "Disposable Teens" is essentially a three-minute reprise of "The Beautiful People," with all the cool parts removed. Holy Wood's ultimate downfall, however, is its limited scope. On previous outings, Manson typically has managed to keep the straight razor in one hand and his own (or someone else's) genitals in the other. Seeing which compulsion -- gratification or mutilation -- would rise to the top at any given moment was a big part of what made it all fun.

Now, it's all over but the dying. No more roaming the countryside terrorizing or titillating the mayor's daughter, and no more doing so vicariously as a listener. No woodies here, just stiffs. "The Fight Song" ("Nothing suffocates you more than / the passing of everyday human events") and the aforementioned "Disposable Teens" ("I wanna thank you mom / I wanna thank you dad / for bringing this fucking world / to a bitter end") are fully representational of what's on hand lyrically. Musically, things aren't much different. Sonic colors are almost altogether missing, with a barely varying mid-tempo gray absorbing all the light.

The closest that Holy Wood gets to real momentum is a six-song stretch -- there are 19 songs total -- from "Target Audience" to "The Nobodies," in which themes of vacuous pop culture and inevitable evolution/damnation are woven together against a musical backdrop that plays to Manson's strengths: space and a simple riff.

Marilyn Manson doesn't owe it to anybody to make records that he doesn't feel like making. Bleak is fine as a theme, but it's also tougher work than partying. But for the first time since breaking onto the national stage, Marilyn Manson offers nothing compelling to keep you staring into the void.

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Chris Smith