Hard Rock

‘All Out Life’ – Slipknot

 

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It’s been four years since Slipknot released new music. Lately, Corey Taylor has been teasing the band’s return with a new album coming in 2019. To keep maggots satiated, the band shared their new song “All Out Life” and it’s everything you want in a Slipknot song: intense, heavy, fast, and loud. And it’s one hell of a ride.

This time Slipknot isn’t exploring their sound or trying new things. They go back to the intense, violent nature that turned heads 19 years ago. The song begins with a quiet intro featuring a distorted voice. The crunching music builds up keeping you on edge waiting for the moment when the music explodes. When it finally does, it’s a rush of aggression that pummels you.

It’s classic Slipknot all the way.  Taylor screams as if spitting venom, percussion is heavy enough to crush you, and the dizzying guitars get your blood pumping. It’s non-stop adrenaline that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. It’s a brutal track that harkens back to their first two albums, Iowa in particular. While they don’t get as dark as they did on that album, it’s still a sound that hasn’t been spotlighted on their later releases.

During an interview with Zane Lowe, Taylor reveals the song is about “the toxic idea that unless something came out 10 minutes ago, it’s not any good.” He continues to describe it as a rallying cry that “bring[s] everyone together, but also remind everyone the past is not something to be discarded with disdain.” And that’s exactly what it is.

During the interlude, Taylor chants “I will not celebrate mediocrity/I will not worship empty shells/I will not listen to worthless noises” addressing listeners as if preparing for them for battle. His anger and frustration reach a boiling point as he exclaims “We are not your kind!” making for one of the most satisfying moments in the song. It’s one of those moments that gets your fist in the air and ready to attack.

“All Out Life” isn’t Slipknot’s greatest song, but damn if it isn’t a good time. With its message, rallying cry appeal, and throwback sound, it’s a track made for the fans. They stick with their tried and true formula, showing they haven’t lost their edge over the years. It’s a ferocious return for the band and one that gets you excited for the new era to come.

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Playlist: Michael Jackson Goes Heavy Metal

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Though the world lost Michael Jackson nearly a decade ago, his music is still widely celebrated all over the world. Jackson’s music had a wide impact all across music, including the most unlikely genre, metal. For a pop star, Jackson has a lot of heavy metal fans to his name, which makes sense considering how often he incorporated rock into his music. But most metal covers do nothing more than add in some loud guitars and screaming vocals. Fortunately, there are a good amount of covers that make the song into something else entirely. To celebrate what would’ve been Jackson’s 60th birthday, let’s take a look at these kick ass Michael Jackson metal covers that’ll get your fists pumping in the air.

“Beat It” – John 5

John 5 is a madman on the guitar, whose laid down intricate riffs for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Considering his riffs are ferocious, you know his Michael Jackson cover is going to be good. The guitarist included his version of “Beat It” on his 2012 album God Told Me To as a tribute to the late pop star. The instrumental track features John 5 playing everything from the main riff to the core melody on guitar. He even replicates some of Jackson’s vocal flourishes on the guitar. He keeps the badass nature of the song intact while showing off his impressive guitar skills.

“Give In to Me” – Soto

Soto released their version of Jackson’s 1991 hit in 2016. The song was already rock infused with Slash on guitar, but Soto takes the song in a darker direction. The intro sounds more somber than the original; you get an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing it. Jeff Soto’s vocal delivery is powerful and haunting, whereas Jackson’s is more anguished and angry. Even the music more intense; the crunching guitars and pounding drums give the song a heavier, morose vibe. It’s a great metal interpretation of the track, especially since it’s not a one to cover.

“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence

Featuring Steve Stevens on guitar, this song already had roots in rock, which is why it’s a popular choice for rock and metal acts. Yet, none of the covers are as chilling or beautiful as this version. The song begins with gentle keys that gives off this haunting tone. You don’t realize what they’re performing until Amy Lee starts singing. She builds up momentum with thing steadily getting gritty until the explosive chorus when the dirty guitars and pummeling drums kick in. But the highlight of the cover is Lee’s performance. She sings with so much power and ferocity it’s like she’s stabbing every line with a knife. Listening to her sing, it’s enough to give you chills.

“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli

Alien Ant Farm blew people’s minds when they showed how well Michael Jackson translated to rock music. Their version is still considered one of the best Jackson covers, but this rendition by Youtuber Leo Moracchioli blows it out of the water. This one-man band cranks everything up and gives us a brutal version of this Bad single. The guttural vocals, crunching guitars, pounding drums turns this pop song into a gritty metal anthem. He even puts his own stamp on it with his own searing guitar solo making it stand out from other covers. Whereas the Alien Ant Farm cover makes you jump around, this version makes you want to mosh. Moracchioli is an absolute powerhouse, who regularly puts a metal spin on pop songs. If you want to hear more, check out his version of “Bad.”

“Speed Demon” – Xerath

This song kicks ass, plain and simple. It’s another Jackson single most people don’t cover. Most Jackson covers are already rock based, so it’s easy to down tune the guitars, throw in a solo, and add some screaming vocals. But Xerath turns this song into an aggressive, in your face anthem. They transform the main melody into a searing riff, yet it still has this undeniable groove to it. As soon as that opening riff kicks in, you can’t help but headbang. The screaming vocals are extreme; it sounds like Richard Thomson is ripping his throat to shreds. You never thought a Michael Jackson song could be this intense. A cover like this makes you realize how versatile Jackson’s music was.

“Thriller” – Koritni

No matter what you think about Michael Jackson it’s hard to dislike “Thriller.” It’s a favorite among metal bands to cover, but most renditions are boring doing nothing more than adding beefed-up guitars and screaming vocals. While Australian rock band Koritni’s version isn’t the greatest; their version “Thriller” is at least exciting. There’s something exhilarating about hearing the iconic opening on an electric guitar. The vocals are a bit exaggerated and hammy, but they give the song a rousing makeover. It’s sure to please metal and Jackson fans alike.

“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva

Rock band Saliva covered Jackson’s 1995 single for their tenth album, Loves, Lies, & Therapy. The music is the best part here. The song was already intense, but the added guitars and the fiery solo adds a new heaviness to the track. As for the vocals, they aren’t as powerful as Jackson’s. When Jackson sang it he was tired, angry, and fed up with the way people and the media treated him due to the allegations lobbied against him. Bobby Amaru sounds fine, but there’s no fire in his voice. This version doesn’t have the same feeling coming from Saliva, but in terms of music and performance, they at least do a good job.

“Scream” – Annisokay

In 2016, post-hardcore band Annisokay released an EP of Michael Jackson covers titled Annie Are You Okay? And it’s actually pretty good. Their versions of “Beat It” and “Thriller” are intense, but it’s their cover of “Scream” that stands out. Not only is it a song that’s rarely covered, they take the song’s main riff and turns it on its head. The grinding guitars and pummeling drums give it an abrasive sound while the growling vocals add a new ferocity. With how in your face it is, it pulls you into the song. The vocals are kind of weak, but Christoph Wieczorek and Kiarely Castillo don’t sound terrible. Their vocals just don’t demand the same prowess and command as Michael and Janet. They did leave in Michael’s scream from the original, which is a nice touch.

“Beat It” – Raintime

Imagine if Dream Theater covered Michael Jackson. That’s what this cover is like. Raintime released this cover on their second album, Flies & Lies in 2007. This version sets itself apart from the countless others with its prog-metal influence. While the iconic guitar riff and the spiraling solo are still there, they make sure to incorporate dancing keys throughout. They even put in a keyboard solo before the main solo. Whereas the John 5 version translates the entire song, melody and all, on guitar, this version turns it into a full-blown metal affair. It’s loud, filled with dirty crunchy riffs, and snarling vocals to give it a new flavor.

There are lots of metal Micheal Jackson covers out there, so which ones did I miss? What are you favorite Jackson covers? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Best Songs of 2018 So Far…

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Each year I always look forward to what music has in store. Whether it’s discovering a new band or listening to old favorites, there’s always something to look forward to. 2018 isn’t over yet, but there have already been some great songs I’ve kept on repeat. So before we look forward to music coming out this fall, let’s look back at the stellar songs released so far. Here are my picks for the best songs of 2018 so far.

Marmozets – “Lost in Translation”

Marmozets are one of the best rock bands you’re not listening to. They released their second album, Knowing What You Know Now, earlier this year and it’s on my list of top albums of 2018. It was hard to choose just one song, but “Lost In Translation” shows off their energy, hard driving sound, and their growth as a band. It’s pummeling beat and bouncy riff pumps you up and the underlying groove gets you moving. Everything crashes during the hook hitting right in the chest, but you’re too busy headbanging to notice. There’s a great swagger and cockiness to the song that instantly pulls you in. It also shows why Becca Macintyre is a stellar vocalist. She doesn’t just yell and scream. She plays around with her voice manipulating its range depending on the song’s tone. It’s only one of many great songs from an amazing album. I highly recommend it.

Pale Waves – “The Tide”

I like Pale Waves, but even I don’t understand their rabid fanbase. After listening to their debut EP and seeing them live, I really don’t understand what’s got fans so crazy. They’re not really doing anything new; they sound like 1975, who sound like bands from the 80s like INXS. But when I hear the opening riff of this song, I instantly start dancing. It’s so bouncy and upbeat and the hook of “I’ll be the sea honey/always, always/and you’ll be the tide” will be stuck in your head for days. It’s fun to listen to and makes you feel good even though the lyrics are a bit gloomy. It may not be the best song I’ve heard this year, but it’s one I can’t stop singing.

Night Riots – “Colour Morning”

The first new track from Night Riots since Love Gloom falls very much in tune what they dubbed their “gloom pop” sound. There’s a melancholy air to the song mixed with a hint of pop and alt-rock. From the soft plucks of the opening guitar to Travis Hawley proclaiming “Goddamn what a beautiful world” it sounds pretty and mellow even though it’s seemingly about lost love. It has a dreamy, atmospheric mood similar to “Breaking Free,” another stellar song of theirs. It’s not the upbeat, catchy vibe found on their EP that caught my attention, but the atmospheric music and Hawley’s sensual vocals make it one of their prettier compositions.

Dead Sara – “Unamerican”

If you think rock is dead then you obviously haven’t heard this song. Taken from their new EP, Temporary Things Taking Up Space, this is classic Dead Sara all the way. It’s got a searing riff, a dirty tone, Emily Armstrong’s gritty vocals, and an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Armstrong even squeezes a nice “Fuck you, Donald Trump” in there, though she claims it’s nothing political. It’s a hard-hitting, raw song that pumps you and makes you want to rage. Surprisingly, the rest of EP finds them moving towards an alt-rock direction, but this song shows they haven’t abandoned their hard rock roots.

Turnstile – “Generator”

Turnstile’s second album Time & Space is another hard one to choose just one great song from. The album is a blistering 25 minutes of raging hardcore that comes at you fast and hard. All of the tracks are thrilling, but the shifting sounds and moods of “Generator” stand out. Opening with a chugging metal riff, singer Brendan Yates comes out the gate swinging screaming at the top of his lungs “I’m hanging on to what I got left/picking up the pieces in the dark.” Everything is really aggressive up until the bridge where things slow down and soft singing replaces Yates’ screams. The dizzy guitar riff and pulsing beats create a trippy vibe before returning to destructive sound. This is only a sample of what Turnstile does. I highly recommend this album if you want to hear more.

Jack White – “Hypermisophoniac”

When Jack White announced his third solo album, I wasn’t very interested especially after hearing “Connected By Love.” But after giving Boarding House Reach a chance, I found it to be pretty great. It has the classic White sound we’re used to, but he fuses it with so many weird, wonderful elements like on this track. It starts with this hypnotic electronic looping. White keeps adding layers as he shows off his guitar skills and attacks the piano like he wants to hurt it. It’s a fusion of jazz, funk, rock, and blues stamped white White’s swagger that makes it an album highlight.

Franz Ferdinand – “Lazy Boy”

Most Franz Ferdinand songs are cheeky, fun, and have a hook you can’t stop singing. “Lazy Boy” from their latest album, Always Ascending, has all of these, which makes it one of the best from the LP. The music is infused with their new disco dance direction, yet still has killer riffs that they’re known for. The lyrics are straightforward and simple, but the playful way Alex Kapranos sings “I’m a lazy boy/yes a lazy boy/lazy in the morning boy” gets stuck in your head for days. It may not be their greatest song; it’s just a lot of fun to sing and dance to and manages to stand out on an album full of dance influenced jams.

The Struts – “Body Talks”

The Struts are all about having a good time and getting back to the basics of rock n roll: partying, money, and hot women. Their songs always sound like a party and it’s no different with their latest. It has everything you want in a Struts song: high energy, big hooks, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. There’s also a hint of sexy that makes the song so tantalizing. Frontman Luke Spiller sounds seductive and playful as he sings “Oooh your body talks/your body talks.” It’s another let-the-good-times-roll anthem from The Struts that shows the fun, carefree nature of the band. If this is a taste of the new album, then I can’t wait to hear the rest.

Panic! At the Disco – “Roaring 20s”

Even though I love PATD’s debut album, I never got into their later stuff. I started checking out their recent stuff out of curiosity and was surprised how much I enjoyed Pray for the Wicked. The entire record has this celebratory, party vibe to it that’s perfectly captured on “Roaring 20s.” With its slinky rhythm and an infectious hook Urie is known for, it sounds like nothing but a good time. The lyrics suggest something darker at play, but you can’t help but dance to over the top music. Plus, it takes you back to Urie’s baroque pop days, which pleases longtime fans like me. It’s just fun to listen to, while the entire album makes you feel good. If you need a pick me up, then you should check out Pray for the Wicked.

Hit Bargain – “Tourist II”

Hit Bargain’s Potential Maximizer wasn’t on my radar when it came out in May, but when it was recommended to me I was hooked. A playful, yet poignant hardcore record, it’s one of the most thrilling and exciting releases of the year. All the songs grab you by the throat and start pummeling you, but my favorite is “Tourist II.” Singer Nora Singh sounds cocky and playful as she sings and the bouncy opening riff sucks you in. The intense, hard driving music and Singh’s piercing screams sound like chaos incarnate. The song is bursting with energy and attitude, which is all over their debut album. Be sure to check them out if you want a riveting and exciting good time.

The Cure – “Drowning Man (Bright Birds Mix 2018)”

When The Cure announced a reissue of their 1990 remix album Mixed Up along with a disc of new mixes titled Torn Down, I wasn’t expecting much. I’m not a fan of the original album and didn’t have a lot of faith in the new mixes. Surprisingly, I was impressed with the 2018 remixes with this one standing out. Robert Smith messes with the song enough to put a different spin on it without changing it completely. He managed to make this song sound more bleak and depressing and if you’re familiar with the original you didn’t think it could get any darker. The sweeping music and layered vocals that wail like a spirit makes it more somber. He amps up the melancholy and Gothic tone making a chilling and unforgettable experience.

Con Brio – “Heart Shaped Box”

Nirvana songs aren’t sexy, but Con Brio turned this grunge classic into a slow jam. Instead, they turn the song on its head with a healthy dose of funk and soul. Singer Ziek McCarter sounds sensual as he sings, which is weird for a Nirvana song. It’s almost like Michael Jackson decided to cover this Nirvana classic. You wouldn’t expect the soulful rendition to be any good, yet it’s one of the most unique and top-notch covers I’ve heard. And I’m really picky when it comes to Nirvana cover. It may not be for all fans, but at least Con Brio did something unique with the song and managed to really make it their own.

Gorillaz – “Humility”

Yacht rock is usually reserved for the lite radio station your parents love and Christopher Cross. But when Gorillaz put their own spin on it, it’s a summer jam. The first offering from The Now Now gives us a different, breezy vibe than what we heard on Humanz. The music is mellow and smooth with a hint of jazz flair thanks to guest collaborator George Benson. Damon Albarn’s soothing vocals complete the relaxing mood. It’s so easy going it sounds like it was made for summer. Imagining listening to this chilling on the beach or out on the road. It makes you feel good, which is what we all need right now.

Which songs have you been jamming to this year? Let me know in the comments!

Dead to the World – Marilyn Manson

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Release Year: 1996

Rating: 7.5/10

Marilyn Manson’s Dead to the World tour was infamous for its controversial stage antics, anti-Christian rhetoric, and the ire it drew from religious groups. On any given night, fans could expect to see destruction, trashing the Bible, and self-mutilation on stage. Rumors of sacrificing animals and abusing fans spread quickly and helped make Marilyn Manson the most hated band in America. The debauchery, chaos, destruction, sex, and violence was captured on their first video release, Dead to the World. It offers a glimpse into the brutal show, what goes on backstage, and trying to understand who Marilyn Manson is.

The video is a mix of live performances from the Dead to the World tour and weird backstage footage and interviews with the man himself. It opens with various religious groups protesting outside of shows talking about the evil Marilyn Manson will bring. It’s a fascinating spectacle to witness. To think music caused such a strong reaction. These groups thought Manson was so evil their fans clearly needed saving. It’s amazing to see them freak out over one guy in makeup. It’s something we don’t see in current music anymore unless it’s a bunch of people tweeting angry messages. It really shows the power of his music and the effect it can have on people both good and bad.

From there the rest of the exclusive footage is backstage antics and random bits filmed by the band’s cameraman. It ranges from fascinating to incoherent. The candid interviews with Manson offered (at the time) a rare glimpse at the man beneath the makeup. His horror stories about being teased in Catholic school and finding an aborted fetus in a coffee tin when he was young give a bit of insight to the way he is. It’s a way to try and understand his worldview. These stories are well known among fans now, but at a time when we really wondered if he had his ribs removed, it gave us a look at the mysterious artist.

Most of the footage is clearly meant to get a reaction. It’s a collage of random clips thrown together meant to depict tour life for the band. This includes copious amounts of drugs, lots of drinking, and sex. Shots go from women touching themselves to the band doing drugs to being destructive backstage. Sometimes we get shots of fans, like the infamous slashers, which Manson expresses his discomfort for, but a lot of it is weird stuff you can barely make out. Maybe it would’ve been shocking 10 years ago, but it doesn’t have the same effect now. It’s meant to be shocking, yet it’s trying too hard. Most of it makes you roll your eyes with exhaustion. Now, it seems incoherent and confusing made even worse by the poor video quality.

The best bits are the performances. The video includes highlights from the tour like “The Beautiful People,” “1996,” “Lunchbox,” and “Apple of Sodom,” which he rarely performs. This is peak Marilyn Manson. It’s easy to forget what a force he was on stage when you hear about him stumbling around drunk in concert now. The shows were like a chaotic, demented circus with Manson stomping around on stilts for “Kinderfeld,” ripping up the Bible during “Antichrist Superstar,” and cutting himself on stage not even acknowledging his chest covered in blood. It’s exhilarating to watch him unleash his fury. It’s nothing but pure chaos and anger as the band smashes things, shove each other, and, sometimes, simulate oral sex. No wonder parents were afraid of this band.

The video ends with backstage footage of a bloodied Manson fuming over a stage mishap and the band being destructive (and sick) in general. It’s the typical type of debauchery you expect when rock stars have too many drinks. The most disturbing bit comes in the final moments when the screen fades to black and we hear Manson screaming at a young girl to shut up and sit still followed by her blooding curdling screams. This is an excerpt from a short film Manson made called “Groupie.” A film so disturbing and vile, his manager told him it would destroy his career if he ever released it.

Dead to the World is still a fascinating look Marilyn Manson’s most controversial period. Parts of it are weird or try too hard to be shocking, but it gives viewers an inside peek at this chaotic tour. At a time when people thought he was killing animals at his concerts, it’s a way to depict what actually happened. Manson even alluded to this in the video saying he wished more parents would let kids see the show. The performances are top notch and the candid moments with Manson are intriguing. With his latest antics, you forget Marilyn Manson was once the most hated band in America. This video shows why and it’s one hell of a ride. It’s weird, confusing, thrilling, and a little disturbing much like early Marilyn Manson. Let’s just hope it gets an HD re-release soon.

Heaven Upside Down – Marilyn Manson

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

When Marilyn Manson announced his new album Say10 last year, I was pretty excited. His last albums were great and I was itching to hear new music from him. But when the album didn’t show up on Valentine’s Day I slowly grew disinterested. My expectations got lower after hearing the first two singles. But once I got my hands on Heaven Upside Down, I found myself faced with the old Manson that scared and fascinated me as a teen. While there are some definite nods to some of his greatest albums it doesn’t feel like a rehash of what he’s already done. Rather it’s biting, violent, brutal, and mean just how we like it.

The album opens with the banger “Revelation #12.” If you thought Manson was washed up this song makes you think differently. The music is hard-hitting and gritty while the guitar riff snarls and growls. Manson sounds brutal as he screams “We’ll paint the town red/with the blood of the tourists.” It sounds like the old angry Manson that grabbed us by our throats in the 90s. It’s a killer way to kick off the album and lays down the groundwork for what comes next.

“Tattooed in Reverse” has to be my favorite song from the album. The way it starts with a pounding march and how Manson comes out the gate swinging with “So fuck your bible and your babel” is so badass. It has this undeniable swagger to it as if Manson already knows the song is a hit. The music crushes you with its heavy sound and intense atmosphere. It’s a stellar track with Manson displaying his unapologetic nature and biting commentary.

Say10” caught me off guard with the muted opening beat – it sounds like something from a hip-hop song, but it works. Manson’s sinister growl and the music sets up this dangerous lurking vibe. Everything explodes during the hook with Manson screaming “You say God/I say Say10” with dirty riffs that are both brutal and sexy. Though the title isn’t as clever as Manson hopes it is, it’s a standout song. It has the same fire as his best work and holds you in its grasp.

In press interviews, Manson said one of the central pieces of the LP was “Saturnalia” and I can see why. It is a beast of a song. It starts with an eerie “This is Saturnalia” mumbled backwards followed by the thick grooving bass line. The music rumbles building up to a bigger sound in the first couple of minutes. It’s actually reminiscent of something like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” with the dark music and slow build up. Even the riff during the verse is similar. The way everything creeps along, how the music hits you during the hook, and Manson’s singing makes it sound dangerous, yet alluring. Clocking in over seven minutes, the song never grows dull. There are so many elements and layers and different sounds happening it always keeps you on edge. It’s the highlight of the album and one of his strongest songs in years.

I didn’t really like lead single “We Know Where You Fucking Live” when I first heard it. While it’s brash and perfectly fits in with the aggressive, violent tone of the album, it feels like Manson trying too hard to be shocking. It grows on you after a while and there is the clever lyric “So what’s a nice place like this, doing round people like us,” but it’s far from the best song on the album. Same goes for “Kill4Me.” Taking a departure from the intense sound of the rest of the record, this one has an electropop beat that’s upbeat and kind of catchy. Again, not a terrible song, but it’s one of the weakest the album has to offer. These songs don’t have that same drive and punch of the others. They’re easy to gloss over when listening to the LP.

The songs that close out the album aren’t all that memorable either. “Blood Honey” plays out like an eerie Gothic ballad that still manages to be intense. Compared to the other tracks, it doesn’t grab your attention all that much. Some of the imagery is great like “dripping blood honey” and Manson sounds properly creepy when singing, but it doesn’t hit you the same way as the others. What does stand out is the dark tone matching the violent atmosphere of the album.

The title track switches up the mood with lighter, more rock-oriented. It’s not as heavy or brutal as the other songs. It’s not bad, but isn’t all that memorable and sounds pretty generic. Closing track “Threats of Romance” returns to the aggressive sound, yet has this downtrodden bluesy tone to it. He sounds like he’s bearing his soul in a dirty blues club as he sings “Things that are pretty/are always kept behind glass/someone like me can’t make it last.” As he talks about crumbling relationships it becomes clear this seems like an oddly personal song for the rocker. It ends with him shouting “I like you damaged” not holding anything back and lets out one last bloodcurdling scream before the album ends.

Heaven Upside Down is another great Marilyn Manson album that was well worth the wait. It really took me by surprise with just how good it is. While there are moments where it sounds like he’s being shocking for the sake of it, the rest of his commentary is as biting and damning as ever. There are a lot of moments that harken back to Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals, but it doesn’t sound like he’s repeating himself. It’s classic Manson where he seethes at the world and ripples with anger. And even though not every song is notable, there isn’t one I would call bad. Personally, I enjoyed this more than The Pale Emperor. This album is more in your face, aggressive, and kick ass than the last record. And it shows Manson still has it in him.