If dropping out of the crosshairs of conservative America has disappointed Marilyn Manson, he's not showing it.

In fact, he seems to be enjoying it. No longer constantly under fire, he's free to do what he wants to do. On "This Is The New Shit," he lays down the plan for his new album, The Golden Age of Grotesque: "Let us entertain you/ Blah blah blah blah everybody sing along."

After a sub-par effort on Holy Wood, Manson comes back with an album of catchy, dark tunes that's his best yet.

The Golden Age of Grotesque is meant to evoke 1930's Weimar Berlin -- making the claim that Manson would have been better off living in that era -- and it certainly is the best CD on the market at emulating pre-Nazi Germany.

Manson has always been hit or miss with his tunes: he's never really sure when to scream or sing, and his albums have never flowed well. His latest, however, corrects almost every earlier flaw. He's less concerned with making a scene and more focused on putting out a solid metal album.

One of the more solid tracks is "' ," which evokes the Manson of old while bringing in a more full and evolved sound. The catchiest song is the first single, "mOBSCENE," which is his best pop track since 1999's "Coma White."

The one question mark going into the album was how Tim Skold would step in at bass for the departed Twiggy Ramirez, and he passes the test admirably especially on "Use Your Fist And Not Your Mouth."

All in all, Manson has made a leap forward on Grotesque. It's a shame that he's no longer in the spotlight as Middle America's worst nightmare -- this new CD deserves to be heard by old Manson fans and new ones alike.


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