Original shock-rocker Alice Cooper now brags about his golf game and lords over his own budding theme restaurant enterprise -- so much for feeding his Frankenstein. It remains unlikely that Marilyn Manson, Cooper's incendiary modern equivalent, will suffer the same middle-of-the-road fate. Still, it's a surprise that Manson has survived for this long in any form. Almost five years after his godawful cover of "Sweet Dreams" and the much-improved carnival woosh of "The Beautiful People" turned him into Goth/industrial's crown prince and conservative America's new all-purpose dartboard, the battle scars have overshadowed the Antichrist himself. The high-concept, high-gloss glam of 1998's Mechanical Animals
didn't rally suburban discontent nearly as effectively -- but the Columbine shootings and the moral/ political outrage that followed nearly offed Manson, as parents and politicians alike blamed him for the tragedy. Holy Wood (In the Valley of the Shadow of Death)
, a 19-track, 70-minute reactionary tract that's allegedly the completion of the trilogy that began with 1996's Antichrist Superstar
, is a mess thematically -- it's a concept piece wrapping a rock star/icon in the usual veil of religion/death/rebellion/J.F.K. imagery. "I'm not a slave to a world that doesn't give a shit," Manson thunders on "The Fight Song," highlighting the God-complex paranoia and self-aggrandizing tendencies that always make Manson interesting, but ultimately insincere. Musically, we're back in Antichrist Superstar
territory, all creepy atmospherics and buzzsaw guitars. Like his worldview, Manson's Goth-nightmare landscapes are always worth a whirl, but not for 70 minutes at a stretch. Hopefully, his live show spices the Wood
tracks up with older, pre-icon work and the typically bombastic nudity-flaunting, bible-ripping, flag-burning extravaganza that is the Marilyn Manson live experience.