Recent years have seen Marilyn Manson's black star fade somewhat, but the shock rocker claimed that his seventh studio album would mark a return to the raw, bristling punk-metal of 1996's 'Antichrist Superstar' and his other early material. Added to that, the return of long-time bassist Twiggy Ramirez to his band after an six-year absence boded well for fans fast becoming bored with Manson's increasingly neutralised sound. Those fans shouldn't get too stirred up, though - apart from three of four (from fifteen) tracks, 'The High End of Low' is a disappointment. It's far too long, for one: some shrewd editing would have made a more compact, striking album instead of the passages of sprawling self-indulgence on display here.

There are, admittedly, flashes of interest, though: the clear production, meaty growl and tense intro of 'Devour' provide a strong start, lead single 'Arma-Goddamn-Motherf*ckin-Geddon''s glam, synth-laced rock is fun if a little cartoonish, and the gnarled electro-metal of 'WOW' does its best to keep the ever-flagging pace chugging along.

Yet whatever Manson was thinking by including songs like the Johnny Cash-aping 'Four Rusted Horses' and woeful, lighters-aloft Oasis-lite guitar ballad 'Running to the Edge of the World' is a mystery. Not only do both tracks sound completely misplaced, but they're the sign of a man either running out of tricks, or one desperate to reinvent himself. If he stuck to what he was good at - ear-piercing yelps, liberal dashes of real controversy and big, brawny metal songs with tough beats - he may have a 'comeback' on his hands. This, however, is nothing of the sort.