The new face of Marilyn Manson 

Over his controversial 18-year career, Goth-rocker Marilyn Manson has assumed many guises: Antichrist superstar, androgynous "Mechanical Animals" space alien and the German-Expressionist fop from "The Golden Age of Grotesque" — masks the lipstick-and-mascara-streaked singer was prepared to wear forever in the name of art.

Until his stark new "Eat Me, Drink Me" treatise, that is.

"I listen to these songs, and I feel like there’s no ... no stance," marvels Manson, 38, over tracks like "Putting Holes in Happiness" and "If I Was Your Vampire." "I’m no longer creating a metaphorical character to hide my feelings behind or to use to say what I feel."

On the surface, all seemed solid last year in Manson’s universe. Married to retro-pinup model Dita Von Teese, he was launching his own line of absinthe and had just opened an L.A. gallery for his surreal watercolor portraits. He’d waived music for filmmaking, and was set to direct and star in "Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll."

But beneath the facade, his world was crumbling. The movie was temporarily shelved; the shop was shut down and his marriage ended in divorce amid gossipy speculation about his latest flame, 19-year-old actress Evan Rachel Wood.

Spiraling into a vortex of drugs and near-suicidal depression, Manson wound up, he says, "in a period where I nearly lost my identity, my creativity and my mind. When you let others convince you that your idea of beauty is different than what it always has been, that’s when you get lost as a person. So I started to fall prey to everything that I’ve always stood against."

Manson, who plays at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord on Thursday, forced himself to document said turmoil, which began on his Hollywood home front with requests for maturity from his missus. "It became ‘Do you have to be all Marilyn Mansoned-out all the time? Could you just be normal, now that we’re settling down?’ But the idea of ‘settling down’ just doesn’t really agree with me."

Friends saw his self-destructive side and suggested rehab. "I despise the word ‘recovery’ — I don’t want to be in recovery from anything. I was miserable, and I didn’t know why, but I figured out what was wrong with me by writing songs again," he says. Wood also helped get the platinum-selling artist back on track again.

"When I met her, I had a very small opinion of myself and what I was worth," recalls Manson, who first bonded with the film star over their mutual obsession with "Alice in Wonderland."

"And she was the only person that I could talk to about feeling completely f----d up and not be embarrassed about it. So it wasn’t something that just happened overnight, and it wasn’t, in my opinion, the reason for my divorce. The trust and belief in me in that relationship had died long before that."

Wood even camped up their age difference by wearing Lolita-ish shades around town, inspiring the new album’s kickoff single, "Heart-Shaped Glasses" — she also appears in the steamy video.

He says, "For years, I was really trying to escape being me. Now I very much want to be me."

Marilyn Manson/Slayer

Where: Sleep Train Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, Concord

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $22.25 to $47.50

Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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