Review: Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Whilst the industrial metal hatred of yesteryear is greatly diminished, the bluesy twists of this album are a unique and interesting addition to the Manson showcase.

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Throughout the nineties and early noughties Marilyn Manson was the god of shock and awe, terrifying parents into believing that their children would become Satan-worshipping goth wasters riding a tidal wave of ecclesiastical blood and guts, waving the red and black of anarchy. Fronting his band of the same name, Manson wreaked havoc and sent ripples of controversy across the popular music scene of the decade with considerable commercial success – in the USA alone, three of the bands albums went platinum and three went gold, seven of their nine releases debuted in the top ten and two of these, Mechanical Animals and The Golden Age Of Grotesque, topped the album charts.

Through the mid to late noughties, however, Manson’s popularity waned. For a while it seemed as if the black-clad Hate Express Train to Hell had ground to a halt. But the release of Born Villain, despite receiving mixed reviews, marked the rekindling of Manson’s fire, and this ninth studio album is riding on that musical return to Manson’s grimy roots with a welcome bluesy twist which has produced some of his most meaningful music to date.

The album opens with ‘Killing Strangers’, a crawl through layers of slow, bluesy sludge rock featuring a dirty, metallic riff. “We got guns, you better run” he warns the naysayers, reviving the memories of the infamous Columbine finger pointing scandals. Following this is the hard and hefty punch to the gut that is ‘Deep Six’, a frisky floorfilling track that hearkens back to singles like ‘Tainted Love’ or ‘Sweet Dreams’.

However, the album is also pervaded by moments of soul searching; one might even call it mature reflection. “I’m ready to meet my maker” Manson sings through the chorus of ‘The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles’, a far more refined piece of musical meditation than we’re used to seeing from him which reveals, it would seem, him atoning for his past fury, in his own crooked way. This lean towards slow elegance coupled with the elements of blues rock suggests a far more grown up Manson than the man who stormed into the nineties. This particularly comes through in large rolling blues tracks ‘Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’ and ‘Cupid Carries A Gun’.

The heavy industrial backbone so familiar to Manson’s older work is still present in this album, albeit in fragments, but the record manages to transcend those beginnings and succeeds in being both a middle finger to the world in true Manson fashion as well as a classier breed of music than we’ve ever before seen from the Dark Lord of alternative rock.

The Pale Emperor is out now via Hell, etc

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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