Marilyn Manson was probably one of the most controversial and biggest stars in Metal and Industrial in the late 90s and early 00s, being linked to the Columbine massacre and being seen as the worst possible influence on teenagers. He achieved this through basically becoming somewhat of a gimmick; slapping make-up on his face and having a name combining Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson to become the ultimate icon for angsty teens. He also delivered albums that were extremely anti-religious like his best album ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and let’s not forget that the albums themselves had occasional flashes of genius; they never felt overly personal or sincere but they were none-the-less solid.
I recently spoke of Manson’s new album to a friend of mine and he was surprised to hear that the man and his band were even around to make music any more. So what happened so that people outside of the main fanbase just didn’t care any more? It’s probably got something to do with the fact that a lot of his post-2000 material relied too far on image and not enough on music, by the time his last album ‘Born Villain’ came out a lot of people just didn’t care.
‘The Pale Emperor’ marks a changing point in Manson’s career of sorts. The man isn’t wearing as much make-up as before, he’s been distancing himself and making a point to say he’s not a part of any sort of the controversial events that sometimes surround him, and on top of that all this is probably his best in over a decade and his most personal yet. ‘The Pale Emperor’ was proceeded by a series of singles that caught the attention of his one-time fans that had all but given up on the band. ‘Deep Six’ and ‘Third Day Of Day Of a Seven Day Binge’ are two songs that are fantastically produced, with inventive instrumentation and not too much controversy. ‘Deep Six’ having an explosive chorus and ‘Third Day…’ almost sounding smooth enough to be in the Queens Of The Stone Age catalogue, with the song getting more and more crazy as it goes on.
So as it turns out, the rest of the album follows the same direction as these, with Manson sounding like he’s making a… mature album? And it doesn’t feel like he’s lost anything in terms of his artistry along the way. A lot of these songs are a lot more blues based like the songs ‘Devil Beneath My Feet’ and ‘Birds Of Hell Awaiting’ sounding like Manson’s putting his own spin on the blues by making the guitars have a slight ‘The Beautiful People’ sound to them and singing in his signature twisted voice. It does seem that Manson has all but dropped both the Metal sound and the Shock Rock sound in favour for a more straight-up Hard and Industrial Rock sound. Without this pressure to apply Metal traits the option for other instrumentation is opened up and in place we have some usage of acoustic guitars and strings towards the back-end of the album.
Lyrically on this album Manson has definitely gone down the road of being very depressing. Manson is talking in a very self-centric way instead of talking about the world around him like he normally does. It does make for the most interesting Manson we’ve seen in a long time even if it isn’t perfection. Manson still relies on using religious imagery in his lyrics to get his point across that does come with some eye roller moments, like when he’s talking about ‘Angels Dying’. It can make it feel a little vague at times, instead of overly compelling. Manson’s delivery is the best we’ve heard in ages as well with him being able to become reserved and subdued at times and then breaking into a deathly scream/wail at other times. On occasion when paired with the vague lyrics the screaming can seem a little… melodramatic and almost laughable, as it really sounds like he’s overdoing it a bit.
It turns out a more mature and intimate Manson isn’t a bad thing after all, he has proved he is able to shift styles even if it’s only a little bit. This record is no classic, and it’s not brilliant either; there are definitely moments on this record that fall low but there are also moments that reach the highest that Manson has got in over a year. But this is definitely a turning point for Marilyn Manson. If you buy the bonus edition of this album with the acoustic tracks on there you’ll see the progression for yourself. Who knows where the band will go from here; but for the first time in a while I’m excited to see.
Best Tracks: Third Day Of a Seven Day Binge, Deep Six, Warship My Wreck