Marilyn Manson ‘The Pale Emperor’ Review: the best comeback album in recent memory.
Shock rockers have a notoriously short life span..at least musically speaking. Alice Cooper is known as a grand showman, but he peaked musically in his 70’s heyday.
Marilyn Manson was his heir apparent, rising meteorically to fame in the 90’s with his nihilistic industrial glam. His showmanship was matched by his choice of collaborators: Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor honed their carnival goth metal into a glorious sheen. And his creative foil, bassist Twiggy Ramirez helped weld memorable sonic hooks (see, also Tommy Victor).
After Manson burned bridges with Reznor, his follow-up Mechanical Animals explored more melodic Bowie-esque textures, and featured some background work from Billy Corgan. After the success of that album, Columbine happened, Manson got an unfair association, and his spotlight dimmed, at least musically speaking.
All of his 21st century output sounded a bit fatigued and repetitive, and he went from guilty pleasure to a sonic eyesore on latter-day releases like Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End of Low.
Recently, the man born as Brian Warner has transitioned to acting with his recent stint on Sons Of Anarchy, but this shift in vocational focus shouldn’t detract from one point: he’s just made The Pale Emperor, his best album since Antichrist Superstar.
The album, a collaboration with film composer Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy) slaps a new coat of paint on Manson’s routine: less shock, more world-weary reflection. Less metal: more bluesy, complimented with understated gothic textures. And it suits him quite well.
Tracks like Killing Strangers (off the John Wick soundtrack) has a blues shuffle, a strident skronk guitar, and ghostly keyboard stabs, all constricting around his lamentations of a world full of mass shootings and societal disconnection: We pack demolition, we can’t pack emotion…We’re Killing Strangers-so we don’t kill the ones that we love.
A laid back rain-swept melancholy is present on the first single Third Day of A Seventh Day Binge, which features some 60’s soul alongside a gurgling bass-synth line and ocean wave guitars.
Deep Six is the only track that will likely appeal to casual fans who got hooked on headbangers like The Beautiful People. But it’s a much more layered composition than that bruiser, with a Bauhaus style intro, a whip-crack verse and a glam rock chorus.
Manson’s love of Depeche Mode was well documented in his Personal Jesus cover, and The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles borrows its glitter stomp and melds it with Sisters of Mercy guitar arpeggios. Its his most immediately catchy song in ages.
It can be argued that given this sudden musical resurgence, that Bates is the linchpin in the partnership. He co-wrote most of the tracks and was the sole writer on Third Day, Deep 6 and Cupid Carries A Gun, the dark cabaret theme from WGN series Salem. He’s the perfect sonic foil for Manson’s haggard croak and troublemaker persona. Their musical alchemy is palpable.
Manson’s vocals have never sounded more weathered and he doesn’t have the same witty lyrical jabs that hallmarks his 90’s work, but with tracks like the cinematic dirge Warship My Wreck, and the classic rock shamble of The Devil Beneath My Feet, you’ll be too busy grooving along to be overly bothered. Some tracks may be stronger than others, but there’s no throw aways. It’s a solid collection of concise gloom and doom.
Bottom line, The Pale Emperor is a return to form, and shows a maturation and evolution in sound, and plucks Manson out from the has-been box and puts him right back in comeback mode. It’s a pleasantly unexpected surprise.
The Pale Emperor will be released on January 20th. You can pre-order it on Amazon and iTunes via the links below.
[amazon_image id=”B00PEJG1K0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]THE PALE EMPEROR [Deluxe Edition][/amazon_image]