Review Summary: A more subtle and mature approach to songwriting makes The Pale Emperor the most captivating Manson album in years.
No one in the world of music divides opinion quite like Marilyn Mason. On the one hand you have the people who say he’s a musical genius, making some of the most interesting industrial metal around and on the other hand you have the naysayers, claiming he hasn’t been relevant for years, and even when he was at the top of his game all he did was use his image to get a cheap shock out of people. His 2012 effort Born Villain
was considered by many as a crowd pleasing return to form after a self confessed creative slump with the previous two albums. So after that pleasant surprise, people were left wondering what he would do next.
That’s where The Pale Emperor
It’s quite unlike anything Manson has ever done before. There are tracks that retain the abrasive industrial stylings of his previous works, such as Deep Six
, but there are also moody, atmospheric tracks where Manson is throwing in some left field influences such as the blues. Nowhere is this more apparent than on album highlight Third Day of A Seven Day Binge
. Manson doesn’t just sound like he’s feeling down or melancholy, he sounds downright depressed
as he explains how he is on a long journey and is already feeling weary despite not even being at the half way point. The actual meaning of the song is open to interpretation but one thing is for certain, this isn’t the same man we heard on Born Villain
. The stripped back production of the album leaves Manson sounding more vulnerable and honest than ever before and to see him come out of his comfort zone in such a way is an interesting experience in itself.
As for the aforementioned industrial tinged tracks that bear more resemblance to his first few albums, they’re as potent and powerful as ever. Manson and the rest of the band sound completely invigorated, and his shrieks sound just as vigorous as they did back in 1996. In terms of the overall feel of The Pale Emperor
, Deep Six
sticks out like a sore thumb because it’s just so different to the rest of the album. However even if it is distant from the general sound of the album, it’s not completely the same as his older works either. The guitars aren’t as fuzzy and industrial sounding as they once were, as it would appear the band has swapped them in favour of a more clean, almost classic rock style sound.
For the songwriting and guitar work on the album, Manson has enlisted the help of soundtrack composer Tyler Bates. His soundscapes created by haunting keyboards give the songs an extra layer, making them feel cinematic in scope (which is to be expected considering Mr Bates’ background). Album opener Killing Strangers
features understated keyboards that work perfectly to give the album an eerie, slow burning quality. Cupid Carries A Gun
is possibly the most brooding song on the album, with Manson crooning on the verses behind a simple yet effective drum pattern, an acoustic guitar and a sombre piano line. The bridge features what sounds like a tambourine as Manson delivers his religious based lyrics he often utilises, proclaiming “She had those crow black eyes”
and “Laid still as a Bible, and it felt like revelations when I looked inside”
before transitioning into a downbeat instrumental passage, amplified by the jaded groans of a broken man.
If you haven’t enjoyed any of Marilyn Manson’s output post-The Golden Age Of Grotesque
, or if you could never appreciate any of his music in general, I highly suggest you give this album a listen. It is the most inspired and creative Manson has sounded in a long time, making for an album that grips you from start to finish.