Marilyn Manson’s THE PALE EMPEROR – Album Review

New Marilyn Manson? YES. Yes, yes, yes. It’s been a lonnnng wait since 2012’s Born Villain, and Manson fans are primed for this much-anticipated release, to say the very least. This is the ninth studio album from Marilyn Manson and it doesn’t disappoint.

Produced by Manson and Tyler Bates, who met on the set of Californication, the album is dedicated to Manson’s mother, who passed away during the album’s production. From its slow, swaggering opener, Killing Strangers, through to the bluesy Odds of Even, The Pale Emperor proves to be a punchy, dark affair – lyrically captivating and, musically, possibly more accessible than any of the band’s previous releases. Don’t be mistaken: the depth and menace are still there, and Manson still gnashes and roars like the antichrist superstar of yesteryear; but, this is a smoother ride and it offers catchier melodies and a little less industrial heft than ever before. In essence, there’s a distinct maturity to this album, yet the band’s trademark edge and defiance remain intact.

Sexy, bass-heavy standout cut, Deep Six, boasts a radio-friendly riff and Manson’s distinctive voice sounding as raw and gritty as ever. ‘Wanna know what Zeus said to Narcissus? You’d better watch yourself,’ he warns, in a snarling refrain. Manson has likened his career trajectory to that of Faust’s and Mephistopheles’, and has been cited as saying that this release is his ‘payment in full – with interest, considering the last few bills I didn’t pay’, (by way of excusing what he felt was a lack of focus on the last two albums). Lyrical references span from war, slavery, and religion, through to Germanic folklore and Greek mythology. The Mephistopholes of Los Angeles is another track that is sure to become a welcome earworm, with its very Mansonesque lyric: ‘I feel stoned and alone, like a heretic ready to meet my maker.’ This is classic Manson, with enigmatic lines, iconoclastic rage, and deep, heavy hooks. Channelling Joy Division, Bowie, and shades of Bauhaus, The Pale Emperor delivers a brooding, pop-infused, and sonically spacious blend of tracks. New Wave collides with a sturm und drang reboot, goth, alt metal, and glam…over a shot of green fairy, for good measure.

Manson himself has declared this a ‘very cinematic’ sounding release, which is a very apt description; and, despite lacking a number of particularly strong singles, The Pale Emperor hangs together as a bold and expressive whole. This will be on repeat. For weeks.

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