In the 20 plus years of Marilyn Manson‘s career, he has literally been the definition of going to hell and back. From breakups, drug use, and the loss of his mother (whom he has dedicated the new album to), his audience has seen him at the depths. The Pale Emperor serves as a return to themes that his fans will love and a regaining of confidence that Manson explores. It wasn’t that The High End Of Low and Born Villain were totally sub-par albums – it’s just that they lacked the uniqueness of his earlier works. TPE looks to shatter that notion.
It’s worth nothing that Manson collaborated with Tyler Bates on this album, who is known for film scores for such movies as 300 and Watchmen. I was wondering why longtime guitarist/bassist Jeordie White did not participate in the recording process of the album, but MM usually picks different people to work with. It’s why the music palate is so broad throughout his career. The album opens with “Killing Strangers” where you will get a constant traction of hard, catchy percussion that is abundant throughout the whole album. Manson’s macabre lyrics are sung with bravado again.
“We’re killing strangers/so we don’t kill the ones that we love”.
“Deep Six” and “Slave Only Dreams To Be King” are great rock songs for two different reasons. “Deep Six” has big, soaring guitar parts that are abrasive and confronting, reminiscent of “Mobscene”. “Slave Only Dreams To Be King” has this infectious dance-ibility with the drum beats and the electronic elements. Matter of fact, the whole inviting feel of most of the album is interesting. While the lyrical content is witty and very dark at points, there are parts that really want to make you dance. It’s darkness in the shape of a dance floor – bites a tasty desert before the poison sets in.
“Warship My Wreck” has the epic sound of a movie score in the DNA of its composition. The song literally sounds like it was made for a scene where the hero loses everything. One could argue that throughout his whole career, Manson has been this anti-hero-like character. Manson croons over the track that he’ll be “breaking the rules/if I can’t glue them back together”. “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” is almost autobiographical in a sense. Mephistopheles in some literature is thought to be the devil that tempts Faust. Now, I’m not calling Marilyn Manson the actual devil. He actually takes on that narrative egging on those who may oppose it. It’s almost as if he’s describing himself as the harbinger of vices because it’s hard for him to express his inner thoughts otherwise.
“I don’t know if I can open up/I’ve been open enough”.
The Pale Emperor is a great summary of the body of work that is Marilyn Manson. There are some parts where there is a lag (“Birds Of Hell Awaiting”), but during some parts of the album, it is literally impossible to keep still. It’s a guilty pleasure dance album mixed with a tragedy of a soul that has found some piece of mind as time went on – but still has hell to raise yet.