Marilyn Manson Returns as the Pale Emperor


THE PALE EMPEROR: Manson is back with a new blues-oriented album.

Eric Bourse, Staff Writer

After a series of inconsistent albums over the last decade, gothic rock band Marilyn Manson takes a new direction into the blues genre to deliver their best album since 2000’s Holy Wood.

“The Pale Emperor” is Marilyn Manson’s ninth studio album.
Although the band previously recorded some blues-influenced songs going back to a 1995 cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You,” this is the first time the genre has taken center stage in the band’s nine-album catalog.

It opens strong with “Killing Strangers.” The drums are on a slow march, the bass line is thick, and the guitar riff dances with a funky groove. Manson’s trademark absinthe-singed vocals are a perfect match with the wailing guitar during the chorus.

The next song, “Deep Six,” initially begins in familiar Marilyn Manson territory—fast percussion and a heavy guitar riff. Manson initially whispers lyrics with familiar themes such as Greek mythology when he asks the listener, “You want to know what Zeus said to Narcissus?/You’d better watch yourself” before belting out a classic scream. However, the song takes a turn during the chorus with a fun glam rock guitar riff that has been mostly absent since 1998’s Mechanical Animals.

The latest addition to the band is acclaimed film and TV composer Tyler Bates, who composed The Pale Emperor with Manson and takes over as lead guitarist. Long-time lead composer and bassist Jeordie White takes a backseat to Bates this outing; however his bass work is noticeably present and adds a much fuller overall sound, unlike 2007’s album Eat Me, Drink Me in which he was absent.

Next on the album is “The Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” which sounds like a gothic Iggy Pop meets The Birthday Party and is one of the album’s highlights. The hot streak continues with “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles,” which contains the most introspective lyrics on the album such as “I don’t know if I can open up/I’ve been opened enough.”

After the fifth song, “Warship My Wreck,” is over, the album’s biggest flaw becomes quite apparent. Most songs on The Pale Emperor have repetitive lyrics.

“Warship My Wreck” stays afloat despite this because of the tremendous buildup, which wouldn’t seem out of place in the climax of a dramatic war film.
If there is one song on this album that remains “true” to the Marilyn Manson of old, it would be “Slave Only Dreams to be King.” It contains some of the band’s classic tropes, such as a voice-over sample, a thick distorted bass, a creepy guitar riff, a marching drumbeat, and a droning synth instead of a guitar solo. While it may not be the most unique track out of the bands 25-year discography, it definitely stands out on The Pale Emperor.

The seventh track, “The Devil Beneath My Feet,” is glam rock with an infectious groove and a catchy fast-paced chorus. “Birds of Hell Awaiting” is the purest blues song on the record however, despite its psychedelic and hellish desert sound scape with a wailing synth and modified screams being stretched out, it’s the least memorable song on the album.

The second to last track, “Cupid Carries a Gun,” is not only the record’s crowning moment, but is simply one of the best songs the band has released. The lyrics invoke witchcraft imagery and biblical references alongside a pounding drum beat, Manson’s eerie howling in the background, church bells, a tambourine, acoustic guitars and piano. It’s all capped off with one driving guitar riff in its climax. The song is macabre yet strangely romantic ― grim yet triumphant.

The final song, “Odds of Even,” ends the album on a bleak and somber note. It features some of Manson’s strongest vocal moments as well as the darkest chorus on the record when he sings “This is the house of death/Where even angels die in arms of demons.”

The Pale Emperor is Marilyn Manson’s best album in 15 years and the most accessible record to non-fans since Mechanical Animals.

Manson may not be a crusader against guns, God, and the government as he was in his glory days, but he still can prove that he can deliver an album worth paying attention to.

4 out of 5 stars.