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Published On: Wed, Apr 1st, 2015

Marilyn Manson: The Pale Emperor

marilyn mansonMarilyn Manson
The Pale Emperor
(Concord Loma Vista)

Buy it at Amazon!

When you first put on Marilyn Manson’s new album, The Pale Emperor, you might be surprised by what you hear. I know I was. “Killing Strangers” comes crawling out of the gate with a sexy drum loop, a fuzzy bass line, and discordant guitar riffs. I thought I might be listening to a dark, bluesy punk band like The Kills or The Icarus Line. But then Manson’s unmistakable vocals came in and I knew I wasn’t mistaken. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can simply enjoy this truly great album.

The model for it seems to be “Personal Jesus,” a song which Manson himself covered. It’s heavily rhythmic with lots of open space and mild electronics. Guitars go more for atmosphere than sheer pummeling. The slow sprawl of desert rock is another clear influence. Many of these songs, including the excellent “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” would be at home on a Queens of the Stone Age album. This musical landscape is mostly owed to Tyler Bates, Manson’s primary collaborator on The Pale Emperor. Bates is best known for his film scores for films by directors like James Gunn, Rob Zombie, and Zack Snyder. So it’s no surprise that these songs feel not merely written, but composed. What’s a bit more of a surprise is how good Manson sounds within this context. He’s always been powerful and scary, but he’s baring his soul here and its reflected in his performance. Not convinced, check out the acoustic versions that are included as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition. The darkness is still here. The devil (and his demons, and hell) pop up on numerous tracks, but Manson isn’t content to just be shocking. On The Pale Emperor he sounds like he has something to say and it comes out as pure artistic expression.

What this maybe reminds me of the most is the first couple of albums by Danzig. Once again, you have a guy known for being an outrageous shock-rocker who put together his influences and got some new collaborators to figure out where he stood and how he could move forward. This could be an exciting new beginning for Marilyn Manson or it could just be a one-off oddity. Either way, you should hear it.

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Marilyn Manson: The Pale Emperor