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Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (Album Review)

Monday, 19 January 2015 Written by Alec Chillingworth

When promo shots of Marilyn Manson wearing  (what we assumed was) bacon on his face emerged prior to the arrival of 'The Pale Emperor', the worry began to set in. Just what is he trying to be these days? Nihilistic menace, Hollywood headline botherer or purveyor of art films? More importantly, can he reclaim his corrupt crown with this, his ninth full-length?

The spiteful lyrics of Killing Strangers drip with his inimitable cynicism, harking back to the anti-gun protests of 'Holy Wood' while coughing up a grim, bass-heavy racket reminiscent of his most recent albums. He's built on that sound, though. It's no longer the bloated, obese creature it was on 'The High End Of Low'. It’s trimmed of excess fat and glistening with subtle electronics.

This is the album Manson has been threatening to make since 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque'. The emotional subject matter and vocal delivery is reminiscent of the 'Eat Me, Drink Me' era, but is packaged with music that captures the imagination in a way that Manson’s hasn't for years.

Warship My Wreck comes off like a dishevelled dirge from 'Holy Wood', proving that he can still lay down minimalist structures when he feels like it, while the creepy James Allen quote that bookends Slave Only Dreams To Be King lends a Ministry-esque tinge to its industrial stomp. Deep Six is the brashest, most badass slice of metal Manson's put out in over a decade.

'The Pale Emperor' also trails through up-tempo singalongs, subdued Nine Inch Nails-isms and references to the Cure, Killing Joke and other happy-go-lucky young men. Manson’s ability to conjure a particular mood, meanwhile, remains quite unlike anyone else in music.

Odds Of Even wraps it all up in a numbing, painstakingly depressing finale, leaving the listener in tatters. This is not the God Of Fuck as we know him, nor is it a hollowed-out ghost of what came before. This is Manson climbing back to the creative summit he fell from following 'Holy Wood'. He's never going to top those early albums, but by expanding his palette and finally getting it right, 'The Pale Emperor' reinstates Marilyn Manson as a relevant musical force and an elder statesman of the industrial scene. Now let's just get those live shows back up to scratch, eh?

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