Picture a grungy, small-town biker bar. Clean air replaced by lingering cigar smoke, tacky neon signs sprawled across every wall, the unsavoury bartender glaring at you from behind his alcoholic safehouse. In the darkest corner by the lifeless jukebox, a dark, mysterious man with pitch-black hair and pitch-black sunglasses. He’s staring down at his boots tapping against the hardwood floor to a slow groove, clicking his fingers impatiently. You’re in the presence of the ‘Pale Emperor’.
Marilyn Manson has taken a more accessible yet equally menacing turn for the blues, and not a moment too soon considering 2012’s controversial ‘Born Villain’. Composed to provide the soundtrack to TV series Sons of Anarchy. Manson’s 9th album effortlessly exudes an atmosphere doomed by a clearer and more present danger than his previous works.
The surreal and unconventional, inextricable from Marilyn Manson’s character, integrate seamlessly with their newfound anger-driven groove. Album-stealer ‘Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles’ showcases Manson’s catchier side with an apt tribute to ‘Beautiful People’, while ‘Deep Six’ perfectly adapts their versatile gothic aesthetic to the subdued blues.
The entirety of ‘Pale Emperor’ captures his speciality sultry tones, accompanied by the expert fretwork of MM veteran Twiggy Ramirez and new addition, soundtrack composer Tyler Bates. The swaying ‘Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’, loaded with Manson’s signature religiously-charged reprimands, demonstrates the band have deftly adapted to the brooding blues of ‘Pale Emperor’. Lyrically, Manson is as on form as ever, “you want to know what Zeus said to Narcissus? You’d better watch yourself” adding to his endless catalogue of cautionary tales.
However, the only concern lies with how this new atmospheric angle might translate at live shows, although there’s significant faith in Manson’s on-stage theatrics to combat the inevitable static crowd response.
The step toward the subdued and the understated was completely unexpected, yet quite possibly the best move the band could have made. By no means a stuck record, Marilyn Manson has effortlessly made the step toward subdued musical maturity without losing a shred of his iconic, menacing persona.
’Pale Emperor’ by Marilyn Manson is out now on Hell, etc.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)