Marilyn Manson | The Pale Emperor (Hell, Etc.)

prev manson_75Without all of the synths and oddities, the material here is less dramatic and more honest.




Shock-rocker extraordinaire The Reverend Marilyn Manson is back with the release of his ninth studio album, The Pale Emperor. To say this album is a departure for Manson is putting it mildly. Gone are the brooding synths and creepy sounds, making way for a much more organic rock album. And that’s what this is: a straightforward rock album, performed in an almost elegant manner. Recently discovering the blues has given Manson the open door he needed to strip down his sound, and “let melody take over the album.”

Produced by Manson and Tyler Bates, this is a more than just another side of the same sound. Without all of the synths and oddities, the material here is less dramatic and more honest. It seems Mr. Manson has eschewed the drama and the characters he would sometimes hide behind, presenting himself from a much more honest point of view. Yet, do not mistake this for a “mellow Manson”: This album still holds all the elements of dark music. Heavy, while retaining an almost pop element, The Pale Emperor is well put together and well played.

Musically, Manson has matured by going backwards in a sense. Visiting the blues side of rock for the first time has given him a most interesting flavor. Hiding less behind the almost Shakespearian productions of past albums, this material takes us to a whole new plane. Our antagonist truly bares all on this album.

The production here is tight, yet not super slick. The less-is-more approach enhances the songs, while fewer synths and more real instrumentation make for a solid rock opus. Very little, if anything, is overdone here. Manson will always have a touch of drama, which makes him who he is; now, with less need to shock, he can open himself up to entertain, and express his art in a brighter light. Lyrically cryptic and structurally sound, this is the best Manson album in many years.

Spotlight tracks include the first single, “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” which shows the change of direction wonderfully. Simple, yet powerful, the song is a soon-to-be Manson staple. “Deep Six,” the second single from the album, features a hard beat and a great hook. Vocally, The Rev. never sounded this good. Combining his monotone style with more clear-edged singing, he achieves quite a unique sound. The opening track, “Killing Strangers,” draws you into the album with a funky bass hook and in-your face vocals.

With nothing left to prove and no label to pigeonhole his work, Manson has finally found the artistic freedom he needed to survive…and thrive. The Pale Emperor is a true and honest expression of himself. This is Manson at the top of his game, inventive and cutting edge, yet approachable and memorable. B+ | Marc Farr

About Marc Farr 244 Articles
Marc Farr is the Live Music & Assignments Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. He's so invaluable to us, we've nicknamed him Mr. Music. Reach out if you have coverage ideas! "I know it's only rock and roll...but I like it!"
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