Being Marilyn Manson must be weird. I mean you only have to look at a picture of the bloke to figure that out. Throw in the countless rumours, which have swirled around him since he burst onto the music scene (I’m pretty sure he still has all his ribs), a love of absinthe and an image that is part Voldemort and you end up with a musician whose world probably resembles The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yet that is not even the half of it, because this is also a man who has given us one hell of a collection of music since the release of his debut, Portrait of an American Family, in 1994.
Firstly, I think it was worth remembering just how big of a shock to the system Manson was. Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals are pretty much stone cold classics and it is very easy to forget how many great tracks there are on those albums. However, where Manson really shined was in his image. In a world that was populated by the tail end of grunge and would soon have Limp Bizkit, here was a man who was genuinely a bit scary. I was around 6 when Mechanical Animals came out and while it would be a few years before he really came to my full attention, when he did he was part symbol of rebellion, part a mystery. The already mentioned rumours, which spread like wildfire, along with his ghostly pale features and strange on stage outfits, led to an aura of mystique growing around Manson, he was scary, but he was scary in a way that also meant he was cool as fuck.
Of course, we all know the years that followed didn’t all go smoothly. He was so bad on a couple of his appearances at Download, that Andy Copping publicly declared that he should be ashamed of himself. The mystery begun to fade and rather than being the epitome of cool, he became a creepy old bloke who was often the butt of the joke. In this time Manson’s music took a backseat and a lot of people kind of forgot that this man was capable of being brilliant.
All of this takes us to the modern day. Is it possible that with the release of The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson is back? The signs on the build up to this album were good. Talk of people seeing him live and a bit of that old fire being back. In fact, he so impressed Andy Copping last time he saw him, the he was invited back to Download and will play there this year. Then the album dropped and damn if it isn’t good.
The Pale Emperor is what you want from a Marilyn Manson album. From the second the slow ominous stomp of ‘Killing Strangers’ takes us in, you can’t help but feel that this is Manson back at very near his best. It then slides into the rock and roll of ‘Deep Six’ and by the time the sordid and sleazy sound of ‘Third Day of a Seven Day Binge’ crackles out, it feels confirmed. Is this a classic? Probably not. However, it is full of great tracks. Songs like ‘Slave Only Dreams to Be King’ sound big and smooth and most importantly they sound fucking cool. The ‘God of Fuck’ might not be shocking anymore, but he can still write songs that, to openly steal a line from Terry Bezer, are just build for fucking too.
Manson will never regain that aura of mystery or be as terrifying as he was in the 90s. The world has changed and he has got a lot older. However, The Pale Emperor suggests that there is a second stage of his career round the corner. One where he takes his rightful place at the top of the totem pole and becomes the cool godfather of modern, industrial rock and roll. It’s a role that The Pale Emperor suggests he is built for and quite frankly one that he deserves. Welcome back.