Album Review: Marilyn Manson – “The Pale Emperor”
It seems weird to think that it’s now fifteen years since Marilyn Manson was pretty much the biggest and most iconoclastic rock star in the world. And despite what some people will tell you, it was deserved – his trilogy of albums from this time (1997’s Antichrist Superstar, 1998’s Mechanical Animals and 2000’s Holy Wood) were the sound of a genuinely clever musician at work, one part Ziggy Stardust, one part Blackie Lawless and one part Al Jourgensen with a spot of Alice Cooper’s gleefully antagonistic songs designed to terrify the Bible-thumpers and straights in America. And the best part of it all was that he did it with some killer tunes and riffs – the likes of The Beautiful People, The Dope Show and The Fight Song still stand up today.
Unfortunately, it’s been a long slow slide downhill for Mazza since then. Well documented drink and drugs problems combined with a couple of ill-advised “break up” albums (2005’s Eat Me Drink Me and 2008’s Born Villain) have seen his stock slowly decline. And so as 2015 dawns we find Manson and co on an indie label with his new effort.
It’s been trumpeted as a return to form by some but, while it’s an improvement on his last few, I’m afraid I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a bit like how every Stones album of the last twenty years seems to have been hailed as their best since Exile On Main Street, in spite of the fact that most of ’em have actually just been on the right side of average. Such is the case with The Pale Emperor unfortunately.
Yeah, there’s some songs which could possibly have passed for decent B-sides during his heyday such as Deep Six and The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles, but there’s also a lot of very drawn-out self-indulgent dross on here such as Warship My Wreck and Slave Only Dreams Of Being A King. And really, does anyone want to hear the man who was once the most feared man in rock ‘n’ roll mumbling his way through a drugs confessional (Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge)? Or growl his way through a one-paced trip-hop metal dirge like The Devil Beneath My Feet or Birds Of Hell Await? Thought not.
The main problem with this album is that a lot of the songs are simply too long – at 52 minutes for just ten songs, a lot of these efforts could’ve done with having a minute or two lopped off them to keep the listener’s interest from flagging. Overall, while it could admittedly have been worse, this doesn’t do anything to dispel the impression that the Antichrist Superstar’s best days appear to still be a long way behind him.
There's some slim pickings here for Manson devotees - a couple of the songs on The Pale Emperor do remind you of what the guy can do when he's firing on all cylinders and keep this from being a total disaster, but unfortunately there's no getting around the fact that this album is another disappointment to go with the last few (albeit a slight improvement, but really, don't take that as a recommendation). There's an old saying that there's nothing worse than discovering that your gods have got feet of clay. On this evidence, the "God of F**k" is no exception unfortunately.