The week of January 19th saw a host of big albums released. Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Belle and Sebastian, Fall-Out Boy, Viet Cong and Bjork all brought out new records in one of the biggest weeks for new music in years. But one artist who brought out an album that week seems to have flown under the radar: the king of 1990’s shock rock Marilyn Manson. 2015’s The Pale Emperor seems to be an attempt to bring Manson back to relevance.
One of the most intriguing things about this album is that Manson turned to noted film composer Tyler Bates to co-produce the album and also write the music for the album. This seems to bring out the more anthemic qualities in Manson’s music, like the opening track “Killing Strangers” a low-slung blues track with a sing-along chorus.
The track “Deep Six” combines elements of Manson’s old industrial and glam styles to create another song which is all about a big chorus. This is the most direct music he has made in a long time.
The almost pop-like qualities of the album are also shown in one of the album’s singles, “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” which is a straight-ahead rock song you could hear on the radio…somewhere.
The album’s purpose seems to be to make Manson’s music as simple as possible, without softening any of the harder edges which make Manson Manson. “Slave Only Dreams to be King” is a bit of a departure as it contains numerous samples and pounding drums which reminded me of Manson’s breakthrough track “The Beautiful People.” But yet again there’s a killer chorus. It’s like a twisted version of stadium rock.
The album ends with the suitably epic “Odds of Even,” which is a blues-based dirge which reminded me of David Bowie, of course a big influence on Manson.
Having not really listened to Manson for a long time, I did approach this album with a bit of trepidation but I am relieved to say it is a good album, with the presence of Tyler Bates really bringing out a new side of Manson. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be as notorious as he once was, but maybe that’s the way he wants it.
The Pale Emperor is out now.