Album of the week: The Pale Emperor - Marilyn Manson finds his blues groove
The Pale Emperor
I haven't been able to take Marilyn Manson seriously since I found out his real name is Brian. Manson has always been a modern-day Alice Cooper with his peculiar taste for the grotesque and androgynous theatrics, but behind all the sleazy satanic silliness there were always incendiary pop metal tunes to behold, the pinnacle of his shockdom the thrilling Antichrist Superstar, which sold more than seven million copies.
Now a lanky forty-something goth with a Thin White Duke fixation, he's about as shocking these days as a Lord Voldermort at a fancy dress party; with a slowly dwindling career, Manson is feeling the blues. A big fat dirty blues groove, that is.
On this, his ninth studio offering, Manson has teamed up with Kurt Sutter, creator of TV's Sons of Anarchy (in which Manson appeared in the final season as a white supremacist), to explore his "redneck" side. Helping him on that hellish journey is bassist and screen composer Tyler Bates, who adds a vaguely new dimension to Manson's colossal goth glam riffs.
Beginning promisingly with the lurching rock stomp of Killing Strangers, the album sees Manson in familiar shock-by-numbers territory, quite transparently courting controversy once again ("We're killing strangers/ So we don't kill the ones that we love"). The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles is a powerful driving rock song that wouldn't be out in place in The Cult's back catalogue, the self-proclaimed God of F*** repeatedly drawling on about Lazarus and heretics over a dirty hair metal riff.
The Pale Emperor is Manson's most melodic and accessible album for years, shining brightest when it moves away from the sensationalist schtick.