Album Review: Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

The Pale Emperor marks the come-back of the Antichrist, the WASP enemy n°1 (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, not the Heavy Metal band), the Goth Thug that is Marilyn Manson.

Dark, melodic, realistic while almost entirely based on symbolism, The Pale Emperor feels like an intimate retrospective.
Most of the songs texts, such as “the Devil Beneath my Feet” sound like a confession, sometimes even more; on “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles”, the “Emperor” barely conceals the autobiographical aspect of the text. There is also a recurring theme of the lucidity of the fall and decline on this album, theme on which “Warship my Wreck” is the paroxysm.
On the other hand, some allegories presented in this album are so specific that they can be no other than personal, just like the symbol of the slave that doesn’t actually want to free in “Slave only Dreams to Be King”.

There is even a hint of irony and potentially regret in “Killing Strangers”, a song which kind of points at the meaningless violence we surround ourselves with, not only as humans but also as part of the dark alternative scene, a movement of which Manson has been one of the main representatives over the years, using strong and shocking words on themes as upsetting as sex and death. Maybe this song is a realisation, or an admission, that these attempts to violence are in fact pointless and don’t bring us closer to what we are or what we want. Of course this is only speculation, and as it’s often the case with Marilyn Manson’s lyrics, it is largely open to personal interpretation (let us remember the song “If I was your Vampire” on Eat Me, Drink Me).

The album is layered in the smartest word plays and manipulations, analogies that hit so right they hurt “Don’t know if I can open up, I’ve been open too much”, “I’m aggressive aggressive, the past is over”. The words are raw, simple, and while metaphoric they’re also right and to the point.
Of metaphors, this album is not lacking. The biblical as well as mythological references are everywhere.
As conceptual as they are, all those biblical, devilish and generally grandiose themes and symbols are only here to reflect real life’s experiences and pains. It feels real, sincere and painful.

The concept of Sin is celebrated; in “Deep Six”, MM even refers to a sin in its antique context, narcissism, while it actually makes even more sense right now, in an era of people worshipping the concept of taking (thousands of) pictures of themselves.
But at the end all is forgiven, MM knows that the human kind is weak and prone to mistakes. “Sin is sincere”. It’s sincere to admit, succumb, instead of hiding behind religious hypocrisy and denying having any sin at all.

But the one true symbol that travels across the album and on which there’s little doubt on the interpretation, is the one of the dark, still figure of an elder man, looking down to his life and what has been accomplished, taking a step back from his empire of darkness with more lucidity than ever. This is felt from the name of the album, The Pale Emperor, to the autobiographical “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles”, but also in the dramatic “Warship my Wreck”, that sounds like witnessing one’s own fall from above.

At this point, we easily imagine an exhausted Marilyn Manson, sitting on a throne by himself, the throne of the Pale Emperor, while attending the retrospective of his life: “I feel sole and alone like a heretic”. Marilyn sounds almost as if he were regretting to be a non-believer at this point, because he has nothing to believe in to comfort him, now that he feels closer to the end.

The Pale Emperor is the album of reason, salvation, realization. Like the closing song of a crazy twisted cabaret that lasted all night, the moment when the masks fall, and the bittersweet faces of the actors appear. The Pale Emperor truly is a masterpiece, to add to the gallery of other amazing offerings Marilyn Manson has made to music along the years.

Killer songs:
The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles
Warship My Wreck
Birds of Hell Awaiting

Review by Marie Lando.