You can call him Self-righteous, egotistical, a genius or just absolutely terrifying. Whatever your view, Marilyn Manson has captured several generations’ attention since he sneered his way into popular culture almost twenty years ago. While music has always had its fair share of villains over the years, few have ever inspired such fear and hate in parents, bible bashers and politicians as the self-proclaimed “God of Fuck”. It wasn’t just Manson’s make-up clad, cross-dressing, bible tearing performances that caused so much outrage – although that made for an easy target for society’s great heard to mock at. Instead it was Manson’s disturbing insights, commentary and criticism of the hypocritical ‘norms’ in society that made him public enemy number 1 for many years. From his first album, Manson had sunk his teeth into those around us who preach one way of life and live another and he has never let go.
After Portrait of American Family, Manson offered an almost biographical commentary on his follow up albums. Building on the early success of Portrait and an ever growing following, Manson went straight for society’s jugular – religion. Antichrist Superstar was a chance for Manson to express his blind rage at religious zealots, jock/beautiful culture and showcase the seedy underbelly and false prophesying and smiles of the world. This was quickly followed with a similarly unsettling insight into the lonely isolation , highs and lows lifestyle associated with fame on Mechanical Animals. The album was a perfect mix of style, pop and bleak emptiness – not in terms of content, but in its message. It’s singles further launched Manson and made him a household name. Its release also brought Manson up to his highest level of infamy – so much so that less than a year after its release, he became the focal point of blame for the Columbine High School massacre.
For many months Manson suffered the full wrath of America’s guardians of the peace and all things ‘normal’. His career was stalled and his fans attacked simply for the way they dressed and music they liked. It wasn’t until Manson appeared in Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Columbine in 2002 and spoke with such sense and undeniable truth about that massacre that society finally accepted defeat and moved on from trying to sacrifice Manson to the lord. His simple comment that the people of Columbine had failed the kids and had failed to hear their problems was a summary of everything Manson had spoken about through his music for the preceding years.
After Columbine, Manson was both famous and infamous. His next album, Holy Wood capitalized on his reputation and brought him more fame and fans than ever before with anthems such as ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘The Nobodies’ reaching brand new audiences. Unfortunately, some of the raw anger started to disappear and it wasn’t until 2007, when Manson and his wife, Dita von Teese, broke up that we once again heard something that seemed truly from the heart.
Eat Me, Drink Me is not technically a release by the band, but more of a solo album Manson wrote/recorded and produced with Tim Sköld which saw the singer return from semi-retirement. For the first time in several years we got to hear a god’s honest album from Manson’s heart. There was no attempted ‘Beautiful People’ / ‘Rock is Dead’ style anthems. Just straight forward honesty with Manson’s usual unique take on life. Since then, Manson has released two further albums and while both held some promise, they delivered little more than the singer’s own effort in gaining ground with the emo fans who had come of age to the less frightening, style over substance groups like… well, I won’t badmouth any bands here. Onwards!
2015 will now be entered as one of those massively important chapters in Manson’s career. After years of reported drink and drug problems, almost scandal-less obscurity, line-up changes and presented with a very different, far less aggressive world than his sound had originally found a home in – Manson has changed styles, modernized and heralded his return with an absolute classic of an album..
The Pale Emperor is without a doubt the most exciting record MM has released as a group since Mechanical Animals. They have recaptured everything that made their music great on those early records, while still managing to overhaul their style and delivery. It’s still undeniably them, but they have modernized successfully, giving their songs a more relevant and fresh platform from which they can dispense the much loved cynical truths fans have wanted to hear again. Like Eat Me, Drink Me – there are no attempts and peddling out major anthems or angry for the sale of it former glory re-hashes. Instead, you have an extremely melodic, atmospheric and enjoyable collection of songs that will fulfil every hope fans could have for a new album – and more.
Marilyn Manson may never again relive the infamy of his earlier years, but his despise for ‘society’ is unabated. While many of his fans will love this record, the ones who really need to hear and understand his message will hardly blink an eyelid and carry on with their torches and pitchforks to demonize the next person who tries to act improper. Let’s just hope Manson continues to keep them in check.