That the mainstream media are no longer as fascinated by Marilyn Manson as they once were is a blessing in disguise for the former Antichrist Superstar. At least, it is if ninth studio album The Pale Emperor is anything to go by.
No longer burdened by the need to maintain a reputation as the undisputed King of Shock ‘n’ Roll, Manson is free to concentrate on simply writing damn good rock songs.
OK, so maturity hasn’t caused the 46 year-old songwriter to deviate too far from the script just yet. The usual lyrical-fodder -death, doom, morbid introspection and gun culture- are all present and correct, whilst on first listen, any one of The Pale Emperor’s slow, brooding basslines could have been lifted directly from The Dope Show.
Yet beyond that, the Marilyn Manson of 2015 is an entirely different demon than the one those of us around in the Beautiful People days remember.
Take Deep Six for example. A straight-up rock club floor-filler, Manson’s foreboding baritone lurks over sharp, grunge-infested guitars to create a genuinely enjoyable song, and all without relying on shock value.
Elsewhere, the singer is on equally fine form with The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles. Arguably the album’s highlight in terms of pure songwriting alone, Mephistopheles is as accomplished as it is undeniably catchy, a trait that becomes a familiar theme as Pale Emperor stomps forth.
Speaking of familiarity, despite a greater focus on writing good songs than merely courting controversy, there’s no getting away from the fact that this sounds pretty much how you’d expect a Marilyn Manson album to sound.
That is, until ‘Emporer begins the gradual descent towards its finale. From Birds of Hell Awaiting until the closing moments of final track, Odds of Even, the album takes a whole different turn.
Cupid Carries a Gun, with its dark, sparse acoustic, wouldn’t sound too out of place saddled up next to the late Johnny Cash’s cover of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, a song Manson himself reworked back in 2004.
With the aforementioned closer, Manson then returns to the creeping, blues-infused vibe that permeates much of this album, proving in the process that, whilst the whole Antichrist Superstar thing may be all but dead, there’s still plenty of life left in Marilyn Manson as a maker of damn good rock songs.
Recommended tracks: Odds of Even, Deep Six, Devil Beneath my Feet, Mephistopheles of Los Angeles.