With the title referencing a David Foster Wallace book about boredom (The Pale King) and David Bowie’s ill-advised 1976 persona and character known as the Thin White Duke, we know Marilyn Manson isn’t fucking around on his ninth studio album. Thankfully The Pale Emperor sees Manson concentrating on the music first and foremost (alas, no more Shia LeBeouf), and thus producing a confident, mature rock record.
After a five-album string of duds following 1998’s Mechanical Animals, it’s also one of his better records, largely because he’s back to channeling Bowie. On opening track “Killing Strangers” he does so over an industrial stomp, though it would have twice the impact at half its length. Lead single “Deep Six” opens with some beautiful electronic noise before settling into industrial-metal, but it’s on ”The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” that the influence of one David Robert Jones is turned up the highest, resulting in an album highlight. Manson has always been about playing games and wearing masks, and his best moments come when he’s wearing Bowie (a.k.a. Jones) like a second skin.
This won’t be Manson’s second chance at commercial success or a bold move into new territory. This isn’t his Kid A (Radiohead’s fourth studio album from 2000) or Low (David Bowie, circa 1977). For fans and the man himself it is a turning point where things start getting better.