Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp are hanging out in one of Depp’s California houses, drinking absinthe and playing Wii Tennis.

Manson turns to Depp and says “Say, John, can I ask you a weird question?”

“Sure, Brian, what’s on your mind?”

“If you were to say, I dunno, go on a binge for a week, how long do you reckon it would be before you stopped giving a fuck about everybody you love?”

Depp shrugs, swinging the Wii controller back and forth.

“I dunno,” he answers. “About three days?”

I read somewhere that Depp played guitar in the live performance of “Third day of a Seven day Binge” – one of the standout tracks from Manson’s new album… and in my mind at least, the above scenario must have been how it all came about. Seems legit.

I haven’t done a review since rambling for The Other Side ( www.theothersidereviews.com ) and perhaps I was starting to feel a little nostalgic. As luck would have it – the self-proclaimed “God of Fuck” is back, and as Vince Vaughn once put it – “We have a whole new bag of issues. We can forget about mom for a while.”

“I have hell-hounds on my heels,” Manson says, speaking of The Pale Emperor. “And this record is payment.”

Marilyn Manson has found the blues, and it’s glorious enough to cover the few flaws this album has. We all know that Manson can write quotes, but his song-writing ability has deteriorated over the years. It’s not enough anymore, to write one great stanza and sing it over and over again. The people have started to notice. In a world of internet and Netflix it’s become increasingly hard to get by just being an Antichrist Superstar. 26 years down the line, when the shock value is gone and you’ve been stripped of everything that made you a success, what is left?

The Pale Emperor is what is left, and it’s pretty fucking great. Back in the 90’s Manson sold a shit-ton of records, terrorized Christian politicians and scared a lot of parents who suddenly had to deal with their delinquent children talking about raping pigs, wicked god’s with little “g’s” and big dicks, or having ribs surgically removed so that you can give yourself a blowie. Somewhere along the line, The Dope Show just got a little too dope, even for Manson – now 46 years old.

There aren’t many new ways to freak us out – and Manson realized this. It was time to go back to being a real musician.

The Vampire of the Hollywood Hills. The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles – he’s become a small time TV actor on great shows like Californication and Sons of Anarchy while trying to figure out his next best move, how to get closer to the intensity and showmanship of his most over the top days without sounding like a band trying too hard to relive faded glories.

 SONS-OF-ANARCHY_900x601

The result – three years after the Born Villain effort – is an album steeped in blues and grunge and heartbreak. It’s a stomping ride, a sweeping, staggering, swaggering debt-payment to the devil. It’s dark biker rock, with soaring riffs and heathen stomping goodness. And finally, most importantly – almost two decades after their last truly great album – Manson is finally writing again, writing good music instead of trying to get by on tiny handfuls of clever wordplay.

Listening to interviews, reading interviews, etc it’s pretty easy to see that Manson has always known what’s going on around him. Through failed marriage and relationships, his waning popularity and being dropped by Interscope, growing older and remembering the influence he had at one point, he’s weathered the storm and emerged more focused and determined than we’ve ever seen him before.

With the help of composer Tyler Bates on board, Manson delivers an almost cinematic alternative blues album, layered with glam and depraved synthesizers. An atmospheric rambler, soaked in bourbon and attitude and confidence. Some of the tracks were captured in only one take – giving the entire album a more “not-a-single-fuck-was-given” reckless abandon, dangerous feel. Originally a film score composer – Bates did a great job – almost every song sounds like it could be a soundtrack headliner, and one of the best songs of the album – “Cupid Carries a Gun” has already been picked up as the theme song to the TV show “Salem.”

Perhaps they all just got too big for themselves, and this poisonous flaw loomed over the band’s weakest material of the 00’s – But Manson has taken on a new approach, a new direction, and ironically, in the depths of those dark bluesy waters he has achieved what nobody thought possible – he’s made Marilyn Manson sound even more sinister than before.

SCORE : 4/5

The Pale Emperor is a triumphant effort, and a satisfying, eerie listening experience. The most exciting part of this album is that you cant help but wonder where Manson and co will take it next. They’ve cast off the shackles of the past, and now seem to have no limits at all.

BEST TRACK : Hard to choose, since there genuinely were so many great, strong songs. You’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t get hold of the deluxe version – as this contains three stripped down versions of the three best songs on the album (“Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” , “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” and “Odds of Even”) re-imagined and re-titled as “Day 3” , “Fated, Faithful, Fatal” and “Fall of The House of Death” respectively. As a true blues fan, DAY 3 ended up being my favourite track of the album, a proper moody, stomping, howling motherfucker. Listen to it loud, and multiple times.

Praise Allah… The God of Fuck is back.

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