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Album Review

Marilyn Manson catapulted to controversial prominence in the mid-1990s with a calculated blend of blasphemous antagonism toward Christianity (including an album called Antichrist Superstar), grotesquely violent imagery and debased sexuality. And while some rock bands that major in shock burn out quickly, Marilyn Manson has continued to simmer in the cultural stew for two decades.

His 2015 release might not be quite as provocative as earlier iterations, but that doesn't mean you should be expecting songs about bunnies frolicking in the daisies. (Unless the bunnies are bleeding and the daisies dead.)

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

While there's little that could be labeled genuinely "positive" on The Pale Emperor, a handful of philosophical flourishes give strobe-like insight into the heart of the would-be metal monarch. On "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles," for example, Manson expresses ambivalence about being emotionally vulnerable ("I don't know if I cannot open up/I've been opened enough/I don't know if I can open up/I'm not a birthday present"). Later, he seems to honestly ask, "Are we fated, faithful or fatal?" "Odds of Even" admits, "My dagger and swagger are useless in the face of the mirror/When the mirror is made of my face." One more confessional moment comes on "Third Day of a Seven-Day Binge," where we hear, "I just feel like I'm condemned to wear someone else's hell."

Objectionable Content

"The Devil Beneath My Feet" bristles, "I don't want your God and your higher power/I want power to get higher/ … I don't need another m-----f---er looking down on me." "Birds of Hell Awaiting" tells us, "This ain't no Phoenix, baby/It's your death's desire/This is your death." "Cupid Carries a Gun" mingles horror, death and references to sex that are jarringly juxtaposed with references to the Bible. It warns, "Better pray for hell, not hallelujah." The grim "Odds of Even" adds, "This is the house of death/Where even angels die in arms of demons." Wordplay on "Deep Six" tells us, "Love is evol [heard as evil]/Con is confidence/Eros is sore/Sin is sincere."

We hear a man who sounds like a Southern preacher on "Slave Only Dreams to Be King" saying, "They say a slave is a man who is subservient to another man. Well, I ain't your slave. I ain't nobody's slave. I'm a king. I'm a king, and I'm a god. I'm a king, and I wear a crown of thorns." That song includes the grotesque lyric, "I'm happy to pull my veins out and braid a rope/I don't need hope to know that you'd die slow." "Killing Strangers" threatens, "We don't need a bigger knife/'Cause we got guns/ … We got guns, you better run/We're killing strangers/ … M-----f---ers better run."

Ambiguous excess on "Third Day of a Seven-Day Binge" is of course unhealthy and perhaps violent ("We've only reached the third day of our seven-day binge/And I can already see your name disintegrating from my lips/ … I've got bullets in the booth/Rather be your victim than be with you"). "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles" wearily intones, "I'm feeling stoned and alone like a heretic/And I'm ready to meet my maker."

"Warship My Wreck" delivers a violent vision of marriage as a battle for control (Marilyn Manson was married to burlesque queen Dita Von Teese from 2005-2007): "You're a paper doll/I'll fold you how I want/You're not my noose/I tied this knot/ … Our fingers locked together/This is total war/ … Scars on my fingers, bruises on my neck/ … Cut the hands off/Kamikaze into your soul." Another oblique merging of marital and violent imagery comes on "Slave Only Dreams to Be King": "And then we met our brand-new parents/But they didn't know it yet/So we chanted, 'Wed, wed, wed'/But they didn't know they were dead."

Summary Advisory

As has always been the case with his dark art, Marilyn Manson fixates upon unsettling themes on his ninth album, The Pale Emperor. His atmospheric brand of zombie-shuffle, industrial-goth rock still sounds like it could double as a horror movie soundtrack. His crafty, down-the-dark-rabbit-hole wordplay is often all but impenetrable. But just when you might begin to wonder What is this guy actually singing about? his infamous antipathy toward God—not to mention his own deep woundedness—spills out once again.

So I'm struck by the fact that this man who expresses such hostility toward God can't seem to stop talking about Him. The Pale Emperor is drenched with references to death, hell, demons, God and other allusions to biblical themes as Manson doggedly works to pair them with sacrilegious sentiments. Even when he's trying so hard to provoke Christians to take his blasphemy bait one more time, he's revealing a much deeper thirst for true faith.

For Manson, sex and salvation, violence and God are never far removed from one another. And that gives us plenty of reason not to listen to his demented musings … but also plenty of reason to keep praying for the man born Brian Hugh Warner, who once attended a Christian school, might one day find his own salvation in the very Savior he curses. The Savior he can't seem to ignore.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range







Debuted at No. 8.

Record Label

Cooking Vinyl,Hell Etc.




January 20, 2015

On Video

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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