The Man Behind the Mask
Title: The Pale Emperor | Artist: Marilyn Manson| Label: Hell, Etc. | Price: $16.99 on amazon.com
The warpaint might still be there but it’s been wiped clear of all that glitter masking it and the old haunted wail has emerged clarion clear from the cacophony of all that electronica as the father of the four letter word (yes, that one) returns to a form of music he hasn’t been near for more than a decade. With The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson climbs off his bejewelled pulpit and returns to his original perch in the shadowy corners of your mind, from where his sinister voice whispers out. He still has that inimitable class, he’s just lost the act. And we mean that literally.
Marilyn Manson (the band, in picture) now retains only its colourful namesake, the rest of the band comprising Tyler Bates, the guy who did the music for Californication (another paragon of normalcy) and Gil Sharone, the drummer for The Dillinger Escape Plan, and now Manson’s vanity project. Yet, this unlikely trio have managed to create some raw, pulsing music with an edge that Manson hasn’t seen since he was rather fascinated by the curves of an absinthe bottle.
The album begins with Killing Strangers, which was unpackaged so gorgeously in last year’s noir-assassin flick, John Wick. It’s got pretty straight rock lines with hooks slinkier than the littlest black dress. One of our favourite numbers in the album is the bluesy Mephistopheles of Los Angeles where he reminds us “Lazarus got no dirt on me, I will rise to every occasion” and “I’m a heretic so lonely, I’m ready to meet my maker”; this and the succeeding track Warship My Wreck, remind us that this is the man who was our favourite poet, a sort of uber-fetishised Dylan. Slave Only Dreams to Be King is vintage Manson, complete with radio samples, distortion and un-satiated rage, while Birds of Hell Awaiting and Cupid Carries a Gun would make an industrialist weep tears of molten joy.
The music is straight edge, mostly guitar, bass and production done by Bates, with Manson playing the keyboards and pill bottle (of course) on various tracks, as well as polishing off the rest of the production, and Sharone doing drumming duties; all additional musical gaps filled by session specialists. The album was recorded largely impromptu in Bates’s basement; essentially a diamond in the rough. Shorn of the shtick of shock and the gloss and gossamer of glam, Marilyn Manson has returned to its industrial foundations and found them still firmly laid. And while Jesus wept, his Beautiful People dervished on the streets.
Insane in the Membrane
Title: Mad Max: Fury Road | Artist: Junkie XL | Label: Watertower Music | Price: Rs 640
It’s hard to tell when the music of Mad Max truly begins. Is it the orotund heavy breathing of the lead character? Or is it the first growls of that arcane god, V8? We’re not sure. What we do know is that the almost two-hour soundtrack, composed by Dutch producer and engineer, Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, is as frenzied and industrial as the movie it enmeshes, reaching its crescendo with a rock-operatic electric guitar riff in an adrenaline-spiked chase across the desert.
In an interview with Billboard, Holkenborg says, “The first time I saw the film, the movie started with the opening shot of the truck driving out where you see the drummers and then the camera pans around and you see the guitarist suspended in front of all those speakers. I was like, ‘What the hell?!’” He quickly prepared a presentation for Miller about the ways he could score the movie and soon, he was on board. The next 18 months would prove to be an exercise in method, and madness.
Holkenborg thrashes hundreds of drums, pulls shrill and razor-edged strings, and blows on ululating horns with furious energy, ensuring the music keeps up with the frenetic pace of the action. At intervals, one has to remind oneself to breathe. But even all the insanity has moments of an eerie calm, where the tempo drops to become contemplative, soft orchestral pieces which opaquely reflect none of the chaos within. But always, always, always, the madness returns. And it is beautiful.