Marilyn Manson surprised skeptics this year by unexpectedly releasing one of the year’s best hard rock albums. “The Pale Emperor” was a brooding, darkly funny vamp in the spirit of his heroes Nick Cave, Bauhaus and David Bowie, and refreshed a career that had seemingly been in decline.
Manson’s comeback was lauded with a lifetime achievement award Thursday night from the British hard rock magazine Kerrang and its Kerrang Awards. The magazine, which focuses on punk, goth, metal and other hard rock styles, lauded Manson for more than 20 years of pushing aesthetic boundaries and credibly adapting to several different eras of pop and rock music.
Manson, in typical louche form, told the London crowd that he had been tempering his indulgences a bit lately as he grows up.
“I don’t drink absinthe anymore, only because it had too much sugar in it so, it made me too hyper,” he said at the ceremony. “I need to calm down, so I just switched to marijuana and vodka. Yeah, that’s sober for me.”
Manson has had a successful second life as an actor, with a highly regarded run as a white supremacist gang leader on the hit show “Sons of Anarchy” (and a goofy shorts-wearing cameo on “Eastbound & Down”). But it was “The Pale Emperor” that truly led to a reassessment of his career.
In an interview with the Times earlier this year, Manson described the record as having something of a blues-driven spirit. “A lot of people say the record has a blues sound to it, but ‘blues’ goes to a few core things,” Manson said. “It’s actually quite Faustian, with [legendary bluesman] Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil. So there were a lot of strange parallels on this record, like a snake eating its tail.”
His producer Tyler Bates agreed: “He is a living performance-art experiment. He is a school bus full of children perched on a ledge, and you can’t look away. There aren’t a lot of real rock stars left, and he’s one of them.”