View Full Version : Color Theory in Marilyn Manson's Work

02-20-2017, 05:48 AM
I'm sure this subject has been explored somewhere on this website, but as a visual artist, I find that exploring the artwork that accompanies Maryiln Manson's music to be supplemental to understanding the intention of each album. As a man truly obsessed with his image, MM is by no means a novice when it comes to the visual arts; everything he does concerning his look from his album covers to his logos has meaning and a purpose. I'm reviewing the albums in the order of which I think are the most interesting to talk about, not in the order of greatness.

What is Color Theory?

If you've taken any basic course on art, you've probably seen the color wheel before:


This basic color wheel shows the primary colors Red, Blue, and Yellow. It also shows secondary colors like Green, Purple, and Orange. What this wheel doesn't show is different levels of saturation, as you'll notice there are no blacks or shades of grey here. The most important thing to understand about colors is the way they complement each other. Complementary colors are literally colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green and blue and orange. Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the wheel.

Our unconscious mind associates colors with different moods. For example, most people think the color yellow is joyful, optimistic, and sunny (which is why you never see yellow in Manson's artwork). Whereas the color grey reminds people of neautrality and stability. There is a phenomenon called synesthesia where people associate colors with certain things like numbers. Someone might associate the number 7 with the color green, and another person might associate it with the color red. The point is, colors are tied into the neural network of our human experience. As we go through life, we find patterns in the way colors appear at specific times. This is why sometimes you associate a person with a color, or you can recall a distant memory and still be able to describe in detail the color of a person's hair. So now that we all understand how intrinsic colors are to the fabric of our lives, let's actually start talking about Marilyn Manson.

#1. Why The High End of Low's Color Theory is on point.
I couldn't think of a better title. Let's look at the cover art for The High End of Low, one of Manson's most divisive albums (for no good reason, the album is fucking awesome). But as you know, if there's anything Manson loves it's division, chaos, and contrast. It's in his name.


The colors RED and BLUE are the most important colors on this album (and another one but I'll get to it later). They're the colors that stick out the most when you see the cover. Now you probably already know the association with the "blues" as Manson made that association clear himself. On this album he is feeling sad, or "the blues". Pretty simple, right? And red, of course, is associated with love. Red and Blue are primary colors, and because they are at almost opposite ends of the color wheel, they visually contrast each other. To really understand the way red and blue tie into the themes of this album, we have to analyze the lyrics of the first and last song.

"And I will love you if you let me."
This line is a passive statement, it's the protagonist saying that his love is at the mercy of the person he loves. He still believes in love in the romantic sense, as in letting your guard down for another person because you love them.

"I'll teach you about loss."
This song is filled with hate, vitriol, and bitterness. There is self-deception, false bravado, and death threats. But the change in tone from the first song is the most noticable thing. The first song wasn't really a love balled, there was still pain there, but 15 is devoid of any love. The protagonist has realized he was right all along and he never should have opened up his heart to this person. His future looks dark, and we know this because he tells us he percieves as a fight. He won't hesitate to kill to protect for what he believes in. Clearly over the course of making this album the protagonist has gone from a starry-eyed, self-depricating romantic love to a cold hard shell of a person. There is no love anymore. There is nothing but ice. When you love someone, you tend to feel warm inside. Scientifically this is because blood is rushing to certain parts in your body (your cheeks, your genitals, etc). But when you see someone you hate, or an ex that you ended on bad terms with, you feel cold. There is no more warmth between you two. And well would you look at that, there are colors for those feelings.


So it would be safe to say that Red and Blue not only represent the conflict between love and depression on this album, but the duality of Marilyn Manson himself (light/dark, good/evil). After all, the album is named after being High (red) and Low (blue), and refernces the movie High and Low too.The album starts full of warm RED love, and ends with cold BLUE darkness. Look at the shot of the same wall, with the two primary colors overtaking the entire picture, showing the change in mood.


Manson lit in blue with the dark black void surrounding him, echoing the lyrics of 15.

The light is manipulated here so that his face is drenched in red but the rest of the picture is black and blue

Going back to the cover of album, now that we know what the colors represent, did you notice something about the composition of the two colors? The way they are arranged? The color red is hanging over Manson's head like a halo (obvious christ symbolism) and the rest of his face is covered in blue. What does this mean? Well, clearly Manson has love on the mind, but the rest of his body is cold. The warm love that he has is a small island in an abyss of dark, icy blue water, which is reflected not only in the cover art but in promotional photography for the album as well. Love makes up a smaller part of the album, it is certainly the key factor here, but the majority of the album is drenched in sadness and self-loathing.

I mentioned that there was one other color that played a significant role in this album. You probably already know what it is. It's white. But where is white on the cover? On the logo of course. And what flag has the colors Red, White, and Blue on it? You know. Now Manson has not only tied in his personal feelings into the color theory on the album, but has made a political statement as well. We're From America is the only political song on the album, and if you think it's only about politics, it would seem out of place. But it's not. Manson has stated in interviews that the song is about how he felt the state of American politics was at the time (2009), and that in his opinion it was in a pretty shitty state. His specific reasons he addresses in the song. But he also hinted that as flawed as he said America was, he said it was as shitty as he was feeling at the time. In a spectacular display of self-hatred, Manson is comparing himself to the country he just put on blast. He has done this before in the lyrics to Rock N Roll Nigger, when he said, "I was made in America, and America hates me for what I am. I am your shit [America], you should be ashamed of what you have eaten." This is also evidenced in the line "I'm in recovery from America" in the song We're From America. The whole album is about a recovery from a breakup, and Manson is saying that not only is he isolated and broken off from his home country but he is just as flawed a human being as it. Why do you think he covered himself in red and blue on the album cover and colored his name in white?

Manson literally draped in the American flag inside the album booklet.

As we know, many (if not all) Manson albums are cyclical, and I think Manson has made clear his obsession with the beginning of things and the end of things as evidenced in,
*"This is where it starts, this is where it will end."
*Alpha and Omega
*His numerous references to revelations
*"Creator, preserver, destroyer."
So thematically, the colors Red and Blue represent the beginning and end of Manson's journey through this slice of his life, and serves as his commentary on relationships in general. When you're in love with someone, in the beginning everything is right with the world. But that love has an expiration date. That blue is getting him high and making him low.

I'll analyze the color theory of the rest of the albums if people like this post.

02-20-2017, 09:01 AM
Thanks for this interesting post, I look forward to the other albums. But mostly to see how you analyse the colour choice of the album cover for GOAG and just in generally all of the photos and album cover in Born Villian.

02-20-2017, 01:37 PM
Thanks for this interesting post, I look forward to the other albums. But mostly to see how you analyse the colour choice of the album cover for GOAG and just in generally all of the photos and album cover in Born Villian.

Those are some of the more interesting albums covers because they're so minimalist! Black plays a very specific and important role in both those albums, especially TGOAG (hint: Para-Noir). The negative space Manson created in the Born Villain album cover is intentionally mimicking a diagonal cut... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Of course since those covers are so sparse I will be going into the other choices manson made for those eras, respectively in promotional photography such as:



My personal favorite cover is Mechanical Animals and I can't wait to get into that one.

02-20-2017, 03:12 PM
My personal favorite cover is Mechanical Animals and I can't wait to get into that one.

Thats mine as well, up there with 'The Last Tour on Earth' cover. Will you being doing an analysis of that cover or nah as there is a lot less to talk about that.

02-20-2017, 03:22 PM
Thats mine as well, up there with 'The Last Tour on Earth' cover. Will you being doing an analysis of that cover or nah as there is a lot less to talk about that.

There is always something to talk about when it comes to Marilyn Manson's art. I will cover that in a bonus section along with Smells Like Children, and Lest We Forget

02-20-2017, 03:43 PM
#2. Mechanical Animals is so fucking good I can't even come up with a good title to describe how truly awesome it's color theory is

In this series, I won't just be covering color theory. I will also be including other elements of visual design such as composition, contrast and affinity, perspective, etc. And while the album covers are a quick summary of the album to the outside world, the real juicy stuff is actually inside the booklets or Manson's promotional photography in support of each album. So with that disclaimer out of the way, let's get into my favorite Marilyn Manson art design era, Mechanical Animals.


This album. This fucking album. This album always reminds me of an overcast day. I'll explain why. After researching the gallery of photos from this era and the album artwork, I've concluded that depending on how you look at it, this may be Manson's most depressing album. The more I think about it, the more it reminds me of NIN's The Downward Spiral in sheer hopelessness (not sound). Antichrist Superstar might have been sad and self-abusive, but at least there was activity there. In the world of Mechanical Animals, there is nothing. Emptiness. That's is a very different feeling from being sad and crying. Feeling empty. Numb. And drained of color. The first thing you'll notice about the cover (other than Manson's beautiful fake titties and lack of penis) is that the only color on the entire cover that isn't white or grey is red. I covered what the meaning behind the color red is in the last post, but I'll say it again because it means almost the exact same thing on this album. Red represents love, or at least the desire for love. But as you'll notice, the only area it takes up in the entire cover is Manson's hair, which is a small part of the entire composition. This means that love makes up a small but significant part of the themes in the album.

Contrast And Affinity
This is so important in design, I cannot stress this enough.


Contrast is elements in the picture that oppose each other (like complementary colors for example). Affinity is elements in the picture that are similar to each other (like analogous colors). In Mechanical Animals, Manson uses contrast when he wants to show emotion and affinity when he wants to show lack of emotion or numbness. His use of these two principles is more defined on this album than any other album of his. Let's take a look at the lyric booklet as a whole:


The color grey bookends the booklet, while the first several pages are mostly white, and the last ones are black. There is also a grey intermission to separate the two sections. If you know anything about the lore of Mechanical Animals, you already know about Alpha and Omega, the characters Manson created during this era as contrasting takes on his state of mind. The Alpha songs are in white, while the Omega songs are in black. Manson is showing that he thinks the Alpha songs, while depressing, are actually the ones full of whiteness, his true feelings coming out. He finds some semblance of emotion in drugs, but those are slow ways of killing yourself and and artificial means to achieve temporary happiness. This is why there is so much white in the Alpha songs. Great big WHITE world, Coma WHITE, and the obvious cocaine references. While the Omega songs are the songs in which he has a narcissistic, shallow, and cynical view of his life and the world around him. Again, contrast in Manson's work goes as far back as the creation of his name. Marilyn/Manson, Black/white, Alpha/Omega. White is usually associated, with truth and purity, while black is typically thought to be represent the unknown and the void (lack of light). In the alpha songs, we hear Manson analyzing himself, feeling detached from the world and numb for the most part. Additionally, Alpha means beginning in Greek, and Omega means end, so it also makes sense that the alpha songs come before the omega ones. Did you notice something about one of the pages in the Alpha section? It's covered almost entirely in red. If we take a closer look at the page, we can see the lyrics for the song Mechanical Animals as well as the words ma3x5. This is obviously the initials of the album and song plus 15, which is a recurring number in Manson's artwork. 15 holds sentimental value to Manson because of his birthday January 5th, or 1/5. Going back to color, the lyrics of this song fit the color scheme perfectly. This song is the closest thing to a love song on this album, but you wouldn't be able to tell at first. Let's look at some of the lyrics:

"I am never gonna be the one for you."
"You were my mechanical bride."
"This isn't me I'm not mechanical. I'm just a boy playing the suicide king."

Manson is talking to someone (a girl) who he was in a relationship with, but the relationship didn't work because he felt that she was robotic. He isn't a robot, and he isn't going to sacrifice his emotions just to be with her. He can't be the one for her. The suicide king is a reference to The King of Hearts in a deck of cards, so this song is Manson's way of saying that he has love in him, even if it's only barely there. This is why this page, and only this page, is covered in red. The line,

"They'll never be good or bad to you, they'll never be anything at all."

is also thematically consistant with the message of numbness in the album. There isn't any conflict or love in the story, there is just nothing. Everywhere he looks around, the protagonist Alpha sees mechanical beings, "drained of their colors". The song Mechanical Animals represents the album as a whole. Which is why the cover art is so damn good. The contrast on the cover is in Manson's red hair, but the affinity is in the grayness surrounding him. Color is the only thing indication of human emotion on the cover. In black and white:


all the perceived vibrancy of the red is completely sucked out. The message of the album is lost. Color is the one thing that reminds us of human emotion in this vast sea of gray scale. Mechanical robots are usually depicted as grey, so to be human is to not be gray. This motif has connections to other albums too, as The High End of Low also had the top part of Manson's head drenched in vibrant red color. In the Alpha pages in the booklet, we can see every white page has a streak of red in it, which Manson personified in his costumes during this era.




You can tell which character Manson is playing by the colors of the costume that correspond to the alpha and omega sections in the lyric booklet.

Last but not least, we've talked about the grayscale in Mechanical Animals, but there are two other colors that show up here and there in this era. And they are

These colors show up in small doses in the lyrics booklet and in Manson's makeup, but they have meaning.
Blue obviously still means sad, depressed, and meloncholy. But Yellow is something that is so rare in Manson's artwork. Yellow is typically associated with being happy and sunny. Where do we actually see these colors in Mechanical Animals? Well, here:


and here

and here

and here

Manson also creates color harmony here by mixing yellow and red to get orange. In the lyric booklet itself, it says that when you mix yellow and blue you get green. Not only is this true, but when you do so you unlock secret messages in the booklet. So if we look at the two colors according to the theme of Mechinical Animals, if blue represents Manson's sadness, and yellow represent his happiness, where does green come in? Well, never, unless you go looking for it yourself. Green is associated with nature and growth, so when the two sides of Marilyn Manson combine, they form change. And I believe that is the small positive message of this album. Even though they feelings you have right now might suck, keep moving forward. Keep growing. It's the only thing that separates us from the machines. And to back that point up, one of the green decoded messages in the booklet turns the line "Speed of pain" into "Freed of pain".

Next is Born Villain.

02-25-2017, 12:18 AM
This is all incredibly well thought out and detailed - cool stuff. I find your take on THEoL's color scheme especially interesting because I interpreted the usage of bright red against cool blue to represent violence. hatred, and anger (rather than love) against the icy numbness of depression. I think it's an incredibly angry and bitter album presented in an unusual and vulnerable way.

Love your interpretation of Mechanical Animals-era art. The sparse usage of yellow and gold in promotional pics was something that stood out to me, but I wasn't sure if that just so happened to tie in with the glam, Bowie-esque image of the time or if there was something more deliberate behind MM's choice. After reading your post I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. He seems like an intelligent person so there's no doubt he put a lot of care into the art itself. You're probably dead-on.

From what I've seen of GAoG-era art, it is stark white, red, and black. Not unlike Mechanical Animals in terms of minimalism but far darker. Black replacing grey. The demented Mickey Mouse pictures are some of my favorites of Manson so I'm curious to see your thoughts on those too.

As a new fan I am really enjoying digging through all the symbolism and hidden meanings in his work.

02-26-2017, 04:41 PM

02-26-2017, 09:01 PM

I think so! If anybody is interested in the visual arts and MM, then I hope this thread is at least somewhat intriguing.

02-26-2017, 10:34 PM
#3. Born Villain and the Embodiment of Change

Born Villain marked a new era for Manson. Lots of things were changing in his life as well as the rest of the world. The High End of Low, while a great record, made it clear for all to see that Manson was at the height of his depression. That time in his life was his lowest point, which was what the album was about. He left in mistakes and left the album sounding rough because that's how he felt: in shambles. Not to mention his infamously poor performances during the tour of the album. So, as they say, when you're at the bottom, you have nowhere to go but up. The excitement tentatively built for his next album. With his separation from Interscope, Manson was now free to do whatever he wanted with his music and would not be constricted by a label wanting him to make "radio hits". So the next album was shaping up to be Manson's comeback.

And then the album was released.

On the one hand, not having a record label breathing down your shoulder is a good thing. But when you're a guy as ADD as Manson, maybe having a little discipline in your work is a good thing, because to say the album is wonky is an understatement. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Born Villain musically is a tight, excellent work of art, and the color theory I am about to get into will reflect that. There are interesting ideas for a concept here, but besides the nods to the iching and the double cross there is not that much. But I had to preface this analysis with a little history concerning the album, because it's important to know the context of the artwork I'm about to show you. If you want to listen to Manson's REAL comeback album, I suggest listening to The Pale Emperor. Even Manson sort of admits this on the last track to Born Villain, Breaking The Same Old Ground, where he laments that even though he's moved on (or wants to move on), there is something keeping him repeating the same shit. It's obvious Born Villain was supposed to be Manson's comeback, but instead ended up sounding like a guy saying he's making a comeback than actually making a comeback.


When the album cover for Born Villain came out, opinions were mixed (much like the album itself). Manson looked very beautiful and gothy, but at the same time, the cover doesn't show about anything about the content of the songs (besides the fact they are about Manson). It is very obviously photoshopped along the side of Manson's cheek. But the cover really does represent the nature of Born Villain: you can still see the mistakes, but the man is trying to look the part. Regarding composition, Manson actually turning himself into logos in this era was an interesting concept, but again, had mixed results. For example, Manson did an incredible photoshoot with Perou where the photos were altered to each represent part of the printing color scheme CMYK.

If you've ever used a printer before, you've seen these colors.





This was an interesting artistic decision for Manson, because not only was he using high contrast Black and White (which is everywhere on Born Villain), he was using brighter colors than he usually has in his work. Compared to The High End of Low, which even in all it's neon glory had extremely muted tones, these pictures looked like Manson wouldn't be so dark and depressing this time around. But then there's the matter of the album artwork and Manson literally taking on the shapes of icons and logos. As you can see in the picture above, the picture is edited to look similar to the famous Yin and Yang symbol, where there is white in the darkness and darkness in the light. Whoever edited the photo used the principle of counterchange to show Manson's head going from black to white as one object.

The yin yang symbol, as if you didn't already know. I'm actually surprised Manson hadn't used this symbol up until 2012.

I like the cover art for Born Villain, but it's not the best execution. For example, the diagonal cut across the album cover, while clever, is still kind of shitty looking. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at the shape of Manson's head on the cover. It is shaped like a V, right? And the black negative space to the left of his face forms an Λ. Put them side by side, they form ΛV. Which of course, is the classic image of the one hand pointing to heaven and the other pointing to hell. Black and white, dark and light, Marilyn and Manson, Heaven and Hell, the double cross, you get the idea. It's predictable but he's made it his calling card. You can guarantee his next album will be littered with shit like that.

Turn me into a logo, he said.

So where do we find ΛV on the album? In the album title, born VillΛin.

They even stick out among the rest of the letters.

His name, as well as the album title, also form the bars of one of the eight I-ching Trigrams. This being Manson's 8th album, he incorporates the eight trigrams into his name as well as the title's arrangement.

The eight trigrams.

On the cover, MARILYN forms one bar, MANSON the 2nd, and BORN VILLAIN, the last. Just like that one trigram with the three lines.

If I went into the meanings of the trigrams, this post would be 50 pages long.

We can also see Manson personifying the I ching in the only other photo of him that comes with the album.

The white in Manson's face is cut up into three sections, just like in the I-Ching.

So clearly Born Villain is Manson's most logo centered album to date. The rest of the album is covered in black, and the only logo inside that isn't on the front or back cover is the double cross on the CD. An apt logo, but no mention of the awesome Nick Kusher-designer M swastika that appeared on his website during the first part of the Born Villain era. Speaking of which, his website was perhaps the best example of the Born Villain era and theme. The first part was released in May 2011, which the CMYK theme and ICHING present. But perhaps the most striking thing about the website's color was the stark white background used throughout it.

Part 1 of the Born Villain era website.

Part 2 was released almost exactly a year later, on album's release, and featured a theme closer to the album artwork.

What was white is back now, and vice versa. Instead of CMYK, now things are looking more greenish/blue.

Each website was accompanied with a splash page. For part 1, it showed the CYMK swastika in black, then dissolved into color when your mouse cursor rolled over it.


The splash page for part 2 was used on (either bornvillain.com or marilynmanson.com), and showed the same double cross on the CD for Born Villain, but when rolled over, changed from white to red.

So, we've identified a color scheme for the Born Villain era. For part 1, it's: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and White. And for Part 2, it's: Black...?

That's right, I didn't discuss what the part 2 color scheme yet. Well, you'll notice by taking one glance at the album artwork for Born Villain, that there really isn't that much there. But what is there does have meaning. When you print things on white paper, you use CMYK because those color show up better. But when you're using your computer, you want to use RGB (short for Red, Green, Blue) to get the truest blacks in your photos. So Manson used CMYK for part 1 of the Born Villain era, and RGB for part 2. We can see green on the cover, and blue in the font of the back cover, so where the fuck is red?

The blue Matrix-like descending font on the back cover. The words are formed in such a way as to look like two M's, with the logo separating them both.

Well, I've only seen TWO instances of red showing up in the Born Villain era. And they only showed up once the website was updated into part 2, so it fits nicely into the RGB theme. The first instance was on the splash page to the website, which I really wanted to show you but unfortunately can't find. The second was on the single to SLO-MO-TION, released after the album dropped. Just like in Mechanical Animals, red is present, but used sparingly.

The logo looks really cool in red.

I believe that since the album's packaging directs you to look at the website, this counts as being part of the album... sort of. Again, I believe that the ideas behind Born Villain were rock solid, but the decisions made in the final stage were questionable. bornvillain.com is no longer a functioning website, so anybody that buys that album and goes to that website will have to go somewhere else to get lyrics. And the white CMYK part of Born Villain was completely abandoned in the actual packaging. It's odd for a Manson album to JUST feature black. Maybe he felt he was retreading what he had already done in the Mechanical Animals booklet. Usually there's some color in there (even in the golden age of grotesque). But besides black, we just get dashes of green and blue, with a black and white picture and double cross logo mixed in. People that became fans of Marilyn Manson won't even know about part 1 of the born villain era unless they are dedicated and do some digging. I understand that this may be Manson looking toward the future; CD is dead and digital would (and probably will) eventually become the only form of distribution for music. But I don't think that the album artwork had suffer, just for that. That's not a good enough reason. I, like many others, garner more insight into the artist's work by listening to the album and flipping through the artwork, looking into things. It's obvious that Manson HAD artwork for Born Villain, it was just mostly digital. The Pale Emperor's booklet was an excellent return to the classic (and best) way of physically presenting a CD, (but was still missing lyrics for some stupid reason).

Overall, I think Born Villain and it's color theory falter here and there, but for a comeback album, they at least play the part.

or they fa fa fa fake it.

02-27-2017, 08:14 PM
Manson separated from Interscope , not cooking vinyl

03-09-2017, 03:58 AM

Well, the time has come it is quite clear. It's time to get into the thick of it. Remember the color wheel from the Intro to Color Theory? Well, it's time to go beyond that. We have gone through the Manson albums with significant bright color dominants, now it's time to get into the grimey stuff. So now we're not talking about just a simple Newtonian color wheel. Now we're talking about the entire color spectrum that is visible to the human eye:


This is the range of visible color. Our eyes can only see a small fraction on the spectrum of visible light:


so just imagine all the colors we can't see. In order to get into the rest of Manson's discography, we need to understand how color varies, and the abilities those colors have to tell us about the stories of those albums. So without further ado... Antichrist Superstar.


This cover is a good example of the properties of desaturated color. What is desaturated color? Well, it's part of the unholy color trinity: Hue, Value, and Saturation (aka Chroma). Hue is the color itself. Red, pink, topaz, etc. Value is the color on the scale from white to black. Chroma is the intensity of the color, from dull to extremely saturated.


The more saturated the color, the more it vibrates, which is why when you put two saturated colors next to each other, they make an optical illusion.

This picture is not moving. I swear. It's your retina trying to adjust to the extreme intensity of the color.

An important thing to understand about color is that since color comes from light, an object's local color is actually determined by the color it doesn't absorb. Therefore, a red object absorbs every color but red. White reflects every color, while black absorbs everything.

Sorry for the watermark.

This is why in entertainment you see voids represented by pure blacks (like space) or pure whites, like:
https://img.ifcdn.com/images/239b752a1eb3272a55fa6a1e0d86f44ef9c72766c01091099c a82bcac7f3e02c_3.jpg

All of these components have to be understood and worked together in conjunction with properties like contrast, affinity, and composition to create effective visuals.. To understand ACSS, let's strip everything down to the basics. For expediency's sake, let's take all the albums, and increase the contrast till it won't go any higher and desaturate it as low as they can go.


Let's focus on Antichrist Superstar (I'll get to the albums I haven't already touched on in the future).
The angle of the angel wing points downward towards Manson's shoulder, which leads from into neck to his face. This creates a flow in the movement of your eyes in the picture, which end up at the most visually important thing in the frame: Manson himself. The area which is not filled with his body is taken up by the title of the album and the band name. The name leads us right back into the wing, and this creates a cyclical line of movement drawing the viewer into the picture. And if you don't think this was intentional, not only is Antichrist Superstar a cyclical album, the man put a damn cycle on the cover. An effective cover indeed for a man(son) trying to get his name out there and get noticed. Manson's head is also cut in half, creating an asymmetrical composition. Asymmetry is an essential part of design, because it creates an interesting picture. Humans tend to associate symmetry with beautiful, and Antichrist Superstar does not want you to think it's beautiful in the traditional sense. There's despair, ugliness, hatred, and sadness, and we get all this unconsciously just from the brilliant layout and composition of the cover.

Let's look at the colors now. I took all the albums and applied a pixel filter, which breaks each cover down into a simple color palatte.


What is obvious at first is that the color contrast has been boosted, and the saturation has been toned way down. However, there is an exposure effect causing pools of blooming white light to reflect off Manson's skin, which means that these colors are high in value. That why the blues and greens on the cover really stand out, because these lighter colors contrast with the black background. In this cover, Manson is playing an insectoid angel who has hatched from his cocoon. So he grows. What do we do to show growth? Green, of course, which you can see in the wing (understand that with a complex color scheme like antichrist superstar, these are not average colors like you would see on a color wheel. The "green" in this photo is actually more of a green-brown-yellow hue. Then that hue is adjusted by raising or lowering the value). There's pale red and soft chroma blue here, which when mixed makes patches of violet appear. The blue represents the cold feeling of Manson's disposition, while the pale reds in his face represent something more demonic. This is something sorta similar to what Manson would do in the future with The High End of Low's cover, but the colors on this album mean completely different things. Red does not mean love this time. Red means blood, violence, evil, but there isn't just unending rage and hatred here. There is self-loathing and depression, thus the blue. This works with the insect motif, because Manson is showing us that he has no empathy and no love, like an insect. Like an demonic butterfly rising from his chrysalis, he is changing, but what he is changing into is something dreadful. The antithesis of the beneficent and loving jesus christ. The antichrist.

The 2nd cover for the album, revealing the other half of Manson's face and his final form.

I think the Nazi imagery is pretty clear. This album draws extensively on Red White and Black so much that I'd say it's the definitive color scheme of the album which the main cover does not portray at all. I think this may have been done for marketing reasons, because some stores might get a little uncomfortable with the nazi imagery. Manson uses red white and black to represent POWER. If we draw a parallel to Manson's life, then POWER would mean FAME. But the fame Manson is looking for is not the hollow "I want to be famous because I want to be rich and popular" dream (he makes fun of that stereotype on the album), he is looking for revenge. Revenge for all the people that told him he couldn't. Revenge for all the people that made his life hell. He wanted to become something that would become a lightning rod for controversy and a voice for the voiceless. Even if it means becoming everything they said he was.

That's really all there is to color in the Antichrist Superstar booklet. I mean, seriously, it has about as many colors as Born Villain has. But where Born Villain went minimalist, Antichrist Superstar throws the book at us (this makes sense, after all, artist in their early 20s seem to get out as many ideas as they can). There are tons of photos and tons of words splattered all over the place. Calling the layout and composition of Antichrist superstar's booklet a "jumble" would be an understatement. Normally, this would detract from the visuals, but with ACSS it works to it's advantage. It's chaotic. It's instinctual. It's raw. Words like HEAVEN and COMPLACENT are superimposed over lyrics along with bible verses describing the apocalypse, opening the reader up to Manson's pathos during the making of the album. The lyrics are rigidly uniform, with cursive titles contrasting with standard font. Again, little things like that help sell the idea of Marilyn Manson being half good and half evil. The lyrics on the sadder songs tend to be tilted askew, as if to show regret or wavering in the face of challenge. At the bottom we can see what looks like stills from an old video you might see in biology class, showing Manson being birthed (the world spreads its legs for another fucking star) from his cocoon and transforming into the angel.

There's even celluloid decay, which ties into the aesthetic of the album and the biology theme. Every living thing eventually dies and decays, and on this album Manson is birthed from the decay. When a body decomposes, maggots grow. Life coming from death. And then back again. A cycle. The circle of life, simba.

The place that created this insect Manson is anything but friendly. It looks like a dilapidated apartment which no one has touched in ages (it probably was). This creature that is growing did so away from the sun, in the dark corners of the earth that have not been touched, that are cold, dark, and damp. He is the disgusting thing on the underside of a rock, which makes you scared to life the rock to look under it (but your curiosity eventually gets the better of you). This birthing scene reminds me of Alien, because the xenomorph had different stages to it's life too, and also did not need sunlight to grow like most lifeforms do. H.R. Geiger probably had insect life cycles in mind when he designed the creature. Great artists think alike. And on Mechanical Animals Manson would literally become an alien. Ash and the xemomorph are not human. The alien omega, the worm, and the desintegrator are not human. Or it could just be that the worm photos remind me of the milky guts that poured out of the android Ash:


This album is the opposite of everything a successful and happy person should be. But in spite of all that, what it does well, it does fucking great. There is not one thing on this album that is a failure, not one thing that visually doesn't fit into the theme. Manson did not let his depression take away from this album. He put his everything into making this album, well, make him. It's his magnum opus, his masterpiece, whatever you want to call it. A tribute to making your dreams come true (when you wish upon a star, don't let yourself fall into hard...). A truly inspiring work of art.

When all your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.

03-09-2017, 04:55 AM
This is all incredibly well thought out and detailed - cool stuff. I find your take on THEoL's color scheme especially interesting because I interpreted the usage of bright red against cool blue to represent violence. hatred, and anger (rather than love) against the icy numbness of depression. I think it's an incredibly angry and bitter album presented in an unusual and vulnerable way.

Love your interpretation of Mechanical Animals-era art. The sparse usage of yellow and gold in promotional pics was something that stood out to me, but I wasn't sure if that just so happened to tie in with the glam, Bowie-esque image of the time or if there was something more deliberate behind MM's choice. After reading your post I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. He seems like an intelligent person so there's no doubt he put a lot of care into the art itself. You're probably dead-on.

From what I've seen of GAoG-era art, it is stark white, red, and black. Not unlike Mechanical Animals in terms of minimalism but far darker. Black replacing grey. The demented Mickey Mouse pictures are some of my favorites of Manson so I'm curious to see your thoughts on those too.

As a new fan I am really enjoying digging through all the symbolism and hidden meanings in his work.

Thank you! There is violence on THEOL, but it is either self-harming or empty threats. In a way you could say Manson is "romanticizing violence" on that album.

I think what Manson does really well is notice patterns, and finding all these connections applied in his work is what keeps it fresh and exciting to me. For example, his use of gold in the promotional pics for MA, it does tie in with the glam bowie aspect of it all. Those pics always have blue backgrounds because blue and gold are on opposite ends of the color wheel, so they create contrast and focus. And then there's the line in Posthuman "All that glitters is cold", referencing the saying "All that glitters is gold".

GOAG is going to be fun. More purple than it lets on.

03-09-2017, 02:15 PM
#4 1/2. A Brief Color Callout.

Now that we've covered the basics, I thought it would be interesting to actually show you the specific attributes of the colors Manson uses in his compositions. Thanks to the eye dropper tool, I called out three major colors from the albums I've covered so far, then analyzed where those colors fall on the color spectrum. The way they do says a lot about their respective albums. First, two things to understand.

If we look at the color spectrum in grey scale, we can see right away without even adjusting the value (darkness) of the hues, blue is already our darkest color, while yellow is the lightest. This is important when coming up with a color scheme for your artwork.

Once a color is selected, we can see where it falls on the color spectrum by following these steps.

The High End of low is SUPER saturated. There are some midrange earth tones in the background, but just barely. Interesting to note that the value decreases the lower you get into the picture. The top red is high in value, his face is midrange, and his clothes are very dark. If anything, it helps with all the heaven and hell references on the album, and goes with the theme of being high and low. Like the album itself, the colors here are not muted but immediate; depression hits as hard as love. Not a bleak sadness, but a visceral, colorful one.

There are no dark colors on the cover for Mechanical Animals (except for the title, because it ties in with the color scheme of the album booklet). It's surprising that the pink here is not as high in value as expected, but that's because the colors surrounding it are so desaturated. Omegas body is high in value, while the background is midrange value, demonstrating the (alien) grey and (coma) white themes of the album.

Born Villain is the only one of these album that has the truest black. The turquoise is on the midrange of the color spectrum, and the ONLY saturated color on the cover. It acts as the barrier between the white and black areas, which gives it this ethereal shiny quality. Even the white is really a very low chroma yellow, which you can see if you tilt your screen back. If you connect the circles on the different color charts, they actually forms a sideways V (this was probably unintentional... or was it?).

Our brightest color is a low chroma orange, a muted rust color. Our midrange color is smack dab in the middle of the chart, a yellow that's decaying. The darkest color is a nearly black violet, which when paired with the other rust colors, gives some sense of uneasiness to the whole composition. You wouldn't expect blues and violets to be on an album cover like this, but there they are. Perhaps foreshadowing Mechanical Animals?

04-16-2017, 01:46 PM
Forgive me if this has already been mentioned somewhere but I remember an interview with Manson discussing his use of blue/red makeup in the Mechanical Animals era as homages to the colours of blood (this is not an exact quote, just what I remember) - if this sounds familiar to anybody please find the interview.

08-05-2017, 08:04 AM
So it would be safe to say that Red and Blue not only represent the conflict between love and depression on this album, but the duality of Marilyn Manson himself (light/dark, good/evil). After all, the album is named after being High (red) and Low (blue)

Someone might have already said in another thread this but I would've thought that the red is the Low (Hell, as red is usually associated with fire and in popular belief there is a lot of fire in Hell) and the blue is the High (Heaven, sky). Although I totally see your point by looking at the colours as emotion indicators. Interesting read, nonetheless. Thanks for posting!

10-04-2017, 05:48 AM
Gosh, I really love the way you're talking about the covers and composition of the albums.

11-11-2017, 09:20 PM
UPDATE! I will be releasing more color theory posts this weekend. Stay tuned for Heaven Upside Down, The Pale Emperor, and The Golden Age of Grotesque (Which will be quite a long analysis on its own).

11-12-2017, 04:37 PM
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I don't know what's going on. I have my heaven upside down analysis ready but it won't let me post it.

03-26-2018, 03:01 PM
Thats really annoying, I loved all your posts

03-26-2018, 04:15 PM
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I don't know what's going on. I have my heaven upside down analysis ready but it won't let me post it.

.... oh ffs. There is a word somewhere in your post that is triggering the rather arbitrary word block filter of the ISP. Don't try to post it again or it may block you. Stick this down in the forum for site problems and complain loudly.

Golden Eel
03-26-2018, 04:19 PM

03-27-2018, 01:17 PM
I haven't read the whole thread so I just hope I won't repeat what was already said.

Some Manson albums are based on alchemical colors, which is black, white, sometimes yellow and, of course red.

In Alchemy black (nigredo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigredo)) is symbolic for putrefaction/decomposition of physical matter. Sometimes represnted as snake or lizard, something that is near the "ground". Psychologically speaking it's the first step of depression. In Latin this operation was also called SOLVE. It's the first step of the whole alchemical operation .

White (also called albedo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albedo_(alchemy))) is a symbol for everything that's spritual. It's purification of matter. Spriritualization often depicted as birds in old manuscripts. The concept of snake with wings is symbolic for battle between black and white, good or evil, etc. It's a constant struggle between the two. It suits almost all processes in the known universe.

Yellow (citrinias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrinitas)) is a more rare color in achemy. It's like a moment when two opposites are about to be combined into a new quality. It's when people gain their inner wisdom. In psychology it's the last step of depression, just the moment before full realization. Thing are being coagulated in a new form (hence SOLVE ET COAGULA)

Finally, red (rubedo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubedo)) - the union of opposites, the androgyne, transformated soul, Jesus Christ the ressurected king [in christianity often depicted as wearing white (pureness) and red (victory) clothes]

This are basically all steps of alchemical Great Work (OPUS MAGNUM), the work of creation or self-creation. The Evolution of things in universe.

It's obvious that Manson used it as a sort of symbolic talisman on some albums. These color have a great power (just look at the nazi imagery or Coca-Cola, it's not coincidental)

"Marilyn Manson Mechanical Animals" is an anagram of "Marilyn Manson is an Alchemical Man" (this is pure genius). The album is part black, part white, have some yellowish/orange lines in the booklet, and of course one red page. The Omega picture inside shows him dressed in gold on a red background. Transforming matter into gold was always symbolic for self-realization. It's the END of the whole operation - "This is my Omega". Omega is the last letter of Greek alphabet. Phonetically it was probably pronounced as the long "O". Some of you already know that O is also a 15th letter of Latin alphabet. The hidden audio on the CD in which he says "This is my Omega" is track numer 15 and I'm just saying all of it to clarify some conscious color choices made by Manson on this album. And if you look closer at the cover you will notice that the character of Omega is white, his hair is part black, part red and there are two strands of yellow hair just to match this all alchemical symbolism.


04-13-2018, 11:04 PM
Hopefully with the server switch, this will work. Let’s try this again. It's new, it's fresh, it's Heaven upside down. Let's take a look at the color and design choices made for this album.


1. Comparison to The Pale Emperor
Heaven Upside Down represented something new for Manson. Manson has always changed his style and look from album to album, each era defined by it's own colors and style, but not Heaven Upside Down. I was not expecting this cover to be in Black & White when the album was announced. I thought Manson had saved his "black & white style" for the pale emperor era. I believe this is Manson hinting at Heaven Upside Down being a continuation of The Pale Emperor. Therefore, it makes sense that the two albums would share a black and white aesthetic. The two albums are connected and can be viewed as sister albums, each representing a different part of Manson’s psyche. In interviews for Heaven Upside Down, Manson has said many times that Tyler Bates told him that the Pale Emperor was "just the opening act" for Heaven Upside Down. Some Pale Emperor era interviews even have Manson mentioning the phrase “… turning heaven upside down", showing that the spark for this album goes back as far as the pale emperor era.

Manson is obviously not the first to feature his face in black and white on his album cover. Just by a quick google search, numerous artists shoot the album cover in black and white to convey a sense of classiness, introspection, darkness, and depth. Instead of flashy colors or crazy artwork, the artist is inviting the audience into their world, with the only thing occupying the canvas being their face. These album covers are supposed to be taken more seriously, and have a timeless quality about them.

Albums covers from various artists showing their faces in black and white.

2. How can you analyze color theory on an album with no color?
Since there’s no color on the cover, I will briefly cover the composition. Manson’s face is positioned in the center for maximum readability, but he’s not facing the camera. His body is turned away from the camera, showing indifference. His face is turned slightly towards the camera, which shows interest while still remaining mysterious. It is only his eyes that look at us, and his expression indicates slight sadness. The photograph is in clear relief, and we can see every pore on Manson’s face. This is in start contrast to The Pale Emperor’s cover, which was blurred and shopped so Manson was barely recognizable. In this way, the cover of Heaven Upside Down paints a clearer picture of Manson, as the music does for his thoughts. As for clothes, he is not wearing anything particularly gothic, but rather a jacket which more than anything is probably an homage to David Bowie’s album “Low”.

Knowing Manson's love of David Bowie's work, this seems like a pretty likely homage.

The jacket creates pleasing diagonals in the composition, and does a pretty good job of hiding Manson’s double chin. The background is a flat gray midtone, which is a good choice compositionally as choosing a darker grey or a lighter grey would start to mush with the light and dark shapes in manson’s face. The midtone actually falls pretty close to the center of the greyscale. Can you can any more midtone than that? This is what leads me to believe that the choice of background color was a deliberate decision and not just some random grey.

The background color of the cover (as indicated by the black half-circle), on a grayscale.
A background too light or too dark would lose important feature of Manson's face in the composition.

The double cross logo is also displayed in the upper right corner of the album. For the first time ever, Manson has eschewed his traditional double cross (which was symmetrical vertically and horizontally) for a cross that has two horizontal lines running through the lower half of the vertical line. The symbolism is multilayered and obvious: Manson’s upside down (read: satanic) cross shows that he has now transitioned to favor the lower half of the cross, representing evil. Alternatively, one could view this as his traditional double cross with an extra long vertical line reaching up to heaven. The positioning and scaling of the cross is used in replacement of an artist/album title (the pale emperor also lacked an artist/album title on its cover). The cross is displayed on the right of Manson, as in western society we read left to right, so it makes sense that the first image we process is of Manson, before our eyes lead us to the cross.

On the back cover, we see the tracklist displayed in descending order (appropriate given the album’s themes), with a large Marilyn Manson logo displayed underneath. Stylistically, this is a callback to the back cover of the pale emperor, with the colors inverted.

A trend hopefully continued on the next album.

3. No, seriously, where’s the color?
Let’s take a look inside inside. Heaven upside down is the Manson album with the fewest pictures of Manson (born villain featuring two, portrait of an american family featuring three). If you’ve read my previous installments, you’ll have picked up by now that Manson loves to incorporate black vs. white into his album artwork. It is symbolic as well as visually pleasing: you can’t get any higher contrast than white against black. The same theme goes for heaven upside down: the logos are white on a black background, and the text is black on a white background (CD version).

Black on white.

Halfway into the CD booklet, in-between KILL4ME and Saturnalia (which is where the vinyl splits up), there are two pictures on opposite sides of the page. The left is of a woman kneeling at the altar of a depiction of Mary holding a dying Jesus, with a circle (crown) of thorns bordering the image. The woman is looking up to the altar in seemingly adoration and reverence, but her hands are not clasped up to her chest like normal depictions of christian prayer are. Instead, her hands are clasped downward, closer to her crotch than to her heart. The opposite picture is an illustration of a demon, or Satan himself, pondering and looking at something offscreen. The background is dark, with organic shapes indicating some sort of dark terrain Satan is walking through, perhaps Hell itself. The border is a thick, bold black border with a demon’s face breathing fire at the bottom. As a hint towards the romantic aspect of the album, the demon is looking in the direction of the illustration of the woman, perhaps looking at her directly. These two illustrations (not present in the vinyl version) give the album a richer and more in-depth portrait of its themes and concepts of dark romance, violence, betrayal, and acceptance (to name a few).

Wish we got this in the vinyl version.

Finally, we can talk about color. Like Mechanical animals, red plays a small but vital role in the color theory of Heaven Upside Down. In the past, Manson has incorporated the color red to represent romantic elements (as well as the obvious blood/violence element). This is backed up by the fact that Manson describes Heaven Upside Down as a romantic story, filled with violence. In the CD booklet, red text is used to outline significant phrases, song titles, choruses, and lyrics emblematic of the song as a whole. There were also 3 different colored vinyl versions of Heaven Upside Down released: A Black disc, a white disc, and a red disc. This color pairing or Red, White, and Black also shows up in previous Manson work, such as the Antichrist Superstar Logo, which is itself a parody of the Nazi Swastika. Meanwhile, The Pale Emperor featured no color other than black and white inside the album artwork, and the only two (official) colors released for the vinyl discs for that album were black and white. With this evidence, we can conclude that Manson has continued the thematic elements and color theory of The Pale Emperor into Heaven Upside Down while also building upon them.

The chorus of Tattooed in Reverse colored in red, as well as the words, "DEAD SEA", used to symbolize importance in the meaning of the song.

04-14-2018, 01:55 AM
I wish I could find who drew that damned first picture. The style is so familiar (apart from Edward Gorey) but I cannot pinpoint it.

Anyway, the red in the lyric sheet is also mimicking the rubrication (rubricatio - to colour red) used in the Bible during manuscript construction across the Middle Ages. Red is used to highlight and colour either initials, words or sentences, or it is to indicate either the start of a canto/section, to mark out actions or directions. The choice of what is rubricated was always up to the individual making the text, so what Manson chose to 'rubricate' here is always interesting to think about.

Interesting note that he has only used red. Rubrication (despite the meaning of the name) can also oscillate between red/blue. Classic Manson colours.

04-21-2018, 09:58 PM
Hey all. I've been away from the computer for the past week helping my family with stuff. I will post Golden Age in the next couple of days.
After that, I will post a color analysis of the remaining albums in the following order:
-The Pale Emperor
-Holy Wood
-Extras: Lest we forget, last tour, smells like children

Manniqueen of Depression
08-03-2019, 07:26 AM
I have synesthesia, so this thread speaks to me. Whenever I purchased a Manson album I would give it strong analysis like this, especially relating to the colours. Whenever I hear a Manson song, it tends to have a colour, and it's usually related to the colour theme of each album.
I am a bit sad that this thread has stopped here prematurely, I'm hoping that this *bump* will remind you to continue ;)

08-09-2019, 02:22 PM
I have synesthesia, so this thread speaks to me. Whenever I purchased a Manson album I would give it strong analysis like this, especially relating to the colours. Whenever I hear a Manson song, it tends to have a colour, and it's usually related to the colour theme of each album.
I am a bit sad that this thread has stopped here prematurely, I'm hoping that this *bump* will remind you to continue ;)

You have succeeded! I'm back on this. :)
I love that you mentioned your synesthesia, as I too associate certain songs with colors/moods. Like it is impossible for me to not think of orange and black with Eat Me, Drink Me, or purple with Golden Age. Speaking of...

08-09-2019, 07:48 PM
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome back to another installment of Color Theory in Marilyn Manson's work.

Today we'll be exploring the color and composition of The Golden Age of Grotesque, and how it supports the message Manson was making with the album.

The album cover, the motion blur indicates movement and action, while two bright red M's are centered in the logo, with white "wings" coming off them. This is more Nazi imagery parodying the Nazi eagle.

Right off the bat, our color palette is a familiar one. Black, White, and Red is a Manson staple at this point. It has been used in virtually every Manson album, with the exception of Holy Wood, Portrait... and The Pale Emperor. Manson has appropriated the infamous Nazi colors once more into his artwork, but this time, the purpose is not just aesthetic. The purpose of the Golden Age of Grotesque is to draw comparisons between Fascism in 1930s Germany to America today.

"I constructed something that I think represents a satire of totalitarianism and control and restriction of art and conformity, and that deteriorates into degenerate grotesque burlesque. And into finally the ultimate childish deterioration. And that's why I used symbolism like Disneyland. Starting off with something like Nuremberg and ending with something like Disneyland takes you on a journey that represents everything that I have to say on this record. And somehow those two can be as scary as one another if you flip it around."
-Marilyn Manson for Floridian, August 2003

"White is the color of purity and perfection. Furthermore it is color of the woman and lunar principle, one of the two colors of Mercury. Black is the color of honor and future rebirth but it is also color of mourning and death. Black and white contrast is a well-known sign of antagonism between good and evil."
-The Nachkabarett "Diamond Logo"

However, what sets this album's color palette apart from the rest of Manson's work is the use of blue and purple. Cool colors typically indicate despair and coldness. Pairing cool colors with the sharp reds in these photos indicate a hint of sadness to the composition. Like we analyzed in "The High End of Low" section, Manson is fond of using blue to this effect, drawing a correlation to "The Blues" in music.

A Picasso work, during his "Blue" period. Picasso was a prominent figure in the early Modern Art movement.

Red on this album is used in a stunningly vibrant way. Manson takes the bright reds of the Nazi logo and repurposes it thematically across the Album booklet and his outfits. When Manson dresses in red, the color is so saturated it almost looks unnatural. Red can also been seen in photos as a backdrop, usually curtains, echoing the bright red curtain of a stage show or vaudeville act.

Manson's outfit always contrasts with the rest of his band (who wear the same outfit). This shows he is the so called "Ringleader" visually.

White is used in a similar fashion. Manson's face is unnaturally white, caked in many layers of makeup. The effects of these colors is quite gaudy: Manson isn't trying to create a convincing look, but instead throughs all subtlety out the window. In this case, white and black are not just a statement about the nature of good vs. evil, but a mockery sideshow version of it. In this case, this less real it looks the better, which is a core fundamental of abstraction in modern art.

A clever inversion of the Blackface Mickey Mouse during this era, portraying a somewhat less aggressive Manson. It's all about contrast.

Black is the most fascinating and memorable color on this album. Every single background is pure black, an empty void upon which Manson paints his many faces. The song "Para-Noir" on the album translates to "Beyond Black". By cutting out any form of scenery, Manson creates an abstract portrait where figures seem to jump out of nothing at all, echoing German Expressionism.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (shown above) is frequently referenced in Manson's artwork.

Of course, the use of Blackface is inherently problematic, but Manson does use it to make a point on this album, which transforms a hideous part of American history into a symbol that mocks the very thing it stood for.

Ugh. This was a part of history, folks.

"Among the appeals and racial stereotypes of early blackface performance were the pleasure of the grotesque and its infantilization of blacks. These allowed—by proxy, and without full identification—childish fun and other low pleasures in an industrializing world where workers were increasingly expected to abandon such things."
Lott, Eric (1993), Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

"We did intend for the white and black images of me with the ears to be the front and back [cover]. I feel the black one is very American, and the white one is very European. The black one is somewhat more evil, and the white one is kind of innocent. I actually think that the white one, visually, strikes me as more evil. It's like a Pierrot. You know, American versus European. The entire time that I did it, I don't think anyone mentioned the blackface and the relevance of it. The relevance of it is the exploitation of a performer, or an artist."
-Interview with Marilyn Manson for INROCK, July 2004

"Because American culture can be controlled by its own sense of self-imposed fascism: desire to fit in. That's a form of slavery of itself."
-Marilyn Manson for Floridian, August 2003

So basically, artistically and conceptually, Manson is ruminating on "The Death of Art" by which abstract and real human emotions are packaged into an easily consumed product. While many soccer moms would look at Manson's face on the cover and call it "grotesque", Manson is saying that dumbing down art to make it more appealing to a wider audience is the real "grotesque".

"I have often manipulated the image of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck because I have always appreciated this trivial culture. Comic books are part of my roots and I consider them as full works of art. As an icon, Mickey possesses different aspects. It's a wonderful creation that became something appalling."
-Gottfried Helnwein interviewed for Hard N' Heavy, May 2003

Hmm... that logo looks familiar...

Cementing this concept into a persona, Manson created the Arch-Dandy of Dada character that revels in spectacular shows full or meaninglessness. This also is reflected in the abstract and metaphorical writing in the lyrics.

"Dadaism is also closely associated with the concepts of the grotesque, the absurd and the macabre that were communicated through the arts slightly later in the twentieth century. The idea of ridiculing the absurdity of existence finds its most poignant expression through the dramatic art of Samuel Beckett and the so called Paris school of dramatists...
The name itself is reflection that the art was designed to seem meaningful when it is in fact a reflection of how overvalued societal norms and expectations had become. The word "Dada" may be an allusion to an infant's first words, such as "Mama," and thus a reference to the failures of our ancestors to convey the meaning of life, create meaning within life, or ensure we understood how meaningless our life is."
-Dadaism on Wikipedia

Manson using a "prosthetic" face. "Your fake grin fits your faker face." Not even his face, arguably the most visually important part of a person, is real.

Opening the album liner notes, the lyrics are arranged in every manner. Some are upright and rigid, while others are diagonal and sideways. Certain letters are capitalized where they shouldn't be and even use different fonts. In a similar fashion, some Manson faces take up one whole pages themselves, while several smaller Manson faces are strewn about in a random manner. Compositionally, order and disorder play equal roles in the layout of the media. This draws parallels between Dadaist manuscripts, challenging the observer to find meaning where probably no meaning exists. Just like that, Manson has codified the premise of Modern Art in general, which is meant to be an answer to the age old question, "What can be considered art?"

The lyrics reflect this theme by shortening, changing, or omitting certain letters, such as "Perfekt", "Vodevil", and (s)AINT".

"The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation.Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art."
-Gombrich 1958

It is clear even from this album alone that Manson has great admiration for the early Modern artists. He even did a sly nod to Van Gogh (who famously cut his ear off), in the Mickey Mouse picture, where you can see one of the ears is cut off by the frame.

“The Mickey Mouse was invocative because of the hat, and a lot of people feared that it would be a lawsuit from Disney, but it does not even, in it's fullest frame, show both ears. The hat that I ended up making is very similar, but it's asymmetrical, because I have a real problem with symmetry. I like things to be different on both sides, like my brain.”
Interview with Marilyn Manson for INROCK, July 2004

"The devils are girls with Van Gogh's missing ear. You say what you want but filth is all that they hear."
-The Golden Age of Grotesque

"I'm the leader of the club and I've shrugged off my mouse ears."
-Ka-Boom Ka-Boom

In this popular photo, every color mentioned before is worked into this picture. Blue and red accent the whites and blacks, while the grays imply synthetic qualities (much like Mechanical Animals did).

It is important when embarking on artistic projects to set a conerstone for your artwork. It's clear that Manson sees elements of our society that are cyclical with older periods of history, and attempts to bridge the gap by creating a grotesque but brutally honest satire of the early Modern Art movement. The Golden Age of Grotesque is effective in its color narrative because it
-works with a minimal color palette of saturated and bright hues
-uses strong contrast of compositional elements to create a surreal aesthetic
-draws upon successful and historically significant past works of art.

The face on the back cover is looking in the opposite direction of the face on the cover.

I think Manson summed up the mission statement of the era in the first few lines of the album.

“Everything has been said before. There's nothing left to say anymore. When it's all the same you can ask for it by name.”


See you soon...

08-09-2019, 11:20 PM
This is such a great thread! Thanks for all the post!