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Thread: Color Theory in Marilyn Manson's Work

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by thatrussianman View Post
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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.
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  2. #22
    speed bump mannequin Golden Eel's Avatar
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  3. #23
    Master Procrastinator 33 Bullsik's Avatar
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    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) 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) 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) 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) - 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.

    Last edited by Bullsik; 03-27-2018 at 01:25 PM.

  4. #24
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Default #5. HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN

    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.

    Last edited by thatrussianman; 08-10-2019 at 08:37 AM.
    Born Villain > The High End of Low > Holy Wood > Eat Me, Drink Me > Heaven Upside Down > The Pale Emperor > The Golden Age of Grotesque > Mechanical Animals > Antichrist Superstar > Portrait of an American Family

  5. #25
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    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.
    Last edited by Enname; 04-14-2018 at 01:56 AM. Reason: auto-correct is wrong
    Quid ignorantia sit multi ignorant.

  6. #26
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Default A Quick Update

    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
    Born Villain > The High End of Low > Holy Wood > Eat Me, Drink Me > Heaven Upside Down > The Pale Emperor > The Golden Age of Grotesque > Mechanical Animals > Antichrist Superstar > Portrait of an American Family

  7. #27

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    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 ;)

  8. #28
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manniqueen of Depression View Post
    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...
    Born Villain > The High End of Low > Holy Wood > Eat Me, Drink Me > Heaven Upside Down > The Pale Emperor > The Golden Age of Grotesque > Mechanical Animals > Antichrist Superstar > Portrait of an American Family

  9. #29
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Default #6: The Golden Age of Grotesque and the nihilism of Art.

    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...
    Last edited by thatrussianman; 08-09-2019 at 08:48 PM.
    Born Villain > The High End of Low > Holy Wood > Eat Me, Drink Me > Heaven Upside Down > The Pale Emperor > The Golden Age of Grotesque > Mechanical Animals > Antichrist Superstar > Portrait of an American Family

  10. #30

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    This is such a great thread! Thanks for all the post!

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