When Marilyn Manson’s new album The Pale Emperor was released at the beginning of this year, it signaled an artistic resurgence for the man who seems to have spent as much time lately acting on the big and small screen as he has making music. The album made new strides musically and lyrically, and fans noted the growing maturity of his output. However, there was one mysterious element to the album, something that caused eddies in the glossy sheen of its polished surface, hinting at untold nightmares lurking in the darkness below. That element would be the blackness of the polycarbonate disc, the same style in which the original Sony Playstation discs were manufactured. And the reason for this is intentional: Only such a pure blackness could accurately capture the true darkness of Manson’s soul, or the darkness of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.
Chris Preistman, writing for Kill Screen, recently explained the decision-making process that went into pressing The Pale Emperor in the same thick black manner as the original Playstation discs. It all came down to wanting the blackest possible black for the record, as part of a plan to have a powerful contrast between black and white represented by the artwork. That way, the album could accurately reflect the eternal push-and-pull between light and dark signified in Manson’s music, or the push-and-pull of people buying the album and then realizing, wait a minute, they graduated middle school 14 years ago.
Hassan Rahim, one of the art directors for the album, explains how it was necessary for artistic reasons to produce CDs possessing the same symbolic ebony hues previously reserved for such gothic masterpieces as Mega Man X4. “When you open the CD it’s pitch black, but we also added a thermal texture on top—after it gets hot during playback, the disc comes out all white,” Rahim says. As Preistman explains, “The PlayStation disc was chosen with this effect in mind as its pitch black sheen enhances the difference between dark and light, hot and cold.” Indeed, the selection of a disc calling to mind the ’90s is a fitting theme for the disc, as it’s both the last time these Playstation games were mass produced and the last time people were excited about buying CDs, period.