Marilyn Manson: musician, actor, Satanist, and blamed to be a contributing factor in the Columbine Massacre of 1999, is back on the radar, and not just because he knocked himself out on stage while climbing a prop which collapsed on top of him. His 10th studio album Heaven Upside Down may not carry the shock value his early work did, but it does a good job at raising a middle finger to society, as Manson does best.
His previous album The Pale Emperor had a very raw, instrumental sound, which is still present in this new release. In Heaven Upside Down, however, some digital elements are also brought into play by Manson and Tyler Bates, co-producer of this record and many others of Manson’s discography.
Starting from the top, we’re greeted by static and muffled recordings of news reports which suddenly give way to the explosive opener ‘Revelation #12’. The use of a count from 1 to 10 in the chorus of the track makes for a catchy rage anthem that sets the tone for the rest of the project.
‘Tattooed in Reverse’ and ‘WEKNOWWHEREYOUF******LIVE’ bring a grungy metal sound, reminiscent of ‘Deep Six’ on The Pale Emperor.
The aforementioned digital elements become noticeable in ‘SAY10’ and ‘KILL4ME’, making for an industrial sound à la Nine Inch Nails.
The slow intro in ‘Saturnalia’ slows the project down a bit, breaking the rhythm until ‘JE$U$ CRI$IS’, a critique on our society and on what we deserve for our sins.
The pace changes completely for a single track, ‘Blood Honey’, a moody, dark, synth-piano infused ballad with an intense climax.
The title track ‘Heaven Upside Down’ surprises the listeners’ ears with the sound of an acoustic guitar thrown into the mix, creating an ever so slightly lighter tone, characteristic of the rock songs of bands like Smashing Pumpkins.
Finally, the closer, ‘Threats of Romance’, brings the sound of a piano which is met by a synth halfway through the track for a bizarre blend of timbres that surprisingly works. Manson’s echoing growl certainly ends the project on an edgy high.
The lyrical theme of the songs is classic Manson. Talk of self-abuse, sex, toxic relationships and anti-establishment motifs make for a relevant yet edgy soundtrack for the modern revolutionary. Although, it’s worth noting that Marilyn’s lyrics have always had this tone, and therefore, some might find them somewhat cliché.
Overall, the album isn’t Manson’s best work but it’s a solid 10-track project that will delight old fans and might catch the interest of new listeners, too. We can definitely call the sound goth-metal, a sound which Marilyn pioneered and continues to dominate.
However, this goth influence has seemed to overlap into the world of hip-hop, with many artists citing Manson and other punk or goth-metal artists as heavy influencers of their music. Among these is Lil Uzi Vert who, according to an interview between Manson and Zane Lowe, might have a project coming up with the goth-metal godfather himself.
If you’re a fan of Manson, he has an upcoming show on the 4th of December at the O2 Apollo. Fortunately, the dates have not been affected by his accident last month; after all, it would take a lot more than that to take the godfather of goth-metal out of business.