October 6, 2017 Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down (Album Review)
When thinking of one the most controversial figures in Rock-n-Roll over the past two decades, chances are the first name that comes to mind is Marilyn Manson. Around since the dawn of the ’90s, Marilyn Manson was an antichrist, a star in the dope show, one of the nobodies, the ringleader of the golden age of grotesque, and more.
Most of all, Marilyn Manson, the band, as well as the individual, has been the scapegoat for America’s problems. That is right, a Rock band has been fingered out as the cause of violence, drug abuse, and anything else one can think of that plagues the United States. Despite such absurd claims, Marilyn Manson continues to push the envelope on their latest album Heaven Upside Down.
The band’s tenth overall studio album, Heaven Upside Down hits the public on Friday, October 6, 2017 via Loma Vista Recordings and Caroline International. Interestingly, the rumors swirled that the album would be out much earlier in the year, but for whatever reason, was held off while also being renamed from Say10.
A follow-up to the 2015 album The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson’s musical approach has shifted significantly since 1994’s Portrait of an American Family. Once much more guitar driven, with Industrial and Metal elements mixed in, Heaven Upside Down in a way sees the band hark back to the days of 1996’s Antichrist Superstar and 1998’s Mechanical Animals. Working with Tyler Bates once again, the guitarist’s influence is significant as a songwriting collaborator and producer. All this said, which face of the Marilyn Manson prism reveals itself this go-around?
Well, one can easily say some cliched nonsense like the ‘real’ Marilyn Manson is back or this is their ‘heaviest material’ in years. The fact of the matter is this is a band that has never really married themselves to one sound or image through the years. The centerpiece, and the face of the band, Mr. Marilyn Manson himself, has regularly changed his imagery as the key artist behind the vision. Something dedicated followers have come to get used to and look forward to, Heaven Upside Down is a fitting record for the times. Often society dictates the art produced by others, and Marilyn Manson is no different. So, who is ready for a good old fashion Marilyn Manson societal assault?
Chances are, many who have followed and understood Marilyn Manson raised their hands like eager school children to this question. That is because no one seems to strike a nerve quite like this band. Love them or hate them, they grab your attention. Doing just that, the 10 songs of album number 10 are potent and thought-provoking. It is easy to spot phony anger in Rock-n-Roll, but the rage in these songs are as real as it comes. From the opening heavy Rock pummeling of “Revelation #12,” it is evident the guitars are a focal point for this record. Furthermore, Bates’ background in film soundtrack composition shines through as dark, melodic undertones that engulf each song. In fact, the opening few seconds of songs like”Tattooed In Reverse” and “Saturnalia” sound eerily like something right out of Antichrist Superstar.
Although, this is not really the best way to judge Heaven Upside Down because there are a few different stylistic approaches sprinkled throughout. For example, later track, “Blood Honey,” is much slower, darker, and haunting. Perhaps the best of all the music on the album, the tempo and tone fit Manson’s voice perfectly, bringing back memories of the brilliance behind 1998’s “Coma White.” These moments are offset by the heavier ones heard on the singles “KILL4ME” and the politically charged “We Know Where You Fucking Live.” The latest single, “We Know Where You Fucking Live,” was released on September 11th, and it is not a coincidence. This song is a full on assault on modern America and the hypocrisy that daunts it.
Equally as powerful, the production of “Say10” is impeccable, putting the emphasis on the lyrics and disdain in Manson’s vocal approach. That said, a much more playful sound is offered on “JE$U$ CRI$I$,” but within the more dance-like vibe is an underlying message much deeper. Then, with a more straight-ahead Rock vibe, resembling something heard on Mechanical Animals, the title-track, “Heaven Upside Down,” sums up the overall theme of the album about a world that has slipped further into madness.
Overall, Heaven Upside Down is a Marilyn Manson album that hits the mark. Perhaps it is thanks to the climate surrounding us right now, but it just seems, as a songwriter, Marilyn Manson excels best in the face of chaos. At this point, are people really still going to look to blame this band for America’s problems? Probably, but maybe some will take a look in the mirror and search inward to find the answers to a societal meltdown. Topical, relevant, and well-composed, CrypticRock gives Heaven Upside Down 5 out of 5 stars.