The world’s most controversial Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn Manson, this week returned after almost three years with the release of his tenth studio album, Heaven Upside Down. Despite a name change from the originally-planned album title, SAY10, the original – and current – title tracks both feature on the album. The follow-up to 2015’s The Pale Emperor, whilst highly anticipated comes as slightly underwhelming on the initial play-through. Although it features all of the themes Manson is known for – fighting, fucking, guns and drugs, the most significant departure from his previous work is in the music, which would have created a particularly strong album had Manson had something new to say. With guitarist and producer Tyler Bates, at the helm for the second time, Heaven Upside Down tones down the electronic and synth vibes that we came to know with The Pale Emperor, and replaces them with much heavier, although fairly simple guitar riffs, driving Heaven Upside Down towards a good old rock sound. Unfortunately Heaven Upside Down just doesn’t deliver the same shock value that Manson is famous for, which is perhaps what leaves this album feeling somewhat same-same as a lot of his previous work.
Album opener, Revelation #12 opens with the classic synthy sounds and siren overlay that makes you instantly recognise it as Marilyn Manson, but in a way that makes you think he’s really trying to give the impression that he’s still public enemy number one – even if he no longer is. Following the short intro, it becomes quite a nontechnical song with a simple lyrical theme and a solid guitar riff making it one of the more classic rock songs of Manson’s catalogue.
Tattooed In Reverse takes us back to the classic Manson sound that propelled Brian Warner into superstardom. This is a track that wouldn’t feel particularly out of place on 1996’s Antichrist Superstar or 1998’s Mechanical Animals.
Heaven Upside Down’s lead single, ‘WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE’ is the ballsy, in-your-face welcome return to Manson’s early sound and screaming of his famously violent lyrics. It even comes with its own warning (or is that a threat?), with the opening lines of the track, “Let’s make something clear, we are recording this as it happens.” ‘WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE’ is a solid single, and perhaps the hero of the entire album – well, I’m not too sure how well it could sit with some listeners now, with lyrics such as, “it’s time to just kill this crowd, and scream as fucking loud…”, “They won’t even recognise your corpse”, and “fire, fire, fire, fire, fire away / I love the sound of shells hitting the ground,” following the tragic events in that took place in Las Vegas over the weekend. This would presumably be one of Manson’s highest energy live tracks, so it’ll be interesting to see if he decides to include it on his upcoming setlists or keep it out. Being Marilyn Manson though, AKA. The self-proclaimed God of Fuck, a man who feeds off controversy and backlash, I think we all know the answer to that one.
The early parts of the fourth track, ‘SAY10′, are particularly slow and underwhelming. ‘SAY10′ has a simple, repetitive chorus of “you say God and I’ll say Satan,” which is sure to get stuck in your head, and will grab your attention and reel you in, and then the latter half of the song picks up from there, albeit perhaps a bit too late.
‘KILL4ME’, the albums second single is one that should appeal to any Manson fan. Much like ‘SAY10′ preceding it, ‘KILL4ME’ has a chorus that’s likely to get stuck in your head, although the rest of the song isn’t particularly memorable, most likely due to the track not having anything new and exciting to offer.
‘Saturnalia’, track number six, may well be Heaven Upside Down’s most underwhelming song. Much like ‘KILL4ME’, ‘Saturnalia’ brings nothing new to the table in terms of sound, except this track doesn’t even have a catchy chorus to redeem itself. Being a slow song, it’s no wonder the seven minute and 59-second song feels like it drags.
‘JE$U$ CRI$I$’ comes as a welcome relief, straight into a more up-tempo, instantly attention-grabbing song. Heaven Upside Down’s seventh track is all the things we love about Manson through and through – and he finally sounds alive. “I write songs to fight and to fuck to / if you wanna fight, then I’ll fight you / if you wanna fuck, then I’ll fuck you / Make up your mind or I’ll make it up for you,” is as Manson as it gets lyric wise, and in this case, it’s not a bad thing. It’s simple, high energy and catchy – making it perhaps the most stand out track of the album.
Blood Honey is another track that wouldn’t feel out of place if it happened to find itself on 1996’s Antichrist Superstar, in fact, it could be compared to a toned-down equivalent to ‘Tourniquet’. ‘Blood Honey’ is a return to the more synthy sounds Manson used in his earlier work, laid over the new-found heavy guitar riffs. Again, this track has particularly repetitive and simple lyrics, but damn are they catchy!
Heaven Upside Down’s title track inches into new territory for Manson, heading towards that crazy creepy typical Manson sound crossed with a ballad, if he knew how to write a ballad, that is. ‘Heaven Upside Down’ is a step into instruments-rather-than-synthesisers territory, allowing the guitars to really show through without the heavy distortion Manson clearly loves using.
Album closer, ‘Threats Of Romance’ ventures further into this unchartered territory of really allowing the music shine. It is again, very Manson, and whilst it is a great song, aside from the power of the screaming in the second half of the track, isn’t particularly special or catchy. The ending is fantastically powerful, and blends perfectly into the intro of Heaven Upside Down’s opening track, ‘Revelation #12′, which was a little bit bland when you started listening from the beginning.
Heaven Upside Down is an album that will appeal to any true fan of Marilyn Manson, as it offers a lot of similarities to parts of his previous releases, however, it is a little bit disappointing that he wasn’t able to give it that extra oomph it needed by offering up something new and unexpected. Following The Pale Emperor, which was particularly well-received for doing exactly that, many fans had their hopes high for Heaven Upside Down, but unfortunately, it seems as if the God of Fuck may well have run dry of the shock value that got him to where he is today.
Summary – The God Of Fuck: Still writing songs to fight and to fuck to!