Marilyn Manson have dropped their long-anticipated tenth studio album ‘Heaven Upside Down’ and the eponymous frontman has come to claim back his title as the King of shock rock. When Manson dropped their lead single ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’ back in September, it was apparent that he was eager to relive the glory days of 90’s rock. Reminiscent of their 1996 critically acclaimed album ‘Antichrist Superstar’, ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’ foreshadowed an unapologetically melodramatic and nihilistic record. Heavily distorted guitars, industrial beats and the dark and often violent lyrics make the band’s latest effort a true embodiment of Manson’s trademark sound.
Manson delicately balances moody gothic rock basslines with jarring heavy metal guitar riffs, crafting a heavy atmosphere full of anguish and cynicism. With all lyrics written by Manson and music composed by American producer Tyler bates, ‘Heaven Upside Down’ may be Marilyn Manson’s most exciting album in a long time. It is an indulgent exhibition of self-reflective musings of the world as Manson sees it.
The ten songs that make up the relatively short track list all share the same theme of despondency towards an increasingly apathetic and immoral society, and the use of hedonism as a coping mechanism to deal with life’s tendency to shatter ideals. The opening track ‘Revelation #12’ kicks the off with a pure shock rock number, and the first verse rolls out in Manson’s rich, visceral voice with, ‘You will burn in the terminal fire pit, just playing with matches and praying to ashes’. The song sets the mood and assertively frames the album’s main contention; an intimate insight into the self-destructive nature of humans.
The second single ‘Say10’, much like the leading track ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’, pays homage to the early days of Marilyn Manson. It’s a fun sing-along anthem where Manson repeatedly shouts, ‘So you say “God” and I say “Say10!”’ as it wouldn’t be a true Marilyn Manson album without the mischievous digs towards organised religion. Though playing the antichrist is probably not as controversial as it was in 1996, it is still delightfully nostalgic enough to be an enjoyable listen.
A more interesting track composition-wise is ‘Saturnalia’, its backbone a very 80’s gothic rock bassline and Manson’s melancholic backing vocals humming in the background. The guitars are more melodic and the overall tone of the song is softer and even romantic at times with lyrics like, ‘There’s no exit planet, no emergency room in this tomb, and it’s door only opens one way’. Never being the one to shy away from sentiment, Manson happily puts the guns away and allows himself to be vulnerable.
This follows through with ‘Blood Honey’ which arguably might be the best track on ‘Heaven Upside Down’. It is a striking how personal this track is compared to the others where Manson tends to hide himself under symbolism and allegories. It is also a breathing moment in the album that departs from the 90’s throwback and the bands gets just a little more creative. ‘No lies now, I love it. I’m not being mean, I’m just being me. I got some feelings, but I try to hide what I reel in’ croons in and out of the song and the bass deepens whenever Manson sings ‘I’m dripping blood honey yeah’. ‘Blood Honey’ is the residential ‘love song’ and to complement the undertones of the album it is also sinfully erotic, ‘I’ve got you tied up, I love it. Tied up, I love it. Now, why would I set you free?’. Definitely a highlight and a song worth hanging on for if the first seven songs fail to impress.
The title track ‘Heaven Upside Down’ comes towards the close and reaffirms Manson particularity for colouring his music with a tinge of existential nihilism that has prevailed throughout all ten records. ‘I don’t attract what I want, I attract what I am. Dead as the bees buzzing inside my head’ and the song remains despairingly hollow until the very last moment. It is not one of the more invigorating tracks of the album as it is rather monotonous sound-wise. Manson’s proficiency for lyrical writing picks up where the guitars and drums are wanting and allows ‘Heaven Upside Down’ to be a reasonably solid track.
The true ending of ‘Heaven Upside Down’ sees the reappearance of a defenceless Manson in ‘Threats of Romance’, and if there was nothing before to satisfy the need for a good gothic love song then this would be the one song to do it. The best guitar work is saved for last leading with an almost rhythmic bluesy feel that is accompanied with a piano track that lurks underneath Manson’s vocals. The choice to conclude with a very personal song about emotionally abusive relationships and the bleak aspects of love is an effective one. It feels satisfying to get to the true message of ‘Heaven Upside Down’ that is presented quite simply in ‘Threats of Romance’; that humans struggle with the dissonance between their ideals and the reality of their nature. ‘Things that are pretty are always kept behind glass, and someone like me, someone like me can’t make it last’.
A welcomed return to religious symbolism, macabre imagery, political commentary and playful shock antics really ignites the fire that Manson had been missing in his last three releases. However, it might not necessarily be in the band’s best interest creativity-wise to fall back on their most prolific album to date as a guarantee to a successful album cycle this time around. All ten songs are memorable and well-written but remain, for the most part, comfortable in the same repertoire Manson has been using throughout his career. Though it would have been more interesting to see the him experiment more in this record, it is hard to deny that ‘Heaven Upside Down’ an impressive effort from Marilyn Manson.
‘Heaven Upside Down’ is out now and available worldwide.