Marilyn Manson, “Heaven Upside Down”
Heaven Upside Down
Marilyn Manson’s career arc has been as volatile as his public persona and his band’s music. His many successes, including millions of albums sold and a fanatical fan base, have been tempered by castigating public opinion and pillorying by the media for crimes both real and projected—his disproven influence on the 1999 Columbine school shooting being a prime example. His on- and off-stage antics have been as extreme as could be imagined for an artist who courts mainstream acceptance; GG Allin may have gone farther with the feces-smearing but he never had a hit video on MTV. And while Manson’s style of hard rock has been both imitated by other acts and eclipsed by other genres since the artist’s heyday in the late ’90s, the prospect of a new MM release is still cause for anticipation.
After a string of less-than-celebrated (or successful) releases in the mid 2000s, which some have attributed to the fallout from the Columbine issues and his hectic love life, Manson rebounded in 2015 in what could be called a comeback with The Pale Emperor. Heaven Upside Down continues that trajectory by channeling some of the energy and creativity of his breakthrough early releases. The album is at once taunting (like Antichrist Superstar), glam (like Mechanical Animals), and blistering (like Holy Wood), and above all supremely confident; if you didn’t get the memo with the last album’s heads up, Marilyn Manson is back.
Album opener “Revolution #12” is a blast of ferocious guitar riffage overlaid with Manson’s Ministry-like distorted vocals; hard as it is, it still manages to keep your head bopping. “Tattooed in Reverse” lopes along with a synth riff reminiscent of the AWOLNATION song “Sail” and comes close to dancey in spots, but also hits us with lyrics we’d expect from Manson—“Fuck your Bible and your Babel” indeed. Early single “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE,” while on the repetitive side, certainly makes its point, and its sexy-nuns-do-a-home-invasion video racked up a million views pretty quickly, understandably. “SAY10” continues the catchy riffs and wordplay of questionable caliber as MM twists the name “Satan” into a pop trope: “you say God and I say Say ten, say, say, Say ten,” he sings, following it with “Cocaine and Abel / I don’t baptize whores /I’m a legend, I’m not a fable.”
Moments of brilliance are found throughout the remaining tracks, and it manages to do something that a Manson album hasn’t done in a long time: It offers real thrills with nary a dull moment to be heard.