The original opening lines of this review asked the question, “Can Marilyn Manson still make headlines?” One falling stage prop later, and the answer is a resounding “Yes”. Putting his accident aside though, can he still shock in a world where real life beheadings and other atrocities are just a click away? The teaser trailer for ‘SAY10’ (the original album title) featured Manson ripping pages from the bible, holding a bloody knife, and ended on a shot of a decapitated body lying in a pool of blood. The fact the body was suited and wearing a large red tie rankled Trump supporters, so in a sense, yes, Manson can still shock, but only if you are easily offended and can’t see past the attempt to push people’s buttons to get a reaction.
‘Heaven Upside Down’ is easily the best thing Marilyn Manson has put his name to since ‘Mechanical Animals’ almost twenty years ago. 2015’s ‘The Pale Emperor’ was a return to form, but ‘Heaven Upside Down’ goes one step further. Interestingly, it’s also the first time that Manson has appeared on an album sleeve sans make up. Putting himself out there bare for all to see, significant or not, it is easily the most striking album sleeve he has produced since well, ‘Mechanical Animals’, really. Tyler Bates is back on board, and like on ‘The Pale Emperor’, his influence seems to have a fantastic effect on Manson. The songs featured are much of what you would expect from Marilyn Manson in 2017. Opener ‘Revelation #12’ has a vicious snarl to it, with a funky little undertow. Cinematic, but that’s no surprise, given Bates’ involvement. The groove remains in place for ‘Tattooed In Reverse’, which opens with Manson taking aim at his usual foe… “So fuck your Bible and your belt”. The rapping vocals actually work really well. Like the cover art, they are stark and laid bare. The electronic loops are very effective in giving the song an unsettling vibe, as are the chain-gang-like vocals. The full throttle intensity of ‘Antichrist Superstar’ appears on ‘WE KNOW HERE YOU FUCKING LIVE’, but let’s be honest, with a title like that, and all in capital letters, it was hardly going to be subtle, was it? ‘SAY10’ is a monster that creeps up behind you. Slow building, with a hint of menace that will strike a chord with the legions of new fans that each album garners. Again, the enemy seems to be Christianity. The line, “You say God I say Satan” is spat out, and it’s easy to see this one getting a great response live. “KILL4ME” might not be heard live. Possibly too soon after the Las Vegas tragedy for lyrics like “Would you kill kill kill for me? I love you enough to ask you again” and “Would you drag him to the shed and unload six rounds in the fucking face?”.
After the electro seven minutes of ‘Saturnalia’ (which opens very Sparks-like), we are back on familiar ground with ‘JE$U$ CRI$I$’ with it’s “controversial” lyrics, and it’s throwback to Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’… lager lager. The last third of the album see’s Marilyn Manson flit between the ballad ‘Blood Honey’ (as ballady as he gets) and the Bowie inspired closing pair of the title track and the piano-driven ‘Threats Of Romance’. The last two tracks showcase a different side to Manson, thoughtful and respectful. Yes, really. The title track is easily the peach on the album. Restrained in places, it’s a towering piece of music. ‘Threats Of Romance’ runs it a close second, mind you. The sheer scale of it, and the glam vibe, is immense.
After a few bumps in the road, Marilyn Manson has got back on track in recent times. ‘Heaven Upside Down’ proves that he still has some fight left in him, and I’m intrigued to see how it plays out on the live stage.
Review: Dave Stott