When I was growing up, I could not give two tosses about Marilyn Manson.
I found his music to be a dull, lifeless turd of disappointment to be honest, the only tracks which raised the slightest moment of interest was the remix of “Dance of the Dope Hats” from Smells Like Children and “The Dope Show”. After that, everything felt like a sub-par Nine Inch Nails song, but without a note of talent.
Yes, Marilyn Manson was produced by Trent Reznor at the time. Yes, he was making headlines around the world. Yes, there was the David Bowie fantasy of Mechanical Animals. But it felt so contrived and manufactured that I switched off, it was not for me and I did not need the fight that came along with saying otherwise.
But over the years, my opinion has mellowed an awful lot for the King of Sin. My view of Anti-Christ Superstar has changed dramatically, I now consider it to be a flawed album with classic songs in the mix. The cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)” does everything I would want from a cover, it reinvents it, and makes it into a different beast. Mechanical Animals is one of the best albums ever committed to tape, it just fucks with everything and I adore that sort of anarchic response to one’s own fame.
The last Marilyn Manson album, The Pale Emperor played out his D. Bowie fantasy to the point of lunacy.
It brought everything to a regression point, as he had started slowly moving back to an earlier sound and to the point where he was flexing his musical muscles. I actually love that album, it sounded fresh as if he might be heading somewhere interesting. So, where you go to from that point? Well, Mr. Manson has gone back to basics and unleashed Heaven Upside Down. We find him (and the band) ranting at his old foes, organised religion and politicians.
The term “terminally pissed off” comes to mind, only two of the songs would be allowed on the radio without heavy editing. It is not an album that is aiming for the mainstream, but to be honest Marilyn Manson is so embedded in that filthy pool that it seems so long ago that he was a true outsider. He might paint himself as the outsider, but you do not sell out arenas without being attached to the “in crowd” somehow.
Heaven Upside Down is (I am loathed to say this) return to form for Marilyn Manson.
Manson is in full flow on this album, you are pretty much guaranteed to be covered in his bile at some point. It is not an album that wants to be liked, it is aiming to offend everyone at the same time. Songs such as “Tattooed in Reverse” and “Kill4Me” are floor fillers, that are primed for the live shows and it has a passion that has been missing from his own performances. Even when I was younger and hating his work, at least I could see he was giving his all. It is good to hear that fire in his voice once more.
Heaven Upside Down is not a return to the industrial sound of old, it is an alternative rock album with some industrial trimmings on the side. You have some songs which sound huge (“Saturnalia” for instance is a seven minute plus epic that kills me, it is a glorious tune), some are all out violent (“Tattooed in Reverse”) and then you have ones which sort of feel like fillers, something that has always hurt every Marilyn Manson album.
There is also a feeling of pre-packaged rebellion on Heaven Upside Down, as if you are being allowed to state your discomfort and unhappiness by a pre-approved artist.
This makes it a cynical record for me, you do not know what is truth and what is fiction, there is no dividing line with Marilyn Manson these days and that makes it an album that I admire, but I do not love. He is trying so hard to be the shock artist of old, but that is not cutting it in 2017 as it did in the 90’s. Times have changed and so has the world, it will take a lot more than slagging off the bible and politicians to make me quake in my shoes.
But it does have some good tunes, something that has always been the case with Marilyn Manson. Heaven Upside Down is not a mediocre record, but it feels like an attempt to reclaim past glories. So, whilst it is a good album, it is ultimately trying too hard to replicate an anger which is not the same from an older man and ultimately, it still feels contrived. Manson has clearly done everything in his life, who knew that his mid-life crisis would sound rather tame in comparison to other works.
Rating: 6.5/10 – Now, I see where you were going, but it is not there.