Marilyn Manson rings in his 10th studio album, Heaven Upside Down, with all of the showmanship, attention grabbing theatrics and occasional nihilistic ballads those familiar with Manson's past work can come to expect from the self-proclaimed “Antichrist Superstar.”
For those unfamiliar with Manson's work, his music is considered Nu-Metal — a subgenre of metal alt rock. Manson once kept ‘90s suburban moms up at night in fear of the next desecrating act he would commit. Infamously embracing, rather than shying away from, the public eye, Manson, also known as Brian Hugh Warner, has capitalized on his publicity by being transparent about his sexual promiscuity, rampant substance abuse and iconic fashion sense.
Manson shook the rock industry to its bedrock with the release of his dark industrial trio of albums — Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood — which is regarded as his defining work. Throughout his peak, Manson was as big of a mainstream antihero as the artist he would later go on to inspire, Lil Uzi Vert.
Two years ago, Manson released the Greek mythos fixated album, The Pale Emperor, that took a more sophisticated version of his music style and paired it with depressive self-reflection. In Heaven Upside Down, Manson manages to backtrack into more familiar and immature territory that steps above anything we have heard from the artist since 2003.
Regardless of being a fan of Manson's style or character, it's difficult to deny the high level of production that went into his latest album. Even more impressive is the similarities between specific tracks' compositions and his prior songs — even though these adjustments are not always improvements.
Tracks like "SAY10" and "Revelation #12" compare well to older tracks like "The Fight Song" and "Disposable Teens." The bruiting force of these tracks takes what made their angry, faster-paced predecessors and measures them out into a more sluggish rendition that comes close to reaching the greatness of the songs they mimic. The track "Kill4me," for example, sounds like it was recorded the same day as the 2007 pop-oriented "Heart-Shaped Glasses" that comes off as more stylized and fitting of Mason's discography.
Adversely, "Tattooed in Reverse" features an infectious and more rampant guitar riff similar to the one found in the genre-defining track "Sweet Dreams," which is one of my favorites on the album. I touched on the step backwards in maturity on this album, and "JE$U$ CRI$I$" — with lyrics like "I write songs to fight and to f*ck to" — encapsulate this point to an almost eye-rolling degree. Manson still finds a lot of power on religious defamation to the point where it becomes a bit of a crutch that suggests he is more of a provocateur than a poet.
The magnum opus of this album arrives at its halfway point with the eight-minute long "Saturnalia." The swamp-like bubbling of the electronic undertones in this track alongside the tempered yet melodic percussion, coupled with the siren-esque wails of guitars, all wonderfully collide with Mason's vocals like some kind of tranquil bulletstorm.
For better or worse, Manson's notoriety and mastery over controversy has enabled him to continue creating music while retaining the coverage needed for fueling the rockstar’s vices. Those looking to rediscover some solid rock or trying to expand their spectrum of music should listen to Heaven Upside Down with a grain of salt.