Simply just another addition to Manson’s catalog.
Just two years ago Manson released one of his most notable albums in Pale Emperor, which seemed to signal a more evolved artist who finally found the perfect balance of voice, aggression and melancholy. His latest, Heaven Upside Down, takes that evolution and from the very first track seems to drops a giant bomb on it.
It may seem inappropriate to describe any part of Marilyn Manson’s career as the sophisticated era, but a few albums boasted high quality, clean production and industrial metal anthems which seemed to trick bait and switch the hardcore listener with more electro but still angry machinations. He was the poster child for all that might upset suburban parents only to reveal that his themes of satanism, gender ambiguity and debauchery looked more like modern liberalism than anything truly dangerous. He turned to address narcissism, drug abuse and media criticism, all valid targets of rage. He became less of a shock rocker and more a purveyor of social commentary.
Drenched in processed, crispy-fried vocals, raw metal guitars and bass and throwback electronic drum rhythms, his latest album screeches out of the gate with “Revelation #12,” hitting the listener with memories of Portrait of the American Family. The album eventually settles into dialed down versions of Manson’s various styles over the years. Unfortunately, these are weak attempts to recapture his peak of sophistication with a cheaper budget. And it sounds cheaper: Lows aren’t as low and guitars seem to be isolated and tacked on rather than providing the usual backbone.
Absent is the kind of impressive electronic mayhem that graced Antichrist Superstar or Pale Emperor. With the possible exception of “Saturnalia,” the album feels like a step backward. While all indications were that Manson back with guns blazing, relevant once again after a merchandising deal with Justin Bieber, it doesn’t feel as meaty or as accomplished as his best work.
The lyrics of “Je$u$ Cri$i$” are designed to antagonize: “I write songs to fight and to fuck to/ If you wanna fight I will fight you/ If you wanna fuck I will fuck you/ Make up your mind or I’ll make it up for you.” Perhaps intended to shock and awe, in a world of a pussy-grabbing President under nuclear threat from cartoon-like villains, it just comes off as rather banal self-aggrandizement. The world is far too messed up in 2017 to make Marilyn Manson the focus of our fears. Even teenagers looking for rebellious music rebel are going to find their parents far more disturbed by the hip-hop artist Migos than with this one-time scourge. As an antagonist, he’s an afterthought. As an artist, he was interesting to watch grow, but now he’s just another bit of musical friction which will delight for a few tracks but ultimately be forgotten. It’s very title Heaven Upside Down seems to promise a new achievement, but it’s simply just another addition to his catalog.