By Paige McCluskey, Contributor
[Loma Vista; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Heaven Upside Down”, “Saturnalia”, “Tattooed in Reverse”
Marilyn Manson is a name that rock fans are familiar with – an artist with small-town Ohio roots who gained a cult following after almost 25 years of creating controversial, jarring music. His stage image is no better, becoming somebody that most mothers would take one look at and warn their easily influenced teenagers away from. Despite any controversies thrown at him, he’s had a consistent fanbase, who created a huge hype for his tenth album, Heaven Upside Down. However, this excitement raises the question: does Heaven Upside Down ascribe to that old Manson formula of shocking lyrics and dark industrial rock, or does this old dog have some new musical tricks up his sleeve?
The album opens with industrial crashes and a recorded voice chanting “playing God”, before a churning guitar breaks into the first song, “Revelation #12”. The first half of this album, save for “Tattooed in Reverse” (a track that deviates from the heavy rock sound for a strange yet catchy genre smash-up), is compiled of louder songs, a cross between Manson’s scream-singing and a strong, industrial rock sound. With this being a typical formula, though, it becomes repetitive increasingly fast. This can be seen in the lead single, “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE”. The song starts off promising, mixing growls with a growing crescendo of instruments to deliver a commanding chorus, but it falls flat during the chorus. The song is one of the weaker points on the album, with little variation; however, this suggests the album can start to improve from then on.
One of the big transition points to the album’s betterment is the sixth song, “Saturnalia”. The song is ominous and slower, with less of an attempt to be loud and brash for the hell of it. Although the song is long, at 8 minutes, they use the time to test a lot of experimental sounds in it, such as a techno track in the beginning and end that might remind listeners of Nine Inch Nails. Paired with a steady bassline and guitar that goes from soft to booming in an instant, it makes for an interesting and solid song.
Another one of the better tracks from the album is the title track, which returns to good old rock, leaving behind the more industrial sound in favor of active rock. Of course, Manson puts his own unique twist on it with his growl-singing and the lyrics, which start out by describing a bleak war scene in hell (“I can hear the scream of trumpets / Smell the ash and sulfur”). Interesting choice for a track that could be described as a love song!
Overall, while this album got a lot of praise for going back to Manson’s older style, it takes a lot to remind of his past music. A lot of the album is repetitive, the lead single is weak and a few of the tracks are forgettable and don’t have much in the way of meat. The album also does have some powerful, catchy and unique moments on it, making for some sturdy tracks, but the good and the bad mostly balance each other out. It isn’t the best album ever, nor is it the most terrible album;it’s just average. It doesn’t feel like an album that should be compared to Manson’s past golden day albums, either!