Marilyn Manson has been in the musical spotlight since the 1990’s with his cutting-edge antics and catchy tracks that were both socially conscious, and incredibly produced. He influenced pop culture and managed to shift genres at an incredible rate with each album release, breaking the boundaries on a mainstream level. In a modern world, Manson translates well with the incoming wave of new shocking artists who have tried to out-do him time time again. His newest record, Heaven Upside Down is by no means shocking, as a matter of fact it is quite the opposite. Manson has not completely lost its edge, but it has become a much more dull piece if it is being approached as so.
Heaven Upside Down is not going to blow the roofs off of churches and shock parents as Manson did at the height of his career. Now, Manson is more of a shuffling ghost, but this is actually perfect for how he is transitioning from album to album. His last piece, The Pale Emperor was one of Manson’s best releases in years where he could take a steady, but mostly down-tempo approach to the majority of the songs that relied on noise and effects to get the general, ominous sound. On Heaven Upside Down, Manson takes elements from his previous albums in both The Pale Emperor, Born Villain, and even Mechanical Animals where the industrial and abrasive style is toned down and instead turned in for a much more humanistic, more personal Manson. The production on Heaven Upside Down is lovely, and the actual instruments that are used sound better than ever as they are crisp and catchy. From the synths that fill the room like a smoke-screen to the guitars that cut through the silence like a knife. Manson’s sense of serious danger might not exist within himself anymore as the culture has shifted and become more callus, but the catchy tracks and the damning sound is still there behind him.
Manson begins with “Revelation #12”, the heaviest track on Heaven Upside Down and at first impression felt like a quick, grinding hell-ride of noisy feedback that is mixed with a shouting Manson over an industrial styled production. It is a natural progression in Manson as he changes as an artist and begins to form new ideas that he changes his entire style, while keeping a consistent and iconic sense of technique. Manson’s style is something that can be recognized instantly even after being changed throughout his near twenty-five years in the industry. The grinding style that the first three tracks adopt is similar to Born Villain but with a new twist in the way that he integrates more computerized sounds and takes serious notes from the noise-era in music. He works well with taking all these incredible elements of music, shifting them to become his own and to work exactly for him.
In a track like “SAY10”, Manson is residing more towards his area of shocking style, but it just comes off as a little comedic. This was one of the tracks that stands out for how violent and sadistic the instrumental and production is behind Manson’s voice, but his lyrics are bordering on the line of cliché as he describes, “You say ‘God’ and I say ‘SAY10’”. The words are not really one of the strong suits of the album as the instrumentals are the main thing that moves the storyboard along, while Manson delivers some just okay lyrics within his tracks. A track like “KILL4ME” was another that stood out for how the production sounds like a twisted Depeche Mode with the shining synths that play over Manson’s twisted lyrics, “Would you kill, kill, kill for me? I love you enough to ask again”.
There are moments where Heaven Upside Down does truly shine, and these are the parts in which the mighty bird can spread its wings and fly. In other times, it just feels like another Manson album and does not really have the same impact it did when his shock was the main attraction to his music, but the incredible lyrics and movie-esque production made the whole experience worth it. Manson still has these aspects, but they are toned down; the shock has now been released after so many artists have taken what he created and shifted it to become darker than ever imagined. He still creates fantastic music, but the shock god has left the building, and does not show much signs of coming back.