There is no doubt Marilyn Manson is one of the most iconic and influential performers of the 21st century, or that on 2015’s ‘The Pale Emperor’, the prince of darkness produced a majestic record. It is therefore disappointing that he can then shortchange his fans with a record that sounds like a posthumous release of studio outtakes spliced together over a Tyler Bates soundtrack.
The album does find a neat balance between his industrial roots and Tyler’s bluesy garage rock influence, opening to an absolutely killer riff on ‘Revelation #12’. But the apocalyptic opener has a distinctly cut and paste feel as each section receives a repeat play or two, while the riff gets crowded out. The overall sound is effective but it’s all a bit lazy. ‘Tattooed in Reverse’, for instance, has a slow boiling groove and loads of electronic touches, but lyrically is largely nonsense. Brian is just going through the motions; liberally peppering some “fucks” here and there in a half-assed attempt at being edgy.
Where it all comes together nicely is the massive ‘Say 10’; it’s a little tongue in cheek, but boasts an enormous chorus. Other high points include the surprisingly feel good title track and album closer ‘Threats of Romance’, its piano riff turning it into a genuine banger.
However, quite why someone decided sinister eighties tribute ‘Saturnalia’ should be eight minutes long remains a mystery, while the lyrics to ‘Je$u$ Cri$i$’ are nothing short of awful (“I write songs/I fight and I fuck too/If you wanna fight then I’ll fight you” etc). Elsewhere moody ballad ‘Blood Honey’ is all emotionless vampire theatricals.
Even so, ‘Heaven Upside Down’ isn’t bad exactly, it just feels like creative shortcomings are being papered over with elaborate production, and that it would be better suited to a teen movie soundtrack. What is most disappointing however, is that Manson will get away with it. The shock rock style will please the faithful who will hear half a dozen Easter eggs and declare it a good record, despite its distinct lack of creative edge. Disappointing.
‘Heaven Upside Down’ by Marilyn Manson is out now on Loma Vista Recordings/Caroline Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)