Heaven Upside Down review by Marilyn Manson

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  • Released: Oct 6, 2017
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 7.4 (47 votes)
Marilyn Manson: Heaven Upside Down
10

Sound — 6
Sometimes, it's a bloody wonder Marilyn Manson (the singer AND the band, as they are two seperate entities) keeps going after all these years. Between the revolving-door band lineup and various "wasted mistakes" by the band's eponymous frontman, it's strange that they ever even have the time to put together a new album. And under the original title of "SAY10", Manson and his band were intending to release this album much earlier in the year, back in February. However, Manson had expressed "dissatisfaction" with the recordings after the release date had come and gone, opting to record a further three songs for the album. Featuring a band consisting of Manson himself on vocals, Tyler Bates on guitars and keyboards, long-time member Twiggy Ramirez on bass, and relative newcomer Gil Sharone (perhaps best known for his work with The Dillinger Escape Plan) on drums, for his second Manson album after "The Pale Emperor".

Promising a sound that would be different from "The Pale Emperor", "Heaven Upside Down" eschews the former album's blues-rock influences and returns to a form that should be more familiar to Manson fans, a heavily over-produced industrial rock album that, much like his work on the "Mechanical Animals" album, shows some influence from 70s glam-rockers like David Bowie and T. Rex, though still steeped in Manson's usual style. Most of the songs come off as noisy, almost punk-rock in their intensity, straight from the opening of "Revelation 12" and first single "We Know Where You Fucking Live", but there are still highly danceable tunes with a huge amount of pop appeal like "Tattooed In Reverse" and "Say10". The "Mechanical Animals" 70s glam-rock style comes into play quite heavily on "Kill4Me" and closing track "Threats of Romance". A couple of tracks even flirt with gloomy, somewhat dated industrial nu-metal tinges, like "Blood Honey", which sounds like could have come off of any recent Korn album. The eight-minute "Saturnalia" is sort of the album's centerpiece, with a lot of noisy guitars and a pretty decent bass riff and some very dance-oriented drumming, and some very disorienting-sounding vocals and lead guitars.

There's very much a mix of all the different styles Manson has performed in his career, and him and the band do a pretty good job of tying them together in a coherent way. But sadly, the styles on this album are quite dated, and there's just not enough variety to keep this record all that interesting. And while musicianship is clearly not the top priority on any Manson record, I do feel that this record is just lacking in any kind of iconic riffs, beats, or melodies that made a lot of his older records classics. That's not to say that Tyler Bates isn't a competent guitar player or producer, or that Twiggy's bass playing or Gil's drumming aren't good, but there just doesn't seem to be a moment that stands out on this record where one can pinpoint a future classic. And a lot of the time, the album feels a little overproduced, with many songs being far too noisy for the sake of being noisy, and far too much slapback delay and reverb on the guitars to the point where everything is just drowning in it. On the positive side, the mix is actually fairly decent throughout, and Twiggy's bass is clearly audible on even some of the album's noisiest and loudest tracks.

Lyrics — 7
It pretty much goes without saying that one of the more important aspects of any Marilyn Manson record is its lyrical concept, and nearly all of his records so far have had some kind of underlying lyrical narrative to them, even extending across records for lyrical trilogies. This record is no exception, with a thread of disaffection towards the world in general weaving through this record, mostly aimed at the political systems and social media in the USA at the moment. There are still references to drugs ("Sucking snow white powder/White powder, snow white powder/High as a tower/Fall to the street like a viper" in "Jesus Crisis"), and sexual deviancy ("Things that are pretty are always kept behind glass/Someone like me, someone like me can't make it last/I like you damaged, but I need something left/Something for me, something for me to wreck" from "Threats of Romance"), but there's a lot of anger towards the general state of the world in 2017 throughout the record. Biblical references make up the majority of "Revelation #12" ("We'll paint the town red, we'll paint the town red/With the blood of the children/One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten/Revelations come in twelve, I say it again"), and he continues playing with religious references in the original title track, "Say10" ("Open your mouth, love/Like a gutted church/My goat horns are napalm trees/And a crown of thorns is hard to swallow"), making it easy to peg these tracks as overtly satanic, but within the context of the whole piece, they definitely seem to come off as more generally anti-religious than anything else. The aggressive political statements come in on the riot-inducing track "We Know Where You Fucking Live" ("Let's make something clear/We're all recording this as it happens/Those diamond bullets, storefront blood bank/Splinters and stained glass/We don't need to move a single prayer bone/Dodge burn so loud and so low/We don't need to move a single prayer bone/Hi-def is still life").

Vocally, Marilyn Manson has no new tricks up his sleeve, simply singing the way you'd generally expect him to without any real surprises, and if you liked his vocals on past releases, you're probably going to like this one, though I did find some of his melodic singing on "Tattooed In Reverse" (during the "I'm unstable, I'm not a show horse/I can't be bridled, of course" section) sounds like it might have been made possible with some help from pitch-correction, and might be the only section where his vocals sound a little off.

Overall Impression — 6
Once upon a time, there was some actual shock value to Marilyn Manson's music, and it was unlike anything else on the music scene. These days, with an oversaturation of new bands in the extreme metal scene, and specifically with metalcore bands taking on electronic and industrial metal textures, Manson's sound is really nothing new, and the only thing of any real shock value to him anymore are clickbait-y news articles about his latest drug-addled, drunken escapades. And rather than show any inclination towards changing on the music front, Manson has decided with "Heaven Upside Down" to give us a business-as-usual album. Frankly, the shift into blues-rock territory on "The Pale Emperor" was a very welcome change from Manson, garnering him considerable acclaim in the music press, with many calling it his best album in over a decade. So it's a bit of a shame that "returning to form" has left me somewhat cold with this album.

And it's not necessarily a bad record, as there are some perfectly serviceable songs on here that could have worked well on any of his older records, though here they sound perhaps a little "too 1998" to work today. However, it just feels a little phoned-in and not at all innovative or even really that shocking. In fact, it almost feels "safe". Ten studio albums into his career, it's safe to say not all of his works are going to show him and his band in top form, and that certainly feels like the case on this record. Hopefully, future records will yield better results, but this album does feel like a backwards step from "The Pale Emperor" and sadly, it's a bit of a forgettable record.



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37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    evanharte123
    [deleted]
    evanharte123 · Oct 06, 2017 08:59 AM
    livingfortoday16
    I mean, it's a pretty bad record soooo..
    evanharte123
    What makes it a bad record?
    travislausch
    I didn't say it was a bad record myself in the review. Just mediocre. Also, for what it's worth, I had nothing to do with your original comment being deleted. As much as it might have incensed me, you're free to think I've got a stick up my ass as much as you'd like. It's something I consider part of the job of album reviewer, that not everyone's going to agree with my reviews, and I'll probably piss of some fans if I say something they don't like. But deleting your comment wasn't up to me.
    vppark2
    There are way too many cringy moments, and I really don't think it's a problem to point them out as a reviewer you have to draw the line somewhere, and I'm not saying to bash the music, but also realize that there's music out there that everyone dislikes.
    deadnihils
    Snooooore! I keep trying to dig his new stuff when it comes out... to no avail. I love his early albums up till mechanical animals... after that the production is bland, sounds flat and the guitars are weak as fuck. I hate the industrial turn he took, and how the guitars are faint & thin behind a seemingly standard drum-loop. The metaphors are cliche to the point of disliking his writing (which always intrigued me before) and any true sense of fright provoked by early manson is left 2 decades in the past. If this makes any sense, this is what I appreciated most sonically: the music felt like it was an amalgamation of moving parts that seemingly would not work as a whole, but somehow fit together to to forward... in my opinion anyway.
    Emenius Sleepus
    He pretty much ran out of things to say half-way through Holy Wood. Pale Emperor wasn't bad, and there are odd bursts of inspired writing occasionally appearing through the rest of his work, but other than that he ran his course a long time ago
    deadnihils
    To me, holy wood seemed like he was trying to sell a half-assed antichrist superstar to the masses. Offered nothing new in terms of his stance, just recycled hooks and poor, less than clever writing. It's not without a few gems, but as a whole i find it bland and repetitive. I couldn't get more than a few tracks into the pale emporer... ill give it another shot.
    Emenius Sleepus
    Quite. Good artists grow; even if their stance is the same, they at least are able to offer a deeper and more fine-grained insight, or they grow beyond their earlier confines. While musically this has somewhat happened for Manson, otherwise as you said - recycled, dumb writing. 
    87nicksupreme
    Unfortunately this album was highly mediocre and honestly quite boring at times. He can write epic, aggressive anthems, so it's not nice to see. On the other hand he could've thrown on trap beats and autotune like shinedown... could've been worse I guess
    kramer242
    Not a perfect album but pretty decent.... There is some good stuff on the....7 or 8 or of 10 from me
    nickcash
    Just shows where the musical talent comes from... past members like John 5.
    .50cal
    John 5 was not in the band for their hay day. Nor did he write any of their massive tunes. His work shows on Holywood but compared to his first 3 LP but if you look at the writing credits the best HW songs are written by Twiggy. Tyler Bates is not a bad writer or bad player at all, but anti Christ and mechanical animals are so strongly influenced by twiggy I understand why the new albums lack punch. While twiggy still plays bass, from my understanding he has had no part in writing the last 2 album. After twiggy left between HW and Golden age of shit, he never had the same intensity to his writing when he came back k. Hes still fucking awesome, but he grew up and got sober where as manson is still kinda doing the same old shit. Check out twiggyss other band GOON MOON. Anyways, ill listen again but I agree with the authors score. This album is neat. Not great.
    kramer242
    You sm say he wasn't there for any of their massive admins but last I checked, holywood and golden age were both pretty big albums that produced some pretty big songs.... And also last I listened the guitarists he has now is a pretty solid player.... Last I checked Manson has never made the same album twice in a row.... Its not always going to be for everyone, but to question the talent is reaching
    travislausch
    "And also last I listened the guitarists he has now is a pretty solid player..." I mean, Tyler Bates is no John Petrucci or anything, but he's alright as a player. As for John 5, well, he certainly didn't get used to his full potential in Manson's band, not even by a long shot.
    .50cal
    Not a question of talent. Simply influence of the writer on music. John 5 is amazing but he didn't have a long enough tenure in manson to influence the music.. But Tim skolds music never really caught on with core fans.
    .50cal
    Holywood had great hits. GA he started to lose my attention .
    ryanhouck62
    My biggest problem is that he mentioned this album would kind of pay homage to Antichrist Superstar.  The album starts off really strong imo, with the classic Manson, i wanna punch the world in the face type songs.  But then it became kinda stale and never really gained my attention back.  I really enjoy say10 and i think revelation #12 is a great opening track, but beyond those songs, I didn't feel attached to anything. Also, i didn't feel a whole lot of grit to the record.  In the Superstar days, Manson was pissed of in every song and that's where he thrived as a performer and songwriter.  Most of these songs feel tamer
    kramer242
    I thought it has a nice blend of old and new....I never seen where he said it paid homage to antichrist....I seen him say that unintentionally some of the tracks came off as a cross of antichrist and mechanical... Though funny I was more reminded of early to mid 90s nin material
    mindlesspie14
    I liked it, it's like every song has it's own genre mixed with metal. It was slow and it could have been better for sure, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. 
    DissonantTimbre
    Mega letdown and I really enjoyed The Pale Emperor. He should have stuck with that sparse bluesy sound.
    Zan595
    I keep hoping that he'll release something I love again, but it just doesn't happen. It's not bad, just kind of...bland. Say whatever you want about his music before, but it certainly wasn't bland. Oh well, I'll always have the Triptych releases (Holy Wood, Mechanical Animals, Anti-Christ Superstar).
    travislausch
    This is exactly why I chose to review this album. It's like... he put out a couple really good releases and in theory, I really want to like his music. It does a lot of the things I like in music (conceptual albums, grandiose-sounding almost proggy music, good stomping riffs, a good mix of classic and modern music), and he even occasionally managed to impress me (like on The Pale Emperor), but outside of those couple of good albums, he manages to just come off as bland. I really want to love his music and I give it every chance I possibly can, and I was even fairly impressed by the first single of this album, hence wanting to give it a review... but I was left wanting. 
    vppark2
    Off topic, but are you reviewing the new August Burns Red, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Stick To Your Guns albums? If not, definitely check them out! STYG's is out Friday so I'm looking forward to it. I know the 20th is stacked with good releases as well so I'm sure you'll cover Veil Of Maya.
    jasperado
    His whole shtick is so played out, I tried to listen to one song on the new album and it bout put me to sleep, we are pretty desensitized to his "shock" value and whats left is the same ol weak, predictable, and almost a-parody-of-himself, crap music, he only wants more money for more heroin. I actually used to hide antichrist superstar from my parents when i was 13 and now I'd hide this new one from my friends so they don't laugh at me.  pale emperor wasn't as bad, I liked his "karen O" act a little, it actually has some integrity. 
    kramer242
    He really hasn't been aiming to do much to shock.... Yes older and toned down.... Sure there are a few songs that seem like he's trying to shock but for the most part he seems to just be making music.... Personally I enjoyed most of the album though is not without flaws
    smithkabobs1
    The only song with a mechanical animals vibe is kill4me, but when he starts singing it loses that vibe, the last album I purchased by him was eat me drink me and that was the album where something went wrong with his voice, because his voice has had that weepy, stuffy nose sound and his screams aren't screams anymore, they're yelps and moans, the one album that gave me hope was The High End of Low, even The Pale Emperor proved to be memorable, but born villain and say10 have proven to me at least, that Manson is failing at his act, I look up to him in how he rose to fame, his autobiography is still one of the best books ever written by a celebrity and his early albums still stand as tall today as they did then.   
    DaniArrow
    I like it. I guess the singles aren't the albums strongest tracks, but there are some of the best songs he's done in a while on there. Also, the 80s-like synth parts fit well and are a nice addition. Let's face it, he's never going to come up with another Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals, but for what he does now, this is pretty decent.
    Broadkaster
    come on man, "I'm upside down drinking blood honey" ... a song about cunnilingus during her period...that is in very bad taste even for you Brian 
    Soprano1989
    Honestly, I think that many ppl on here are looking at this record from a "guitar" standpoint, being that this is a guitar driven website. And thats not the best way to review this, or any Manson album. The truth is, this new Manson record, is probably (along with Pale Emperor), the best record since Holy Wood. After Holy Wood he kind of lost himself in the Columbine mess and just really wasn't able to produce any decent albums after that. That changed on Pale Emperor. But Pale Emperor is a one time record, and will always stand out because of how different it is. He can't repeat that, or else it takes away from why Pale Emperor was special to begin with. This record is pretty damn good, with lots of highlights including; We know where u fucking live, Say10, Kill4me, Tattooed in Reverse and Blood Honey. As well as some other decent tracks, like Revelation 12 and Heaven Upside Down. You need to put the album in context of his past material, which up until Pale Emperor hadn't been that good at all. It was hard to find even one, yet alone two songs on his previous albums (post-Holy Wood) that i could even like. So really this album deserves more like a 7.5 or 8, out of 10.