Wednesday 11 October 2017

Review: Marilyn Manson – 'Heaven Upside Down'

'Heaven Upside Down'

Marilyn Manson was an international icon in the 90s with a string of incendiary and confrontational albums including 'Antichrist Svperstar', 'Mechanical Animals', 'Holy Wood', and 'The Golden Age Of Grotesque' seeing his stock rise to dizzying heights. Then the momentum faltered as Manson's gaze turned to art and briefly film projects, and was confounded by the break-up of his marriage to Dita Von Teese.

Subsequent albums 'Eat Me, Drink Me' and 'The High End Of Low' were lacklustre offerings as a result with perhaps an EP's worth of strong material on each of them. But then 2012's 'Born Villain' turned a corner and along with his next outing, 'The Pale Emperor', it looked as though Manson was back on track with his artistic rehabilitation.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Manson, along with long-time partner in crime Twiggy Ramirez and producer Tyler Bates also back in the driving seat as well as in the band, sees the release of album number ten, 'Heaven Upside Down'. An album that distils the strongest elements of his previous two releases and successfully channels the attitude of 'Antichrist Svperstar' into the mix. The result is a riotous journey full of cuts that easily hold their own with the best of his discography.

Songs such as 'Revelation #12', 'Tattooed In Reverse', 'We Know Where You Fucking Live', 'Say10', 'Kill4Me', 'Jesus Crisis', and 'Threats Of Romance' see the gritty and nasty attitude of '...Svperstar' blended with the bluesy elements of '...Emperor' and the punky vibe of 'Villain' with plenty of electronics featured high in the mix.

There is a palpable sense of a "Side-A" and Side-B" feel to the album with the atmosphere shifting with sprawling eight-minute 'Saturnalia', which is utterly infectious with it's pulsating beat and dirty guitar line, but dialling back the malevolence of the previous tracks. While 'Blood Honey' shifts into a dark, almost synthpop ballad direction that twists the tone of the album. The title track then falls back into an approximation of a classic rock track that doesn't really pick the momentum back up from its slower predecessor.

There isn't really a bad track on here but with the utter barrage of savagery comprised of the first five tracks, the second half seems less focussed as a result. Which is a shame as on their own they're good songs, but they could have been dispersed throughout the track list better in order to keep the momentum spread more evenly.

Those expecting a direct sequel to '… Emperor' may be disappointed, but Manson doesn't deal in direct sequels. As long-time fans will know, each of his albums is a self-contained and very individual piece in its own right. Here he may be casting an eye back to what worked well on recent albums, and trying to channel the “fuck you” attitude that put him on the map. But it is with a mature and considered eye that shows a strength in his current partnership with Bates, and ultimately it works. More so, it shows that Manson is just as relevant in 2017 as he was 20 years ago.  

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