Writer: Rhett Perez
Heaven upside down album review: the new Manson era
After a bit of a wait for just about 2 years, the newest album Heaven Upside Down from the infamous shock rocker Marilyn Manson has been released on October 6th, 2017, and brings many new themes, experimentation, and patterns never before seen in the artist’s career. This new record was produced by Tyler Bates, who has also produced soundtracks for video games, as well as horror and action flicks. With Marilyn Manson’s past reception on THE PALE EMPEROR album being a solid 3.5-star rating on Rolling Stone’s website, many didn’t know what the self-proclaimed Antichrist would bring this time around. After all, Marilyn Manson isn’t as frightening to kids around America anymore, and with the internet and Television being more lenient every year on shocking topics, even Manson knows that being public enemy number one for an art choice is much more difficult to achieve in the current era. With this knowledge in mind, is this a record for his previous fans, or simply another attempt to capitalize on new tricks?
First thing to view over is the hype of the album, which in recent years, Marilyn Manson has gone down a smudge in popularity compared to his success in the late 90’s and early thousands. The overall reception was a mixed bag of old fans being ecstatic, while others leaving their wallet chains in the past. With not much marketing on mainstream media due to the content of the music, this kind of conversation is great for the new album, although it seems the opposite on the surface. Marilyn Manson’s image is shock rock, in simple terms, he “shocks” the listener based on the lyrics and the image to sell such listener the craft. This feeds into the philosophy, “Controversy sells” as well as “There’s no such thing as bad press.” Manson has his image well perfected to a tee, however, the art of his character has been a bit overshadowed by everything the American public are subjected to in these last few years, promptly allowing him the chance to take roles in acting. Although no major news sources were on the neo-goth demon’s doorstep with picket sign from Christian parents this time for the content, the artist still had talks and more prevalent advertising on social media, as he has done in the past decade.
Proceeding the hype is the more important question: What does Marilyn Manson have to offer in year 2017? I examined every track for lyrical content, themes, atmosphere, instrument usage, and other noticeable differences to gain a summary on the sound produced for the album. After doing so, I concluded that the Heaven Upside Down record is, (along with the typical veil of antichrist flavor with violence, sex, Satan, and drugs,) a new taste into the experimental theme usage THE PALE EMPEROR used with emotional turmoil for others. Cleaner vocals have been used prominently instead of a side option for his signature vocal style, there has been more emphasis on synth and technical instruments, use of more classic and melodic instruments such as pianos and acoustic guitars, and themes of relationships with others. Most of the songs express conflict with a partner or a spouse, not too uncommon. However, this new album focused on this point heavier than all other albums. Manson also didn’t have much, if any, very energizing tracks that show his trademark of distorted guitars and industrial sound, and used techniques that were much different for his style. Sadly, it seems like The Dope Show is too dope to be recreated anytime soon. Only about 2 songs on the record don’t follow this path of partner issues, and seems a bit elongated to the point of monotony in some areas. Varying themes that tied together seems like a better choice, as reading the lyrics along to the tracks, I felt like I was still listening to the same message as last album. Aside from these however, the instrumental is stellar, as to be expected. Manson does a fantastic job to capture tone in his voice, and the use of experimental techniques in songwriting.
Finally, the biggest question about this new album is does it hold to Manson’s other work? The answer quite simply is, yes and no. The quality is superb and the image is there, as well as atmosphere and familiar vocal and guitar patterns. However, this new album focuses on one topic very often and doesn’t contain any monumental singles as just a decade ago. This album for most either fits perfectly or doesn’t fit at all, but this feels like a new start in the songwriting and execution of music from Manson, and he does a great job on capturing and mixing his ideas to fit together, and make different songs work to fit his overall persona. Overall, this is really a question for the listener, and can’t be decided on the same grounds of two decades apart, as they are very different and is all based on preference.
Marilyn Manson may not be public enemy number one anymore, but his music still reflects what he is all about; the sinner to all sinners. Although Heaven Upside Down doesn’t contain much of his fast and heavy tones, and doesn’t contain any groundbreaking singles, this record is a very nice introduction to the new Manson style, about emotions and conflicting messages, although some new themes should be explored to not make the writing a looping tape recorder. Any Manson fan should check out this album, and even if you don’t like Manson’s earlier work, I would recommend the newer material for a slower and more emotional meaning. Industrial and goth rock aren’t going anywhere, of course, but the father of it all has made a great attempt to evolve the genre, and his efforts are an atmospheric trance of cold hearted problems. His sound may not be the exact same as his prime, but the brooding feeling and questionable morals are, without a doubt, core Marilyn Manson, and Heaven Upside Down is one great example of image and message together for one Satanic package.