Marilyn Manson: Heaven Upside Down

Marilyn Manson
Heaven Upside Down
October 6th, 2018
Loma Vista Recordings – Caroline International
9/10 rating


“A crown of thorns is hard to swallow.”

Here we are on the cusp of the 21st anniversary of Antichrist Superstar, and Marilyn Manson is ready to say 10 with the release of Heaven Upside Down. 21 years. Has it been that long? It sure doesn’t feel like it. I remember the first time I saw Marilyn Manson, the band, in printed form. A friend had turned my attentions away from the classic rock that I had grown up on, and I began to discover the industrial and heavy metal side of music. I was 16 years old and picked up a copy of Circus magazine from the local grocery store, the December 1994 issue. Manson had been touring with Nine Inch Nails on the Self Destruct tour and the article had focused on the destructive performance the month before in Iowa City, Iowa.
Manson’s music was brutal. Violent. Aggressive. It was new and interesting. I used to drive around for hours listening to Portrait of an American Family and the Smells Like Children ep. I read every article from every magazine that I could find. Stayed up late to watch MTV in the hopes of Manson’s videos playing.  You’ve got to remember that this was before the internet was a hive of spoilers and pirated music. My introduction to several tracks from 1996’s Antichrist Superstar were from the highly illegal bootlegs I would buy. Few of you will remember bootlegs, but they were illegally recorded full length concert performances sold on CD. Depending on the quality of the bootleg, I had paid upwards of $50 for some. I hadn’t started going to concerts yet, so this was a way for me to experience the live show, and I was too young and farm naïve to know how frowned upon bootlegs were.
I was first in line the morning of October 8th, 1996 to get a copy of Antichrist Superstar at a long closed record store in Ames, Iowa that I don’t even remember the name of. Every music fan has that one album that completely changes the way we listen to music. For me, that album was Antichrist Superstar.
And now here we are, two decades later and Manson is still sculpting how we perceive music.
Heaven Upside Down is not what I was expecting. Since the release of 2007’s Eat Me Drink Me, Manson has shifted away from aural brutality for the sake of aggressive music.  The sonic landscape created by Heaven Upside Down is still violent, but it’s violence with a purpose. Feeling like a companion piece to 2015’s The Pale Emperor, I’m still dissecting the album’s concept as a whole. I know it’s there though. Manson and Bates fuse numerous genres within the album. While Revelation #12, SAY10, Tattooed In Reverse, Jesus CRI$I$ and We Know Where You Fucking Live are laced with rock guitar chords and thunderous metal bass riffs, tracks like KILL4ME, Saturnalia, and Blood Honey are hammering stripped down anthems of heavy metal. Threats of Romance is forcefully driving, and just as lyrically catchy as SAY10.
Working with producer Tyler Bates, Manson has crafted some of his most personal music. Manson has admitted that some of the inspiration behind several tracks were crafted out of the death of his father. It’s those tracks, Heaven Upside Down, Saturnalia, and SAY10 that are sewn with the most visceral versions of anger, sadness and loss. While the concepts held within previous releases were always taken from what was going on with the current state of the world, rarely were tracks written from such a deeply intimate level. The brutality I’ve come to expect from Manson’s releases is still there, but it’s more focused. He’s not that angry 20-something anymore, but he’s not a passive aggressive 40-something either.
This is a side of Manson that we rarely see. Deeply emotional, and almost vulnerable. It feels as though this is the persona that Manson was always meant to share with the world, but was rightfully hidden. Maybe we weren’t ready? Maybe we’re not ready now. Or maybe it’s because Manson found a new comfort working with Bates, like on The Pale Emperor, instead of Twiggy Ramirez? There’s definitely a musical difference between Bates’ and Twiggy’s music style.
Even though Heaven Upside Down slightly diverges from the violent sonic path originally forged by Marilyn Manson in the mid-90s and early 2000’s, the album as whole proves that Manson continues to evolve and ensure his prominence within the industry. Manson has said that recording the album was similar to the band’s recording of Antichrist Superstar. I can correlate the two recording processes, but not with the final version of Manson’s 1996 sophomore release. Heaven Upside Down is reminiscent of the early Antichrist Superstar demos. While I miss the heavy industrial aspect that Manson pioneered in Holywood, and Antichrist Superstar, Heaven Upside Down easily holds its own against Mechanical Animals and Born Villain. We’re entering a new era, and I for one am beyond excited for what lays ahead.

Track listing:
Revelation #12
Tattooed In Reverse
Blood Honey
Heaven Upside Down
Threats of Romance