Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down
- David Pollock
- 2 October 2017
More Grand Guignol arena metal from the artist formerly known as Brian Warner
Is Marilyn Manson^ the first or the last person we need to hear in these troubled times? Some will say yes, because when better to clear the fog out of the air with some cathartic, take-no-shit, heads-down rock'n'roll which holds a shattered mirror up to the face of America? But others might argue that we have enough attention-hungry pantomime villains in the world, and that one more isn't going to make any difference. Having listened to Heaven Upside Down, the artist formerly known as Brian Warner's 10th record and the follow up to 2015's widely-regarded return to form The Pale Emperor, it's unlikely any entrenched positions will be changing about him any time soon.
All that's up for debate, really, is just how much of a guilty pleasure listening to these fierce, uncompromising slices of Grand Guignol arena metal should make us feel. The record opens on 'Revelation #12', an irresistible, serrated guitar riff heralding Manson's prediction that the titular passage of the Bible (in which Satan is cast out from heaven and woman is persecuted) is coming true. Of course, the more melodramatic might nod wisely and agree that this is basically a summary of 2017's front-page-of-the-internet headlines, but Manson isn't here to do politics; or not contemporary ones, at least. The thrust of the album remains generational, lining up shocking, irresponsible youth versus their tired, conservative, godly elders.
'WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE', confrontational title and all, is essentially an outsider anthem for disaffected kids marauding through a nice neighbourhood, while 'SAY10' plays on metal's old fascination for devil-worshipping. 'KILL4ME' is a lean funk-rock groove which could have come from David Bowie's catalogue in the 1990s, those murderous, diesel-fume lyrics aside, while the title track is barroom Rolling Stones chic turned loud and ugly. Again, echoes of Numan and Reznor are never too far away.
Manson remains an artist who will collapse the moment he goes soft, and the angry album centrepiece 'JE$U$ CRI$I$' – which begins with the ghoulish, threatening lyric 'I write songs to fight and to fuck to / if you wanna fight I will fight you / if you wanna fuck I will fuck you / make up your mind or I'll make it up for you' – is the best example here of how he continues to walk the tightrope between bad taste and an almost liberal devotion to free speech. Like hurricane season, he's there and he can't be ignored.
Heaven Upside Down out on Fri 6 Oct via Caroline International.
^This review was written prior to Manson's on stage accident in New York, we wish him a speedy recovery.