Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down album review

Mazza returns to peak-era sounds for his most astute album in decades

Cover art for Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down album

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As Marilyn Manson recuperates from becoming the most ironic victim of US gun regulations when an unsecured stage prop of giant crossed ‘symbolic firearms’ collapsed on him in New York, his tenth album arrives as his most incisive blood portrait yet of our paradise upended – by war, terrorism, clinging religion, capitalist greed, a demagogue President and, at its heart, the death of Manson’s father.

Where many might have ridden the acclaim for 2015’s stark, cinematic and blues-inflected The Pale Emperor into at least one copycat follow-up record, Mazza correctly deduces that tackling the issues of 2017 demands a somewhat angrier approach than making an album about what might have happened had Faust been a middle-aged shock rocker and renowned flicker of the journalistic testicle. So instead he updates and renovates the goth-glam dazzle of Mechanical Animals and Antichrist Superstar to better ram home his top-line points: that religion is a pointless poison, politicians are society’s true Satans and that fighting and fucking are the only reasoned responses to the current countdown to the Book Of Revelations apocalypse that the world has chosen democratically for itself.

Age certainly hasn’t tamed him, nor experience blunted his intent. With so many mass shootings in the US and his career once blighted by association with the Columbine massacre, you’d imagine Manson might have the foresight not to tee up his tenth album with a crisp industrial-goth single (We Know Where You Fucking Live) full of savage depictions of drone warfare and religious extremism that might have seen him conveniently scapegoated again had the Mandelay Bay shooter been a black-fringed teen. Yet this famed non-voter captures perfectly the between-a-rock-and-an-insane-place dichotomy of the 2016 US election on the creeping, NINish Say10, hissing ‘Something is shedding its scales… the empty shell on the stage… You say “God” and I say “Say ten”’ while beheading Trump in the video.

Manson’s nihilistic take on 2017 is interwoven with glimpses of personal darkness, wrapped up in mutually constrictive and damaging relationships on epic dirge Blood Honey and the closing Threats Of Romance, ordering a partner to do his murderous bidding on the Muse disco blues Kill4Me, and mourning the loss of his father on the seven-minute centrepiece Saturnalia. But even here there’s a renewed crackle to Manson’s attack – a viper regaining its bite.

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle.