After a late-career rejuvenation with 2015's The Pale Emperor, Marilyn Manson extended his creative hot streak with musical partner Tyler Bates on the band's tenth offering, Heaven Upside Down. Originally saddled with the punny title Say10, the album bares sharper teeth and bloodier knuckles than its predecessor, combining Pale Emperor's bluesy, vampire-roadhouse sleaze with the jagged industrial edges that first propelled Manson to notoriety in the '90s. Cocaine and heartbreak continue to fuel the reclusive ghoul, recalling the best of 2007's forlorn Eat Me, Drink Me, a record that gave listeners the first peek at Manson the man. That change in the perception of the artist -- who went from America's Most Wanted to a fallible Hollywood Hills fixture in just a decade -- is part of what makes these late-era efforts so accessible and enjoyable. He can still menace and push the boundaries of taste, but with so many real-world monsters to worry about, Manson's brand of offensive troublemaking and reckless hedonism remains unique and oddly comforting. The album kicks off with the hulking "Revelation #12" -- stabbing like "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" twisted through Portrait's organ grinder -- which forces listeners to choose a side at the end of the world. The explosive "We Know Where You Fucking Live" is the most overtly political statement on an album that could have actually benefited from more of the firebrand's outspoken wit, but it pulverizes nonetheless. The pulsing "Kill4Me" flaunts its Bowie flair, while "Say10" takes its time with destruction, a slow burner that builds to a crushing chorus that would have fit perfectly on Holy Wood. Album centerpiece "Saturnalia" is an eight-minute epic that rides an elastic bass throb -- courtesy of patient and forgiving sidekick Twiggy Ramirez -- through a swamp of Manson-isms like "just smile like a rifle" and the appropriate-in-1999 warning of "I was invited to eat the young." "Je$u$ Cri$i$" continues to ride Twiggy's bass groove as Manson fully embraces his persona with the tasteless but catchy "I write songs to fight and to fuck to/If you wanna fight, then I'll fight you/If you wanna fuck, I will fuck you." The album closes on a trio of introspection, the spiritual siblings to peak-era favorite "Coma White." Of these, "Blood Honey" is a grand moment that finds Manson taking a vulnerable look at his life, lamenting "I'm not being mean, I'm just being me," offering an intense peek at his emotional turmoil and damaging addictions. "Heaven Upside Down" is the de facto close to the album, with "Threats of Romance" the so-called final credits music where Manson reveals "I like you damaged/But I need something left...for me to wreck." For all his pain and suffering, he needs it to feel real in the end. Heaven Upside Down is Manson at his most human. If Pale Emperor was a welcome return to form that signaled a new day for the band, its successor is just as satisfying, if not better.
Heaven Upside Down Review
by Neil Z. Yeung