On 8 November 2016, the day America voted Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, Marilyn Manson released a trailer for his tenth album, then titled SAY10.
The short clip depicted the singer ripping pages out of a Bible before the camera cut to a grisly shot of a decapitated body wearing a Trump-esque red tie. Sixteen years after he was both idolised and vilified for corrupting 90s youths and terrorising their parents, Manson’s aptitude for controversy remained undimmed.
So it’s slightly disappointing that, despite wheeling out all his favourite topics; violence, guns, fucking and religion, there’s no moment on Heaven Upside Down that comes close to the gory controversy promised on its trailer. Instead, the album eschews shock rock and focuses on solid, effective and memorable tunes.
After a run of mediocre Noughties albums, 2015’s The Pale Emperor got the world excited about Manson again. With the help of composer Tyler Bates, the singer created a surprisingly elegant collection of bleak and bluesy songs that stripped his typical industrial sleaze back to its gnarled core. It was the most revitalised he had sounded in years.
That energy hasn’t flagged an inch on Heaven Upside Down. Described aptly by Manson as “hard, punk rock, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Bauhuas, Scary Monsters,” sonically, a vampiric gloom pervades. However, this is a record written very much for the stadiums, packed with trash-culture glam guitars and belligerent buzz-saw riffs.
“WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE” is classic Manson, caustic, jagged and driving with a huge chorus. “SAY10”, the song that tracked that infamous “Trump” trailer, is a filthy creeper with sinister, horror flick verses, a dense, industrial payoff and the album’s most playful pun: “You say God, and I say Say10.” “KILL4ME” picks up where The Pale Emperor’s “Killing Strangers” or “Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge” left off. Seeping with sleaze and packing disco-flecked synths, it’s upstaged only by album highlight “Tattooed In Reverse”, a swaggering, goth grinding freak show that sees Manson croak and howl “I’m unstable / I’m not a show horse / I can’t be bridled.”
Modern Manson is certainly a very different prospect to the artist that once proclaimed himself the God of Fuck and bragged about grave-digging in New Orleans. Yet now aged almost 50, musically he seems to be entering a second golden era. Proof there’s life in the Goth Father yet.