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Album Review: Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson seems stunted on “Heaven Upside Down”

Marilyn Manson performing at the Concord Pavillion in Concord, California back in July 2015. Manson released his 10th studio album “Heaven Upside Down” this past Friday, Oct. 6. LOUIS RAPHAEL/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Marilyn Manson, the self-proclaimed “God of f**k” and goth-rocker antagonist of the 90’s, seems to be lost. His 10th studio album “Heaven Upside Down,” released on Oct. 6, is a failed attempt at preserving himself as the paragon of provocation, a persona that might be long gone anyways.

Reminiscent of his earlier and angrier sound, Manson contrasts his mediocre 2015 album, “The Pale Emperor,” with harsh vocals and war ready instrumentals. But Manson takes nostalgia too far. Instead of delivering thought-provoking messages to the public, he repackages old criticisms of American genericism and religiosity.

The album begins with “Revelation #12,” an aggressive industrial rock track complete with sirens, screaming and the predictable Bible references that litter the record. The chorus, “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 / Revelations come in 12, I’ll say it again,” is catchy, but that could be because most of America can count.

The next song, “Tattooed in Reverse,” opens with “So f**k your bible and your Babel / I made this psalm into my dirty bomb.” Arguably the boldest statement on the album, it references those who use religious texts as excuses to commit violent acts.

“WE KNOW WHERE YOU F**KING LIVE,” the third track and lead single, was released on Sept. 11. A few days later, it was followed by a music video of gun-toting nuns marching through suburbia alongside Manson. The menacing track, which details the violent destruction of a neighborhood, plays as the group wreaks havoc.

Track four, “SAY10,” warrants an eye roll for its blatant play on Satan. Manson attempts to push more religious buttons with allusions to Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, singing, “Cocaine and Abel, I don’t baptize whores.”

Christian-mocking is put on hold on “KILL4ME.” The sexy groove captures a Bonnie and Clyde-esque relationship in which Manson tries manipulating his lover into killing for him. He sings, “you won’t be kissing me, unless you kill for me.”

“Saturnalia” is a tempo change. The song has decent guitar work and and electronics that sound like they were extracted from a science fiction movie. However, the tune is eight minutes long, so it is hard not to turn it into background noise after minute five.

Track seven, “JE$U$ CRI$I$,” has a nursery-rhyme-esque beginning. Manson sings “I write songs to fight and to f**k to / If you wanna fight, then I’ll fight you / If you wanna f**k, I will f**k you / Make up your mind or I’ll make it up for you.” The uninspired chant makes it easy to consider this song the laziest on the album. “JE$U$ CRI$I$” sounds like lyrics from a misunderstood teenager’s notebook.

The gothic ballad “Blood Honey” is the type of song you would expect that misunderstood teenager to do drugs in a basement to. Immature and perfect for a self-deprecating young person, Manson sings “I f**k every broken-crazy-girl / Instead of hanging from the ceiling.”

Another dark track on love, “Heaven Upside Down,” is more palatable due to acoustic guitar and background vocals. First time collaborator and former Dentata frontwoman, Dana Wright’s, “ahs” and “ohs” make for a sexy addition to the song.

The 10-track record ends with the laidback “Threats of Romance.” Manson paints himself as a predator in the piano-driven piece, preying on someone who is already emotionally damaged. The song ends with Manson literally screaming “I like you damaged.”

In a recent interview, Manson redeclared, “I am chaos.”

He was chaos — two decades ago. The minister of the Church of Satan was ironing Nazi flags, dragging broken beer bottles across his chest, stirring tension at award shows and disturbing audiences with his theatrical, skin-crawling version of the Eurythmics song “Sweet Dreams.”

When America needed a wake-up call, he was the first to point out societal flaws in politics, religion and the American Dream through his music. In 1996, Manson fueled suburban dinner table conversations with his widely acclaimed album, “Antichrist Superstar.”

Today, the 48-year-old is repeating old ideas, forcing grotesqueness and lacking admirable shock value. While aggressive and full of religious digs, Manson’s new material would make a church-going Catholic in earshot uncomfortable at the worst.

Maybe it is because he does not drink absinthe anymore. Maybe it is because of new associates, like rapper Lil Uzi Vert. Whatever the reason, “Heaven Upside Down” is not the well-crafted critique we had hoped for from Manson.

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