It’s been over 20 years since Marilyn Manson exploded onto the scene with his game changing Antichrist Superstar and his follow-up in the egotistical Mechanical Animals. However, it was in those years that he garnered this legendary status and aura of appeal. You loved him, you hated him, and you didn’t know what to make of him. He was an enigma that had a backing band that was equally weird. Even though he’s not necessarily in the spotlight like he was back in his heyday, he still attracts a certain level of attention anytime he releases a record or if he even opens his mouth.

As far as I’m concerned, Marilyn Manson the band’s career comes in 3 parts. There was the Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids era, which was pre-fame and mostly a cult hit in Florida playing with bands like Jack off Jill. The middle section would be considered his most famous, to include the trilogy of records in Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, and Holywood. I feel this section ended after the touring for the bands last record with an original member, other than Manson himself, Madonna Wayne Gacy (Stephen Brier) left the band. The Golden Age Of Grotesque, to me, marked the last time Manson sounded like Manson. He challenged his band and audience with a different style on each record but somehow cohesively brought them all together at the same time. I credit Gacy, and his weirdness behind the scenes with looping, keyboards, and synths that was the glue that kept the foundational theme of the band intact all these years. This would not be something I came to conclusion until a few years and a few albums later.

The 3rd phase, which we currently are in, would start with 2009’s The High End Of Low. I’m aware that Eat Me, Drink Me came before this but it’s hard for me to consider that a Marilyn Manson band record because it’s more of a solo record that Manson and Tim Skold did together. No one else was on that record and Manson has since said that he won’t play anything from that record due to it being both personal and him realizing that he was at his best with Twiggy back in the band. It’s a dark cloud album that really sounds like nothing else he did anyway.

Back to what I was saying, since 2009, Manson has essentially released the same style of record over the course of 4 records, which includes this current one Heaven Upside Down. Although the personal changed from Twiggy and Chris Vrenna writing the records to Tyler Bates and Gil Sharone taking over the studio duties, the theme stayed the same. Sure the influences would change from The Doors and Muddy Waters to something more akin to New Order and The Cure, the songs have still remained interchangeable, with some songs being better than others.

While a controversial figure and one he’ll probably remain for the rest of his existence, I will have to say that with each release since Eat Me, Drink Me, the controversial button pushing that his music has always had is dissipating rapidly. It’s almost as if he’s run out of energy trying to stroke the flames and has decided on just writing good music. Now obviously the opinion on the music is subjective, but I have to say that this record, Heaven Upside Down, is easily the best thing he’s done since he lost the last remaining original collaborating force in MWG. This is the first record to actually sound like a Manson record and pulls from some of the older styles of the band. Now Manson himself said that its akin to Antichrist Superstar, and with that I have to think that all those years of drug abuse has caught up to him. This sounds nothing like Antichrist Superstar…that is unless he’s referring to how that record was written. As in as a band and with actual practices before going into the studio. Then sure, it comes off like that record, I guess. What this album does sound like, is Mechanical Animals though in the sense that it’s got some arrogant swagger that Animals had and there is an underlying punk (in vain of The Clash and Sex Pistols) theme too both of those records. While Animals was clearly inspired by Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust, this is heavily rooted in new age sounds of New Order, The Cure, and Depeche Mode. The influences culminate in the 6th track, Saturnalia, which is arguably the best thing Manson has recorded in the last 10 years. So much so, that Manson has gone on record to say that this song specifically was meant to be the song the entire album revolves around. While the last few records are definitely on the softer side of Manson’s catalog, that doesn’t mean it he doesn’t return to his screamy roots at times. The album’s first single, We Know Where You Fucking Live, harkens back to the stripped down rock/metal that graced Portrait Of An American Family, which is something I can appreciate because it’s nice to see him not rely on all the pomp and circumstance from previous records.

Some may think that this horse may be dead and that Manson should call it a day but I believe that Heaven Upside Down shows there is still some life left in the old vessel. This is the first record since Holywood that I can honestly listen to straight through without skipping a track. At minimum, it’s a vast improvement from the Pale Emperor, which I honestly forgot even came out and I saw him when he was touring for it. With Manson starting to play smaller venues while some of his peers like Rob Zombie and Trent Reznor are playing bigger and bigger venues, we may be limited on how many more years Marilyn Manson is doing this at all. This is certainly the twilight of his career but Heaven Upside Down will be a standout moment during his decline.