Review Summary: 10+ Years On, It's Just As Potent As Ever
Marilyn Manson unleashed his magnum opus, Antichrist Superstar, over ten years ago. It has stood the test of time, and while it no longer incites widespread panic it is undoubtedly a prime example of industrial metal at its finest.
The second Mason album finds him teamed with his strongest cast of songwriters, each of whom put their own indelible marks all over the record.
Daisy Berkowitz: Manson's original songwriting partner, responsible for the distinctive sleazy-blues-meets-dark-psychedelia touches on the groups first album, he is given writing credits on Irresponsible Hate Anthem, Tourniquet, Wormboy, and Man That You Fear.
Trent Reznor: The man who is Nine Inch Nails. Credited on Little Horn, Deformography, and The Reflecting God. Also, I suspect, responsible for the 'processed' feel of the album.
Twiggy Ramirez: Manson's closest collaborator got his start here, he has writing credits on all the songs, excepting Cryptorchid and Minute Of Decay.
Madonna Wayne Gacy: The most constant member of the group, Gacy's contributions to the albums come mostly in samples. He receives credit on Irresponsible Hate Anthem, Cryptorchid, Angel With the Scabbed Wings, Kinderfeld, Antichrist Superstar, and Man That you fear.
With the assistance of these four formidable songwriters, Manson's vision of grandeur would be realized. No longer content to remain a garage rock act with calliope samples and a formidable live show, the group would retool their sound and end up closer to White Zombie and Nine Inch Nails than before. The result was the three-tiered concept album, Antichrist Superstar.
Before the track-by-track dissection, some commentary on the production:
The guitars are paper thin. Sometimes it works, sometimes not as well.
The bass is sometimes drowned out. It sounds awesome, when you can identify it, but the casual listener may mistake guitar and bass for just guitar.
The strongest tracks all have live drums on them. Marilyn Manson's music seems to work best with organic rhythms, and this album is no exception.
1. Irresponsible Hate Anthem
Opening the album with a bang, the Irresponsible Hate Anthem wouldn't sound too out of place on Portrait Of an American Family. This is perhaps unsurprising, as Â¾ths of the writers worked on both albums. Though the guitars sound a little weak, the controlled upstrokes in the verses and the noise-y notes during the bridge (2:07-2:18) are Berkowitz at his finest. If there were any doubts about the albumâ€˜s vibe, the chorus of 'F*CK IT!!!!/Everyone is someone else's n*****, I know you are so am I/I wasn't born with enough middle fingers/I don't need to choose a side' should assuage them.
2.The Beautiful People
Far and away the most well known song on the album, this piece is stellar. A grooving piece of drum work contrasted with robotic staccato guitar and bass.
3. Dried Up, Tied Up, and Dead to The World
Beginning with a sample that may be an insect harbinger of doom, Dried Up, Tied Up and Deadâ€¦ slows the tempo somewhat, and uses sampled drums for all but the chorus. It makes a difference. While the bass does an admirable job of carrying the rhythm alone, the album looses some momentum here, despite an awesome bridge at 2:22 and a memorable chorus and coda.
This track displays the amazing musical interplay between Ramirez and Berkowitz. While the(live) drums and bass lay down a great rhythm for Manson's vocals, Berkowitz is free to follow the melody with an absolutely tortured lead that lends support to the lyrics 'You never, ever, believed in me/I am your Tourniquet.' Despite all these great elements, the song simply isn't as memorable as its predecessors.
End of Tier One
5. Little Horn
Trent Reznor receives writing credit on this one, and it's easy to see why. So far it's the most overly industrial track on the album, and its brief 2:44 running time consists of only hooks. Every song has had a hummable chorus, but you'll find Little Horn running around your head in its entirety. It feels more shallow than the other songs on the album, though, and it looses points for that.
The songwriting pair of Gacy and Manson fails to create anything other than filler, creepy, unsettling filter it may be, but its not a very good song. In the context of the album, it's good for the overarching themes (watch for a chorus repeat later in the album) and bridging the gap between Little Horn and Deformography, but if this song came on vies a vie shuffle I'd skip it.
Continuing on the ambient styling of Cryptorchid, Deformography builds up into an average mid-tempo industrial tune. Interesting lyrics are coupled with a good delivery, but a sub-par chorus sinks this song.
Almost a blend of Deformography and Little Horn, in that its an industrial tune that focuses on hooks, but there is enough going on to make listening for more fruitful. (Check out the extremely unsettling bridge (2:15-2:43)
9. Mister Superstar
This track, much more than the previous ones, is hurt by the wire-thin guitar. The live drums make a welcome return, and the verses are an absolute delight to listen to. Unfortunately, the chorus blows. I wish there was another way to put it, but the pointless noise and irritating lyrics bring the momentum to a screeching halt the first time it happens. As the track progresses it begins to flow better, and the listener comes to expect and appreciate it, but it still feels like a let-down, especially in the way the song implodes at the end.
10. Angel With the Scabbed Wings
As if to reiterate the flaws of Mister Superstar, only one track later comes Angel With the Scabbed Wings, which makes the herky-jerky verse/chorus blend work. The groove never lets up, even when its held up only by clean guitar. A return to form, this track saves the middle section from slumping completely.
Creepy ambience, in the vein of Deformography, but the ever crucial live drums, and an interesting buildup between verse and chorus keep your hand from the next button. The digitalized chirps of the harbinger of death samples return, and the guitar is upper-register for most of the tune. It lacks structure towards the end, but is still listenable.
End of Tier Two
12. Antichrist Superstar
Manson's always had a gift for penning anthems, and it should come as no surprise that his strongest tracks are easily chanted. With the live drums filling over the precision bass and the guitars dueling with the keyboards to churn out atonal noise in the verses and then the menacing chorus(which shares lyrics with Cryptorchid) Antichrist Superstar reaches the heights mapped out by the album's first tier. May be the most powerful song on the album.
'Light a candle for the sinners, set the world on fire.' this proclamation kicks off the fastest, punchiest song on the album. It shares many of the same qualities with Antichrist Superstar, but implemented in a vastly different fashion. A personal favorite, this song is just as powerful as the other highpoints on the album, but unlike most of this record it would have fit comfortably on Portrait of an American Family (there are rumors that the original bass player for Marilyn Manson, Gidget Gein, wrote this song with the title 'She Isnâ€˜t My Girlfriend.')
14. Minute of Decay
The only song on the album to have one writer, Minute of Decay simultaneously serves as filler and acts as a decent song in its own right. With an almost swing verse and lots of sonic layers, the song is good for a spin or two.
15. The Reflecting God
Unquestionably the heaviest song on the album, this song is what scared parents, and what a fitting climax to the record it is. An upbeat drum and bass bedrock for the vocals is coupled with guitar noises in the verses, while the pre-chorus and chorus are calm build up and avalanche of sound, respectively. With an extended, anticipation building bridge(3:00-4:36) into the final chorus and coda(shoot, shoot, shoot, motherf*cker), The Reflecting God does not disappoint.
16. Man That You Fear
A good tune that is bogged down by effects, noise, and piano. The poignancy is dulled with every instrument added, and overall I much prefer the (Acoustic Requiem for Antichrist Superstar) version that ended the Remix and Repent EP. This version goes out with a whimper of defiance, and it's a shame it ended up on the album, rather than the EP.
Overall, this album is an exceptional piece, flawed only in that the second tier is far weaker than the first or third.