Review Summary: Is this Manson's token overrated idol?
After hooking a fair amount of people with "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", Marilyn Manson needed something huge to reel them all in.
Enter "Antichrist Superstar", the beginning of the "Triptych" trilogy of albums and often considered to be one of, if not THE best, of all of Marilyn Manson's endeavors. It gave parents heart attacks and gave troubled teenagers a reason to live, but is it as good as it's cracked up to be?
This is the first of three concept albums released by the band. This one follows the story of "The Worm" who is referenced in several songs. The Worm leads a revolt against the rulers known as "The Beautiful People" which seems to be a metaphor for societal norms. When his words of revolt make him famous, he ends up despising those who have made him famous because they're still okay with being weak submissive to the elites. The story in this album is complex and hard to follow due to the complex lyricism. Or maybe I just don't have the brain to interpret it correctly but if you do, you're going to love this album.
Opening with a large crowd chanting "WE HATE LOVE! WE LOVE HATE!" "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" greets us with an explosion of distorted, industrial guitar work. After listening to just a few seconds of the track, you notice a huge improvement in Manson's vocal work. He sounds absolutely pissed. It starts of quiet and whispery, then it turns to raspy, teeth-gritting "growl" of sorts, and then you're taken back to a time when screaming vocals in mainstream music weren't horribly annoying. This track is fantastic. It's varied on every front and is a great introduction to what will end up being the album that defined Manson for years to come.
Everyone knows "The Beautiful People." It's the anthem that defines Manson and it's been everywhere over the years from being played to death on rock stations to the theme song to WWF Smackdown. It's trademark drum riff and whispery vocals can't be forgotten. While certainly the band's signature "overplayed classic" it's still what it is; a classic. No matter how many times I listen to it, I still get enjoyment out of it. Many call it Manson's single defining track, but I have to disagree. There are much better things on the horizon.
"Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World" is much more industrial and Nine Inch Nailsy with very catchy lyrics in every section of the song. The instrumental work isn't quite as impressive as the previous two tracks. It doesn't stand out as much and it feels somewhat empty. It seems too "loudly quiet" and just feels like something's missing. Not a bad track though. Certainly not worth skipping.
"Tourniquet" is one of the best tracks on the LP. It continues to take you back to when depressing "emo" songs had testicles. It's gets very heavy in the chorus and bridge and in the slower verses, Manson's vocals shine. His vocals are full of emotions of depression, fury, and a hint of insanity. Not to mention the crazily strange music video that went along with it that had tons of rather grotesque and artistic imagery with an interesting story tied along with it.
"Little Horn" is one of the heaviest tracks on here. It's a train that just does not stop. Doesn't slow down for a second and it's very enjoyable for heavy metal fans. The vocals are loud and yelly but aren't exactly screaming persay, so for fans of more modern heavy/industrial metal, this track is for you. Sadly, it's the shortest track on the album clocking in at 2:43.
"Cryptorchid" is very unsettling, with an extremely heavily distorted main beat with eerie background noises and even more eerie vocals. This sounds like it belongs in a Satanic themed horror movie. Honestly, the song creeps me the hell out sometimes, but it's really a fantastic track. Once it changes pace in the middle to a seance style chant, it's truly theatrical and really immerses you into the meat of the album. Not to mention it's only slightly longer than "Little Horn" which is beyond perfect.
Getting back to straight up industrial rock with "Deformography" with an electronically driven beat going throughout the whole thing and hallow, trash can sounding drums. I don't tend to go back to this song as much as the others though. I'm not as impressed with the lyrics or vocals and it sometimes feels longer than it should be.
"Wormboy" shows off Manson's vocal abilities better than any of his other songs, this album or otherwise. It shows how he can vocalize at regular tone, falsetto, deep tone, and yelling. He sounds angry, insane, and psychotically happy all within this one song. The instrumentals are unorganized, crazy, and honestly unappealing, but Manson's fantastic vocal work in the song saves it.
"Mister Superstar" isn't one of the lyrically strongest songs and it seems a bit out of place on this album. They sound a bit more like they belong on Manson's follow up album "Mechanical Animals". Despite all this, the song is still really good. It has a somewhat catchy beat and can be pretty diverse in its sound.
"Angel with the Scabbed Wings" is another heavy industrial treat. It's got a very creative set up with very fast, almost incomprehensible, yet still nice vocals in the verses. I can see this being a more difficult song to get into and truly enjoy, but regardless it's a very solid track and one that I always find myself going back to.
There's probably no song on here that I listen to less than "Kinderfield" but I really don't think it's a bad track. I enjoy the whispery, emotional vocals and the interesting, outer spacey beat. The chorus is very ominous and gothic sounding. A lot of it is more reminiscent of the better songs from "Smells Like Children" and it's placed perfectly, for it feels like a perfect predecessor to the track that follows.
The title track is an absolute masterpiece. It's a blatantly anti-religious track that is truly unique. It defines Manson far better than "The Beautiful People" could ever hope to. The fantastic lyricism and imagery combined with the vocal effects and instrumentals that sound like they were taken straight from the depths of hell itself make this what is probably the most finely tuned and fantastic track on the LP. An absolute must listen for any fan of the genre or anti-religious music in general.
It then transitions you into the finely tuned mess known as "1996". This song is absolutely pissed. Not just Manson, not just the instruments, the song itself sounds like it's about to punch something and that's what makes it fantastic. Another anti-religious tune that is something you blast in your car as you drive by a church. It can get very unorganized and crazy, especially in the beginning and end, but that only adds to the experience.
"Minute of Decay" is a primarily bassy track with sad, emotional lyrics that indicate that this story is almost over. The chorus inserts an insanely distorted guitar riff and the second verse contains Manson screaming very angrily. The lack of many vocal effects in this were a fantastic choice because it really lets you feel the emotion the character is feeling and what's going on in his mind.
What follows is Manson's absolute peak. What is perhaps his two absolute finest songs to date. "The Reflecting God" is a jolt of anger and realization of a brutal truth that is part bassy industrial beats and part heavy, somewhat brutal metal. It feels like nothing less of an experience throughout as the bridge builds up higher and higher until it cuts back to a crowd reminiscent of the first song. I can't find a single flaw with this song. It is the greatest song in Marilyn Manson's library and CAN NOT be passed up by anyone who's either a fan or wants to become a fan.
The LP closes with the heartbreaking "Man That You Fear" which is another one of Manson's absolute best. The overwhelming amount of emotion flowing out of this piece and the artistically chosen instrumentals and vocal direction combine perfectly to make a tear-jerking conclusion to the story of "Antichrist Superstar". Listening to this album in full all at once just intensifies the experience that this song provides. Another track that can't be skipped by anyone.
The acclaim that has been given to "Antichrist Superstar" by the band's most devout followers does not lie. One of the most finely tuned and theatrical albums I've ever heard, Marilyn Manson brought his A++ game this time. Even if you've heard bad things about Marilyn Manson, even if you've listened to some of his other efforts and disliked them, everyone should at least give this album an honest try.