Review Summary: Marilyn Manson sledge hammers everyone to attention with album number two.
In 1996 the Rock and Metal scenes were just getting over the grunge movement, with the last few dregs of awful wannabe Nirvana bands trying to limp on. The music world was due a change, something that would help all those pissed off kids get through growing up. Enter: ‘Antichrist Superstar’, the album that made Marilyn Manson a Rock Superstar overnight.
It isn’t just the raw, visceral, animal sound of Antichrist Superstar that made Marilyn Manson a hit; it was a collection of things. The first thing being he aimed his crosshairs at religion, out to expose the hypocrisies and glaring contradictions, as well as tackling awareness on the corruption found in politics, all done whilst dressed as shock-provoking as possible. This gained the band a lot of attention from law enforcement, going as far as to try and stop the band playing shows; constant media attention; protests from religious and civic groups. Hell, even the government wanted to get this band out of the picture.
So what was the big deal with this record?
Just about everything this LP had to offer was out to piss people off. The title alone is a reference, and a nod of respect, to Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1971 musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, which was condemned by many religious groups and even banned in some countries for its blasphemous content. ‘Antichrist Superstar’ was out to make a full scale war on religion and with its uncompromisingly dark and aggressive sound it certainly got the attention it wanted.
When the album isn’t provoking Christians, it’s a concept album and the final chapter in the Triptych trilogy. The concept this time round tells the story of ‘The Worm’ as he experiences a world where weak people idolise “The Beautiful People”; this leaves The Worm feeling disgusted and makes it his mission to start a revolution against “The Beautiful People”, to free the weak-minded. During the revolution he goes by the name “Little Horn” and wins the war against The Beautiful People. After the war is over Little Horn quickly comes to realise the people have now moved on to adore and idolise Little Horn instead. This makes him realise he has failed in his quest, as the people have no desire to achieve freewill. The Worm, bitter and twisted, cocoons himself from the shame brought upon him and thus transforming him into his final form, attaining wings. He then brings apocalypse onto the world and destroys everyone and everything, including himself.
A bleak concept, but a very clever jab at, not just religion, but how the world is in general. It’s an oppressive outlook on how people will never change. The bottom line being, people are too weak to live without that idol above them. And it can be looked at from a religious perspective, but I see it in a different way. Still, at the time, Manson was trying to make people see the problems with religion, so many will view it targeting that.
Musically, the album is Manson’s most aggressive effort. Being produced by Trent Reznor, if you’ve never heard this album before but have heard NIN material from the early 90’s you can get an idea of just how disturbing, bleak, aggressive and claustrophobic this album is. Songs like ‘Kinderfield’ are a good example of how unsettling the band goes with fat, punchy, distorted bass guitar, eerie guitar and keyboard effects working with Manson’s ominous vocal droning, as the song torments you for its 4:52 playtime. In fact, the albums flow is very much like ‘The Downward Spiral’, in terms of its progression, where it starts off unhinged and uncomfortable, but is still easy listening; song like “The Beautiful People”, “Tourniquet” and “Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World” ease you in, before pushing you down the hole where you get to songs in the latter half of the album like the title track, “1996” and “Minute of Decay” that really goes to town on making you feel disturbed. Things get more and more distorted and less melodic from when the album first started.
Overall, this is one of the finest Industrial Metal albums you’re likely to listen to. Dangerous, intelligent, abrasive with its intentions and a sound that is best described as NIN and Ministry fighting it out at a Punk gig. If you’ve never listened to a Marilyn Manson album before, you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen.