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: aiming his crosshairs at religion, out to expose the hypocrisies and glaring contradictions found within it did little to help his case; simultaneously he was trying to bring awareness on the corruption found in politics -- all done 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 album title alone is a reference and 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 around 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 from their slavery. During the revolution he goes by the name Little Horn and eventually 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 him instead; this makes him realise he has failed in his quest, learning the people have no desire to achieve freewill. The Worm, bitter and twisted, cocoons himself from the shame that's been brought upon him, thus transforming him into his final form: the winged demon. He then reeks havok, bringing Apocalypse onto the world, destroying everyone and everything in his path before killing himself. The concept is the darkest and bleakest entry out of the trilogy, but its subject matter isn't completely one dimentional, and is a clever jab at not just Religion, but an outlook on how Man and the world generally operates. It’s an oppressive outlook on how people will never change and the bottom line being people are too weak to live without that idol above them. In its context at the time it is largely looked at as a full-frontal assault on Religion, but by today's standards, the other nihilistic subjects pertained here resonate louder today than they ever have before.
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 going to be. "Kinderfield" is a good example of just how unsettling the band can go: the song consists of fat, punchy distorted bass guitar, eerie guitar and keyboard effects that work with Manson’s ominous vocal droning, as the song torments you for its 4:52 playtime. In fact, the album's flow is very much like The Downward Spiral
in terms of its progression, where it starts off unhinged and uncomfortable, but still has an easy listening sensibility. Songs like “The Beautiful People”, “Tourniquet” and “Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World” ease you in before pushing you down the black hole where you get to songs in the latter half of the album. The title track, “1996” and “Minute of Decay” really go 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 and 110% abrasive. This is a sound 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.