Sound — 10
Antichrist Superstar was the third offering from Marilyn Manson since the deletion of "The Spooky Kids" from the band's title. Featuring a heavy industrial and almost punk rock influence, the album was designed, in mr Manson's words, "to bring about the Apocalypse through music," which is corroborated by the artwork and the lyrics. The record was indeed a punch in the face to the conservative right wing, parents and religious groups, featuring a grazing sound and provocative themes that provoked no less than death and bomb threats and numerous protests. Regardless, the record is not only regarded by many as a groundbreaking masterpiece for the band, but is also considered one of the best albums around. Produced, recorded and written by MM and with quite substantial amount of assistance from Trent Reznor and Chris Vrenna (NIN and ex-NIN respectively), the album sounds dirty and raw, yet when you listen carefully, it becomes clear that everything is indeed a lot more complex than it seems, and every overdub has been calculated to be precisely where it should be. Kicking in with andrenaline-charged "Irresponsible Hate Anthem", the cd takes off at 100 miles an hour and only rarely slows down. There are relatively quiet moments though - The Man That You Fear, the pain-laden ending track, The Minute Of Decay - a sludgy anthem to decadence, and Torniquet, written by and hated most by Daisy Berkowitz, the original guitarist for the band. Manson states in interview: "Daisy always hated that song, although we always thought it was his best work." Daisy's influence there is immediately obvious, if one listens to Portrait Of An American Family - the style comes right through. However, Daisy left during the recording, and so Twiggy was left to finish off the majority of the guitar parts. The Beautiful People is a standing testament to his playing - the rhythm section was done with no noise gate, just pure skill. A cd that is meant to provoke a reaction, and provoke people into action would be no good without a military march - and Angel With The Scabbed Wings is the song to do it. Strictly militant, Ginger Fish (and later Vrenna) ensured that if one was to go to war, the troops would march just on the strength of the song. The album is probably the best example of Ginger's drumming - the insane fast pace of Irresponsible Hate Anthem and 1996, laid-back Minute Of Decay, the above-mentioned militant and evil Angel With The Scabbed Wings and the electronic Chryptochid and Kinderfeld. Of course Chris Vrenna, as been said before, contributed quite a lot to the drum parts, but only as a contributor, and Ginger's abilities aren't to be underestimated. Eerie keyboards, punchy guitars, throbbing basslines, flashy drumming and banshee vocals characterise Antichrist Superstar. The album will graze you like gravel if you happen to fall on it. The production is perfect, and paved the way to some unconventional recording methods - at one point Trent's Porsche was miked up and the sound recorded. All in all, great stuff - raw, and uncompromising.
Lyrics — 10
Besides the whole apocalypse thing, the lyrics are inspired by a range of things. At this point the band was living in New Orleans, and recording at the Sharon Tate house. Now, New Orleans, besides being a birthplace for a lot of music legends, can also be quite a hellhole (refer to Long Hard Road Out Of Hell - the Manson autobiography with Neil Strauss). The decadent nature as well as the insane amount of drugs and other experimentation have inspired the album, and you can hear the bones creaking almost literally - the album comes up tense and aggressive. While the initial attempts to bring Antichrist Superstar to life almost disintegrated the band before it had a chance to make an impact - and that was to be the first falling out between Trent and Marilyn - the band managed to get the creative force back. The subsequent experiments with drug abuse, sleep deprivation and other pain-conjuring practices, as well as strong occult and religious influences have brought about a scathing lyrical content, filled throughout with references, backwards-masking, but also stories of pain and despair. As Manson himself puts, "we were trying to create painful experiences, because I was so numb that I couldn't feel anymore - I had to go to extremes and put myself into painful situations just to feel". And the lyrics are a reflection of that. "I'm on my way down, I'd like to take you with me." Themes of destruction and death are closely tied with themes of rebirth and resurrection, setting the mood that "the angel will spread its wings", that something grand is about to unveil. The caterpillar dies, but turns into a butterfly - and the lyrics seem to latch on to that idea as one of the underlying themes of the album. Of course not all of the album is purely this serious. Thematically it's quite diverse. Using religion and magic as a theme on some songs, some are really specific, while others are a lot broader in appeal, such as Irresponsible Hate Anthem, more of just a "punch in the face" song rather than something containing specific meanings. Tourniquet, on the other hand is about one of the dreams and nightmares Manson was having at the time. This album is probably the most versatile when it comes to vocals. While Manson's voice is quite specific, he is adept at a lot of techniques, and manages quite a lot of styles within the limitations of his voice. Whispers, normal singing and banshee shrieks all make an appearance, and here we get to see him at his most dynamic moments. And of course, the music and the lyrics go hand in hand - such is the nature of Manson.
Overall Impression — 10
Dark and mysterious, raw and aggressive, tense and painful, Antichrist Superstar is certainly an album to be proud of, not only for its musical and lyrical qualities, but also for the amount of controversy it caused when it was released. It cost Manson greatly in lost friends, lost relationships, pain and scarring, and almost the band itself, but the final product is definitely something special.