Created in a fusion of frustration, disgust, hate, isolation and drug addiction, Antichrist Superstar is the unapologetic third album from the controversial industrial rock group Marilyn Manson.
Antichrist Superstar was recorded at nothing Studios, New Orleans, and then released in 1996. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy were anchored to produce it, and at that time the band members involved were: Marilyn Manson (lyrics, vocals, concepts, guitar, pan flutes), Twiggy Ramirez (lead and rhythm guitars, bass, acoustic guitar), Madonna Wayne Gacy - aka Pogo (all keyboards, loops and other original pieces on 16-bit audio information), Ginger Fish (live drums, programming and introducing), and Zim Zum (live guitar).
Birthed right in the gutter of New Orleans, in between the absinthe bars, the old slave haunts, the graveyards and filth, the dirty clubs and the dirtier people, it was the perfect place for Manson to purge his negative feelings towards the world. Trent and he both called the city 'Hell'. The rising influences on this album stretch right back to the warnings of the imminent apocalypse in Christian school, and continued through his then reading list of books about numerology, the Kabbalah, and the Antichrist, as well as his growing friendship with Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. Combined with a self-loathing, a growing dependence on drugs, a huge period of inactivity within the band and a disintegrating relationship with long-term girlfriend Missi, it is no surprise that Antichrist Superstar was, and still is, a message of nihilism, hate, and despair.
The visuals of the album's artwork, as created by photographer Dean Karr and PR Brown of Bau-Da Design Group, are a side each of ritual fascism and an apocalyptic monster. In the same colour scheme as adopted by the Nazis (red, black and white) the inlay that contains the lyrics is both awesome and awful. On one side is the neat ritual, dashed with symbols: on the other, a blurred, jarring mess, of images growing from murky depths and barely visible lyrics. The exterior images on the CD case (as opposed to the cardboard casing) are absolutely unique. Blue tinged and distorted, they look like some kind of old violent pornography dug out from a cardboard box in your grandparent's garage.
On the surface, the album is the evolution of Boy to Man, held within three 'cycles':
Cycle One - The Heirophant
Where the Boy is the worm, and he dreams of crushing those who abuse him in his youth.
Cycle Two - Inauguration of the Worm
Seven songs that describe the rise of the worm: the changing, shedding skin, the power and hate that come with long term abuse, oppression and age, the loss of fear, and the eventual emergence.
Cycle 3 - Disintegrator Rising
The dark hollow: accepting the role of the hated scapegoat, as the Antichrist rises above them all, and in destroying the world he hates, he destroys himself.
Tracks 1 - 4
- 'Irresponsible Hate Anthem'
- 'The Beautiful People'
- 'Dried Up, Tied And Dead To The World'
Accusatory and extreme, the album kicks off with the chant 'We love hate/We hate love'. The first four tracks vary in physical grandeur, but speed into a rapid sense of brutality and hate. There are strong basslines and drum beats from the first second. It sounds like an outcry to assemble a freakshow of outcasts, but by the end of the cycle, the outcry is replaced with tightly strung electronics.
Stand out lyrics - 'Hey victim/you were the one who put the stick in my hand' ('Irresponsible Hate Anthem') and 'I wrapped our love in all this foil/Silver tight like spider legs' ('Tourniquet')
Tracks 5 - 11
- 'Little Horn'
- 'Mister Superstar'
- 'Angel With The Scabbed Wings'
The songs become more layered and intense - sound fading in and out to strange cold keyboard-electronic combinations. It smacks of self-loathing, and repulsion, and perversion, like a cockroach has just crawled over his rice pudding. You can almost feel the subconscious shift into demons and pentagrams and mouldy rooms. Unlike NIN's The Downward Spiral, the low point is in the middle rather than at the end. From then on, there is a continuing sense that the loathing and disgust is slowly being turned on the listener.
Stand out lyrics - 'Prick your finger it is done/The moon has now eclipsed the sun/The angel has spread his wings/The time has come for bitter things' ('Cryptorchid') and 'Oh no/I am/All the things they said I was' ('Wormboy') and 'Because Today is black/Because there is no turning back' ('Kinderfeld')
Tracks 12 - 16
- 'Antichrist Superstar'
- 'Minute Of Decay'
- 'The Reflecting God'
- 'Man That You Fear'
The last cycle is wheeled in on a hard, healthy chant not unlike that of a Nazi rally. Unlike the outcry at the beginning of the record, this is, instead, a demonstration – of power and pride in being one of the fallen and grotesque. The music ducks and dives like a carefully constructed mechanism. There is no hate, just pride. This monster is coming to get you, and when he finally catches up, you are attached to his back on a rusty hook, and dragged out into the desert for the last lonely song, just waiting to be swallowed up, right into Hell.
Stand out lyrics - 'I shed the skin/to feed the fake/(Repent)/That's what I'm talking about/Whose mistake am I anyway?' ('Antichrist Superstar') and 'I can't believe in things/that don't believe in me' ('1996') and 'A lack of pain/a lack of hope/a lack of anything to say' ('Minute of Decay') and finally 'My world is unaffected/there is an exit here...you'll understand when I'm dead' ('The Reflecting God').
Tracks 17 - 99
There are 82 silent tracks, then a chorus of jarring metallic murmurs one can only imagine to represent the Christian Hell depicted by Revelations. Nothing is clear cut, the words are melting into each other... everything is dead.