Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 7: Marilyn Manson, "Antichrist Superstar"

Artist: Marylin Manson
Album: Antichrist Superstar
Year: 1996
Label: Interscope

Though it is sometimes unjust, there are a handful of cases across music history where the persona or actions of a musician outshine their achievements as a performer.  While in some instances, this is a good thing, as their musical talent may have been lacking, there is at least one situation where the reputation given by "the general public" seemed to slightly alter a performer's sound, and certainly overshadowed their musical achievements.  Though he stands as one of the most impressive heavy metal frontmen in history, it is a sad case that this is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people thing of Marilyn Manson.  Due to his over-the-top persona and apparently controversial subject matters, it is his personality that seems far more well known than the fantastic work that he and his band have recorded over the past two decades.  Making himself into the easiest target for right-wing ignorance with his 1994 release, Portrait Of An American Family, those who were longtime fans of the band will agree that while this record was good, it was perhaps his second best album.  As is the case with many groups, it is the point where it becomes impossible to ignore the group in question where one can find the band in top form, and this is certainly true with Marilyn Manson's timeless record of dark metal mayhem, 1996's Antichrist Superstar. 

Though it may be the most overlooked aspect of Marilyn Manson as a band, the fact of the matter is, as early as their debut record, the band members were already showing off their talents in the fact that nearly every one of them played multiple instruments on the album, and this trend is carried further on this record.  Though Twiggy Ramirez (AKA Jeordie White) contributes both bass and guitar parts, it is the performance of Daisy Berkowitz (AKA Scott Putesky) that stands as the high-point of many of the songs.  Whether it is the imposing, distorted riffs, or just the way that the band coveys their aggression and energy of the songs, just how far apart from their peers they are is instantly clear.  The dual guitar sound that runs throughout the album is quite distinctive, and at times, it almost sounds as if the songs themselves are rearing back, ready to attack the listener.  Yet it is often within the basslines that Ramirez brings where Antichrist Superstar separates itself from the rest of the Manson catalog.  There is a more focused and imposing sound within these progressions that points out their technical abilities, and each of the songs has a far more full and complete sound than their previous releases.  On almost every song, it is the way in which they move as a single unit, creating a beautifully destructive sound, that makes the album so amazing, as well as proves the exceptional level of talent within the band, and it is this aspect that is often lost behind the image the they put forth.

Yet even as fantastic as the musical performances are throughout all of Antichrist Superstar, there is simply nothing in Marilyn Manson that shines brighter than their lead singer and the bands namesake.  Without question one of the most unmistakable and unforgettable personalities of his generation, Marilyn Manson (AKA Brian Warner) has proven that he has both the presence and vocal power to endure more than two decades in a genre that rarely has bands with such a lifespan.  Working a large vocal range in his distinctive ranting and screaming style, Manson proves to have an understanding of the dramatic vocal approach which is far beyond that of most of his peers.  Furthermore, on a majority of the songs on this album, one can sense a very close relationship between Manson and the lyrics which he sings, indicating that he was likely an outcast during his childhood, as well as having a clear understanding of how the world around him operates.  Though most of the songs of Marilyn Manson have an "anti-everyone" feel, on a number of tracks on Antichrist Superstar,  Manson brings a rallying cry for the outcast of society, as well as standing strong stands against a wide range of hypocrisies within modern society.  However, much like the music over which he sings, the true power and intent of many of these songs becomes lost behind the image of Marylin Manson as both and individual as well as a band.

However, the fact of the matter remains that as much as they were poorly portrayed by the media, and often seen as scapegoats for the problems in society, Antichrist Superstar managed to cement its place in music history with a pair of unlikely mainstream singles.  Truth be told, "The Beautiful People" stands today as one of the most memorable songs of the entire decade, and those who lived it can attest to a time when it seemed impossible to turn on the radio without hearing the song.  It was on this single where an entirely new side of the bands' abilities were shown, as the complex rhythmic arrangements and powerful sonic force they deliver is a far cry from the sounds of their previous record.  Furthermore, the song makes no apologies for its strong stance against the way that "beauty" is portrayed in society, and this issue would be explored further on later albums from the band.  Yet it was the second single, "Tourniquet," that is perhaps more accurate in terms of the bands' overall sound; and the single brought a much larger fanbase into "The Manson Family."  Strangely enough, while it certainly did not "fit" with any of the other musical trends of the time,  Antichrist Superstar turned Marylin Manson into an international success, an while many may try and write it off due to its sales figures, the fact remains that the record is without question the bands' finest moment to date, as well as one of the most uniquely impressive and powerful albums ever recorded.

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