Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, you’ve heard of Marilyn Manson. And more than likely, you’ve also heard some of his music on the radio. The opening percussive beat of “The Beautiful People” may help refresh your memory, in case you’re unsure. The song, included on the 1996 album Antichrist Superstar, marked a turning point in the artist’s career due to its success and controversy.
Marilyn Manson is the surname Brian Hugh Warner, the singer of the band – which, also happens to be called Marilyn Manson. The name came about from combining two opposites of pop culture, Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. The band was founded by Warner and guitarist Scott Putesky (better known as Daisy Berkowitz) as an artistic statement on the hypocrisy that the two found to be prevalent in the American Mainstream. Most notably would be the fixation on the serial killer and the pop star almost indiscriminately; something both fascinating and, to many, very sick.
The band was originally formed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1989, originally being named Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. Combining a heavy form of music while an outlandish stage show, Marilyn Manson began to quickly garner the attention of the public. Most importantly, they were able to catch the eye of Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who would go on to help produce the pivotal Antichrist Superstar album in 1996.
The music on the album, their second full-length after 1994’s Portrait of an American Family, would push the limits as to what American pop culture could handle much past their limits. Topics including violence, sex, and suicide, dominated the album, angering parents and elected officials all across the United States. The first single “The Beautiful People”, released on September 22nd, would feature one of the most iconic music videos of all time (directed by Italian filmmaker Floria Sigismondi) and undoubtedly helped kickstart the sales of the album upon its October 8th release. It would debut at number 3 on the Billboard charts, reportedly selling 132,000 copies the first week of its release.
Antichrist Superstar is a ripping, volatile piece of music that feels very much like a surrealistic nightmare in sonic form. Though there is much importance put into the fierce and shocking imagery of the band, there is just as much attention put into the music itself. This is not, in any way, a throwaway album; it’s an album strong enough to define both the band and the person of Marilyn Manson as a whole. It’s a heavily layered album, featuring a patchwork of noisy guitars, industrial overtones, and Manson’s immediately recognizable vocals to tie everything together.
As rebellious works generally go, there was an immediate opposition to the album by the conservative media. The topics contained within Antichrist Superstar and the band’s heavy anti-Christian outlook shook things up, to say the least. This only caused the popularity of the band to rise, which would continue until sometime in the mid-2000’s. It would seem that Marilyn Manson thrives on controversy, much like any truly rebellious artist. Manson would become one of the biggest things ever to come out of the 1990’s, and while he may not be as controversial as he was when Antichrist Superstar was released, that may be saying more about the sensitivity of the general public than the artist was ever able to say in his own words.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album, a special edition will be released on October 20th, containing a video that was created during the 1996/1997 world tour, which was at the time considered too shocking to be released. According to an interview with MetalInsider.net:
We’re putting out a box set on October 20th, and it has a legendary video that I had to put into a safe for the past 15 years, for reasons that will be revealed when you watch it. I had innocently thought that it was acceptable to use it as sort of a bonus feature on my Dead to the World video for the Antichrist Superstar tour. However, the legal department and my management informed me otherwise. But now it is going to be seen by all. I won’t say anything else to spoil it, just that it captured a moment in time, after I had just moved to Los Angeles. I was living with Twiggy and I had just come off a tour where I got death threats every day. It’s an interesting portrayal of what was happening at the time, but strangely, it doesn’t seem any different than the way I behave now, except that I’m wearing a cowboy hat. That’s about it.
Intriguing. We’ll have to wonder only a few more days until we can all find out what the video contains, but rest assured, the Marilyn Manson fans who have stuck with him since 1996 will be waiting with bated breath.