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|Studio album by|
|Released||October 8, 1996|
|Studio||Nothing Studios, New Orleans|
|Marilyn Manson chronology|
|Singles from Antichrist Superstar|
Antichrist Superstar is the second studio album by American rock band Marilyn Manson, released on October 8, 1996 by Nothing and Interscope Records. It was recorded at Nothing Studios in New Orleans and produced by the band's eponymous vocalist along with Sean Beavan, former Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The recording of the album was marred by excessive drug use, which provoked a high level of antagonism between band members. Consequently, it was their last release to feature contributions from founding guitarist Daisy Berkowitz, who acrimoniously quit partway through recording.
A rock opera and a concept album, Antichrist Superstar was the first installment in a trilogy which included succeeding releases Mechanical Animals (1998) and Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000). The central storyline on the album revolved around a supernatural being who seizes all power from humanity in order to initiate an apocalyptic end event; a populist demagogue who is driven solely by resentment, misanthropy and despair, he uses his newfound position to destroy the world. The record can be seen as a social critique, utilizing this premise as a metaphor for the perceived fascist elements of conservatism in the United States.
Preceded by "The Beautiful People", whose music video received three nominations at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, the album was both a critical and commercial success. Lorraine Ali of Rolling Stone credited Antichrist Superstar with bringing to an end the dominance of grunge within popular music. In the years since its release, it has been heralded by numerous publications as a modern classic and essential listening. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and has sold almost 2 million copies in the United States alone. As of 2011, worldwide album sales have surpassed over 7 million copies.
The album was supported by the controversial "Dead to the World Tour", which was heavily criticized by elements of the Christian right. Nearly every North American venue the band visited was picketed by religious organizations, predominantly because of unfounded, exaggerated claims of onstage drug use, bestiality, and Satanic rituals, including animal and even human sacrifice. The band also found itself the target of congressional hearings, which attempted to implicate the group in a fan's suicide. Several previously unreleased recordings were issued on soundtracks throughout 1997, including "Apple of Sodom" and "Long Hard Road Out of Hell".
Marilyn Manson was formed in 1989 by the vocalist and guitarist Daisy Berkowitz. For the next seven years, the name of every band member was created by combining the stage name of a female pop culture icon with the surname of a male serial killer. Their highly visualized concerts quickly earned them a loyal fanbase in the South Florida punk and hardcore music scene. Within six months of forming, they were performing sold-out concerts in 300-capacity nightclubs throughout Florida. Eventually, the band gained the attention of Nine Inch Nails vocalist Trent Reznor, who signed them to his Nothing Records vanity label; Reznor produced their 1994 debut album, Portrait of an American Family. This was followed by the 1995 EP Smells Like Children, which contained their first hit, a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)".
Antichrist Superstar was recorded over an eight-month period at Nothing Studios in New Orleans by an extensive group of musicians. Along with the remaining members of Marilyn Manson – Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, and Ginger Fish – Nine Inch Nails guitarists Robin Finck and Danny Lohner and drummer Chris Vrenna also participated. The record was initially produced by the vocalist alongside Trent Reznor and former Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie. The process of creating the album was long and difficult, highlighted by experiments involving near-constant drug use and sleep deprivation in an effort to create a violent and hostile environment suited to the album's content. Manson has admitted to heavily experimenting with prescription painkillers – including forms of morphine sulphate and hydrocodone – during recording; he regularly inserted sewing needles underneath his fingernails to test his pain threshold.
Initial sessions were unproductive, and routinely culminated in the destruction of the studio, as well as the group's own equipment and instruments. There was also a high level of antagonism between band members, with most of this directed toward founding guitarist Daisy Berkowitz. He later claimed to have been "shut out" of recording sessions, and alleged that much of his equipment was destroyed, such as the four-track recorder which had been used to produce many of the band's early demos, along with his drum machine. The latter was subsequently revealed to have been thrown from a second-story window. This animosity resulted in Twiggy performing the majority of guitar work on the record.
Berkowitz was highly critical of Trent Reznor, whom he said purposely destroyed a Fender Jaguar given as a gift to Berkowitz from his then-recently deceased father, explaining: "I was in the studio, and they were all in the control room, and I'm playing guitar. At the end, Trent says, 'Do it again, but do it more like this.' We went through this three times, and he says, 'Hold on. I'll come in there. Let me show you what I'm talking about.' So I take my guitar off, hand it to him—and he smashes it, just to fuck with me. Then he laughed and left the room." Berkowitz acrimoniously exited the group sometime after this incident. Reznor's relationship with the rest of the band – the vocalist particularly – also began to deteriorate during production, primarily as a result of creative differences.[N 1] Manson and Reznor have not recorded material together since the release of Antichrist Superstar.
—Marilyn Manson on the album's arduous recording process.
Ogilvie was eventually blamed for the band's dysfunction, and was fired as co-producer. He was replaced by frequent Nine Inch Nails mixer Sean Beavan. Manson and Beavan then spent several weeks reworking and remixing the majority of the album in Nothing Records' auxiliary recording facility; Reznor had started production on the soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway in the primary studio, and was often absent from these later sessions. Manson went on to praise Beavan's influence on both the album and band as a whole, describing him as being "like a magnet, drawing the band back in the studio and back together." The pair are the sole credited producers of three songs on the record: "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World", "Kinderfeld" and "Minute of Decay".
Ramirez composed much of the music on the record, and regularly asked for input from Reznor, whom he said was "the only other string musician" in the studio on a regular basis, elaborating: "Writing the songs was nothing, but going in and recording them we made some changes. It was nice to have [Trent] there, like another member of the band to help me have another outlook at some of the stuff, because Daisy had ran out of ideas and just did not contribute whatsoever." Reznor is credited with co-composing the music of three songs on the album. The song "1996" was the subject of legal action brought against the band by former bassist Gidget Gein, over alleged similarities to a demo titled "She's Not My Girlfriend". The latter had first been recorded in 1990, four years before Twiggy had joined the group. Berkowitz's replacement on lead guitar joined the band shortly after the album was completed. Timothy Linton adopted Zim Zum as his stage name, ending the seven-year tradition of naming members after female icons and male serial killers; his name was derived from the Lurianic Kabbalah concept of tzimtzum.
Antichrist Superstar is a rock opera concept album, and its title is based on the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The central storyline of the album revolves around a supernatural being—a demagogic rockstar—who seizes all political power from humanity in order to initiate an apocalyptic end event. This underlying concept was both inspired by and a tribute to the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, specifically his philosophical concept of an Übermensch. It was also influenced by "the idea of putting yourself through a transformation to become something superhuman", which Manson said he garnered from Nietzsche's The Antichrist. The album is a social critique which utilizes this premise as a metaphor for the perceived fascist elements of the Conservative political movement and the Christian right in North America. Manson also cited David Bowie's "We Are the Dead" (1974) as a major influence on the album lyrically, saying: "I remember hearing [that] song in the Nineties, when I first moved to L.A. It wouldn't have had the same impact on me if I'd heard it when I was a kid in Ohio—it felt like it was about the culture of Hollywood, the disgusting cannibalism."
Antichrist Superstar is primarily an industrial metal record, and contains material which has been described as industrial rock and death metal, as well as progressive metal, new wave and gothic rock. The record is separated into three sections: "The Heirophant", "Inauguration of the Worm", and "Disintegrator Rising". In the final section, the central character transforms into the Antichrist Superstar: an epicurean demagogue whose motivations transcend any conceivable sense of morality. Nihilistic and disgusted by humankind, it initiates a genocidal extermination of the human race, eventually destroying the entire planet. The album is also cyclical, with both its opening and closing seconds consisting of the distorted phrase "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you". Antichrist Superstar features elaborate artwork. Images in the booklet consist of various medical diagrams, Kabbalah symbols, and a visual worm-to-angel metamorphosis, references to verses one through five of Revelation 12, as well as liner notes—a note found under the lyrics of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" claim the song was recorded live on February 14, 1997, despite the album being released in October 1996.
After the release of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) in 2000, Manson revealed that Antichrist Superstar formed a conceptual trilogy alongside both the aforementioned album and 1998's Mechanical Animals. He explained that the trilogy was an autobiographical story told in a reverse timeline (chronologically reverse from their release dates), with the storyline beginning on Holy Wood, followed by Mechanical Animals, and Antichrist Superstar acting as its conclusion. Furthermore, although Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals made sense as individual concept albums, there was an overarching story running through each release.
"The Beautiful People" was released as the lead single, and both the song and its accompanying music video were critical and commercial successes. The track was a hit on alternative rock charts in the United States, reaching number 26 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks, and number 29 on Mainstream Rock. It was successful internationally as well, peaking within the top fifty in both Australia and New Zealand, and was their first top twenty hit on the UK Singles Chart. Floria Sigismondi directed the song's music video, which was included at number fifty-four on MTV's list of the "100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made", and at number 100 on MuchMusic's "100 Greatest Videos Ever". The video was nominated for Best Rock Video, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, where the band performed the song live. This performance was controversial, and has been listed as one of the most iconic in the shows' history. It was later credited with helping to establish the band in mainstream culture. VH1 included the song at number eighty-six on their list of the "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs". By the end of 1997, Manson appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, who awarded the band their "Best New Artist" accolade.
The album was promoted by the year-long "Dead to the World Tour", which began in September 1996 and consisted of 175 concerts performed on several continents. "Antichrist Superstar" was released as a promotional single in 1996. Music videos for both that song and "Cryptorchid" were created by E. Elias Merhige. The video for "Cryptorchid" heavily incorporated imagery from Merhige's experimental 1991 silent film Begotten, while the video for "Antichrist Superstar" remained unreleased until 2010, when it was leaked on YouTube. The latter had been screened at the 1997 San Francisco International Film Festival, where it won a Golden Gate Certificate of Merit Award. However, its release was blocked by Interscope Records, whom Manson described as being "appalled by it." It combined performance footage and fascist iconography – namely the Nuremberg rallies – with footage of US nuclear weapons testing, and images of a Ku Klux Klan lynching.
Numerous outtakes and previously unreleased recordings were issued on movie soundtracks throughout 1997. "Apple of Sodom" appeared on the Reznor-produced soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway in February. A music video for the song was created in 1996, and also remained unreleased until its director, Joseph Cultice, uploaded it to YouTube in 2009. "The Suck for Your Solution" appeared on the soundtrack to the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts, which was also released in February. "Long Hard Road Out of Hell", featuring backing vocals from Sneaker Pimps vocalist Kelli Ali, was released on the soundtrack to Spawn in August. The following month, "Tourniquet" was issued as the album's second commercial single, and peaked at number 28 on the UK Singles Chart. Its music video was also directed by Sigismondi. W.I.Z. directed the final music video created for Antichrist Superstar: "Man That You Fear", whose concept was adapted from the plot of Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story "The Lottery", and contained aesthetic and symbolic references to the 1989 Alejandro Jodorowsky film Santa Sangre.
The band's second EP, Remix & Repent, was released on November 25. The EP contained remixed versions of Antichrist Superstar's two singles—a Danny Saber version of "The Beautiful People" titled "The Horrible People", and the band's own 'Prosthetic Dance Remix' of "Tourniquet", as well as live versions of "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World" and "Antichrist Superstar" and an acoustic version of "Man That You Fear". A VHS concert film entitled Dead to the World was released in February 1998, and debuted at number one on Billboard's Top Music Videos, eventually spending a year on the chart. The album was reissued on cassette exclusively in Europe as part of Record Store Day 2016.
The release of Antichrist Superstar coincided with the band's commercial breakthrough, and much of the attention they received from mainstream media was not positive. In December 1996, the co-directors of conservative advocacy group Empower America (now known as FreedomWorks) Republican Secretary of Education William Bennett and Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman, organized a bipartisan press conference, along with Secretary of Pennsylvania State C. Delores Tucker, wherein they questioned MCA—the owner of Interscope—president Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s ability to head the label competently whilst profiting from "profanity-laced" albums by artists such as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Marilyn Manson. Tucker had previously called Smells Like Children the "dirtiest, nastiest porno record directed at children that has ever hit the market."
The group's live performances were also heavily criticized, and nearly every North American venue the band visited during their "Dead to the World Tour" was picketed by religious organizations. Opponents of the band based their protests on exaggerated, unfounded claims of onstage drug abuse, bestiality, and satanic rituals – namely animal and human sacrifice – and claims that the band frequently engaged in homosexual intercourse with one another, and that underage concert attendees were violently raped by other audience members. The American Family Association circulated an affidavit written by an anonymous complainant in a January 1997 lawsuit against the state of Utah that claimed "about 30 percent of the Manson concert crowd participate in open, overt sexual activity at an average Manson concert." In this context, Utah passed legislation which allowed state-operated venues to ban the group from performing, forcing the cancellation of their January 11 performance at Utah State Fairpark. This legislation was repealed six months later after nine fans successfully sued the state. Similarly, an April 10 concert at the state-owned Carolina Coliseum in Columbia was canceled after the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to ban Marilyn Manson from ever performing on state-owned property. This resulted in the state being forced to pay the band's promoters $40,000 for loss of income.
During this time, schools in Florida threatened to expel students for attending Marilyn Manson concerts, and over 5,500 residents contacted the mayor of Jacksonville, demanding that he cancel their April 17 concert at the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum. The city council of Richmond, Virginia ordered the cancellation of their May 10 concert at Richmond Coliseum, although the ACLU later sued the city on the band's behalf. A July 22 concert at La Luna in Portland, Oregon was canceled when the venue was unable to obtain insurance for the event. Their concert at Calgary's Max Bell Arena three days later was canceled by the owner of the venue, Larry Ryckman, who cited the band's reputation as justification for doing so. He was later successfully sued by the band's promoters for $66,000 in damages. The New Jersey date of Ozzfest at Giants Stadium was canceled by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, who cited Marilyn Manson's scheduled appearance as its reason. The event was only held after Ozzy Osbourne successfully sued the state, which compelled authorities to allow the concert.
In November 1997, the band found itself the target of congressional hearings, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Sam Brownback, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners. This hearing was held by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and was titled "Music Violence: How Does It Affect Our Children". At this subcommittee, Lieberman once again criticized the band's music, calling it "vile, hateful, nihilistic and damaging", and repeated his request that Seagram—then-owner of MCA—"start (...) disassociating itself from Marilyn Manson." Lieberman later called the band "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." The subcommittee also heard from Raymond Kuntz, of Burlington, North Dakota, who blamed his son's suicide on Antichrist Superstar—specifically the song "The Reflecting God".
|Christgau's Consumer Guide|||
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Great Rock Discography||8/10|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album was released to widespread acclaim from music critics, who praised its concept, production, and vocals. M. Tye Comer, in reviewing for CMJ New Music Monthly, described the record as a "magnificent (...) aural skull-fuck", writing that Marilyn Manson "[took] in all the angst, hellfire and damnation one band [could] ingest, then [released] it in a fierce scatological display of apocalyptic sound and fury." He went on to commend the vocals, which he said could "communicate pain, passion, fear, hate and euphoria in one mighty, ear-piercing roar." Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune complimented the album's production, as did Jim Farber of Entertainment Weekly, who also praised its "ambitious" concept.
Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Ann Powers applauded the album's concept and the quality of the songwriting, saying: "Until now, Manson's ideas carried more weight than his music, but Antichrist Superstar's sound matches the garish grandiosity of his arguments. Its 16 songs rock like '70s Sabbath-style metal, but harder; the arrangements echo Queen in operatic scope but are more intense; the mood owes its vampiric chill to Bauhaus, but [Marilyn Manson] actually bites the vein." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the album is considered the band's definitive statement and rated it four out of five stars. However, he was critical of Reznor's production, saying: "Though the sonic details make [the album] an intriguing listen, it's not as extreme as it could have been—in particular, the guitars are surprisingly anemic, sounding like buzzing vacuums instead of unwieldy chainsaws." Even less impressed, Robert Christgau dismissed the record as a "dud" and later compared it to the music used by the United States military to psychologically harass Manuel Noriega during Operation Nifty Package.
In Rolling Stone, Lorraine Ali credited both the album and the band's associated rise within mainstream culture as "[marking] the end of the reign of punk realism in rock & roll", calling the record "a volatile reaction to five years of earnest, post-Nirvana rock." She went on to hypothesize that: "Marilyn Manson offer total escapism as a true alternative, complete with carefully crafted gloom wear (no baggy shorts allowed), a frontman who blatantly begs to be in the spotlight and lyric imagery rivaling that of the best slasher movies." Similarly, a 2016 article from The A.V. Club called the record influential, suggesting that its success prompted a shift in rock music which resulted in other rock bands "trading grunge's bruised-heart jadedness for seething, self-flagellating nihilism."
According to Acclaimed Music, Antichrist Superstar is the 19th most-renowned album of 1996 and the 206th most-renowned record of the 1990s. The record has often been referred to as one of the best rock albums of all time, and it has been listed in several books, including 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die and Albums: 50 Years of Great Recordings. In 2008, Consequence of Sound identified Antichrist Superstar as a modern classic in their "Dusting 'Em Off" feature, due to its counter-cultural and social impact during the late '90s. Rolling Stone included it among their "Essential Recordings of the '90s" in 1999, and placed it at number 84 on their "100 Best Albums of the '90s" list, which was compiled in 2011. Revolver included Antichrist Superstar at number 49 on their "69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time".
The album has been featured in multiple lists compiled by several British rock magazines. Kerrang! dubbed it the 3rd best album of 1996, and placed it at number 14 on their list of "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die", as well as at number 88 on its "100 Greatest Rock Albums". In 2001, it featured on Q's list of the "50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time", while NME placed it at number 92 on their 2009-compiled list of the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums". It also appeared at number 92 on Classic Rock's list of the "100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever", and, in 2006, the magazine—as well as its sister publication, Metal Hammer—included it on their respective lists of "The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s". Record Collector included Antichrist Superstar in their extensive list "10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century", in the metal category.
Multiple international publications included it in their respective lists of the best albums of 1996, including the French edition of British magazine Rock Sound, who placed it at number 13, Dutch magazine Muziekkrant OOR ranked it at number 109 on their "Best Albums of 1996", while Alternative Nation included the album at number 8 on their list of the "Top Rock Albums of 1996". Rock Sound also featured the record at number 11 on their "Top 150 Albums of Our Lifetime (1992–2006)". German rock magazine Visions ranked the album at number 37 on their list of "The Most Important Records of the Nineties". Furthermore, French magazine Rock & Folk listed Antichrist Superstar as being one of "The Best Albums from 1963 to 1999", while retailer Fnac included it on their list of "The 1000 Best Albums of All Time".
|Acclaimed Music||United States||Greatest Records of All Time||1996||1137|||
|Alternative Nation||Top Rock Albums of 1996||2016||8|||
|Classic Rock||United Kingdom||100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever||2001||92|||
|The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s||2006|||
|Fnac||France||The 1000 Best Albums of All Time||2011||606|||
|Kerrang!||United Kingdom||Albums of the Year||1996||3|||
|100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||1998||14|||
|The 100 Greatest Rock Albums||2006||88|||
|Metal Hammer||The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s||2006|||
|Muziekkrant OOR||Netherlands||Albums of the Year||1996||109|||
|NME||United Kingdom||100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums||2009||92|||
|Q||50 Heaviest Albums of All Time||2001|||
|Record Collector||10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century||2000|||
|Revolver||United States||The 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time||2002||49|||
|Rock & Folk||France||The Best Albums from 1963 to 1999||2000|||
|Rock Sound||Albums of the Year||1996||13|||
|Top 150 Albums of Our Lifetime (1992–2006)||2006||11|||
|Rolling Stone||United States||The Essential Recordings of the '90s||1999|||
|100 Best Albums of the '90s||2011||84|||
|Visions||Germany||The Most Important Albums of the '90s||2000||37|||
Antichrist Superstar was an immediate commercial success in North America. It sold 132,000 copies in the United States on its first week to debut at number three on the Billboard 200. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA on December 11, 1996, and sold over 1.2 million copies within a year of its release. As of November 2010, the record sold almost 2 million copies in the US alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It peaked at number two on the national RPM albums chart in Canada, where it has been certified double platinum by Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) for shipments in excess of 200,000 units. In Mexico, the record was certified gold by AMPROFON, indicating shipments of over 100,000 copies.
The album's international commercial success was initially modest, however, peaking at number thirteen on the Finnish Albums Chart, but failing to make an impact on the album charts in both France and Germany—peaking at numbers 116 and 100, respectively. Despite only peaking at number 73 on the UK Albums Chart and spending a sole week on the chart, Antichrist Superstar was certified gold by the BPI in July 2013 for sales of over 100,000 copies. Similarly, the record spent six non-consecutive weeks on the ARIA Charts, peaking at number 41, and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. Conversely, it became the band's commercial breakthrough in New Zealand, peaking within the top five and spending a total of 45 weeks on the New Zealand Albums Chart, where it was eventually certified platinum. Antichrist Superstar has sold in excess of 7 million copies worldwide.
|Cycle I: The Heirophant|
|1.||"Irresponsible Hate Anthem"||4:17|
|2.||"The Beautiful People"||Ramirez||3:38|
|3.||"Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World"||4:16|
|Cycle II: Inauguration of the Worm|
|10.||"Angel with the Scabbed Wings"||3:52|
|Cycle III: Disintegrator Rising|
|14.||"Minute of Decay"||Manson||4:44|
|15.||"The Reflecting God"||5:36|
|16.||"Man That You Fear"||6:10|
|99.||"Track 99" (hidden track)||1:39|
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Antichrist Superstar.
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||15,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,900,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone