He’s a marked man, held culpable for murderous teenagers and moral collapse. An army of right-wing zealots are fingering the holster on the Bible Belt, waiting for a clear shot at him. His choice: retreat or come out fighting at the risk of annihilation. It took Marilyn Manson three months of post-Columbine isolation in his Hollywood mansion to make a decision, then another year to polish his weapon to perfection. If he was going to throw America’s hypocrisy back in its face, he knew there’d be hell to pay if he didn’t get it right.
‘Holy Wood…’ is a relentless march through the Manson Manifesto – expanding the myth (and self-fulfilling prophecy) of the antichrist superstar to encompass JFK, Lennon and Jesus. The final chapter in Manson’s “triptych” of albums, it follows a character who attempts revolution through music,
but ends up killing himself when his revolution is exploited by society. It’s Manson’s own story, essentially, used as a framework to indict a culture that both celebrates and condemns violence. A cartoon manifestation of our deepest fears, he spotlights certain unpleasant truths – that Christianity has justified all manner of beastly acts, and that he is not the cause of evil in men, but rather a symptom. All of which, without good tunes to back it up, would amount to nothing more than risible goth bluster.
Manson’s comparison of ‘Holy Wood…’ with ‘The White Album’ is rather rich, considering that it’s basically an elaborate consolidation of ideas he’s already explored. Nevertheless, in melding the glam-frocked space-rock of ‘Mechanical Animals’ with the industrial crunch of ‘Antichrist Superstar’, he has hit upon something thrilling. Guitars are skull-shatteringly loud and wielded like chainsaws, stabbing in and out of multi-tracked synth and glitter-bombing special effects. Manson’s Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie/Alice Cooper aping is used to devastating effect in the creepy drawl of ‘GodEatGod’, the spitting “Fuck you!”[/I] vitriol of ‘The Love Song’, and ‘Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)’ (which also reveals a curious Radiohead influence). Nearly every song is a potential single, and are a handful of brilliantly executed rallying cries for the disenfranchised. ‘Disposable Teens’, ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘The Nobodies’ could be mistaken for elegies to the Columbine murderers “We are the nobodies/We wanna be somebodies/When we’re dead/They’ll
know just who we are”, but are, instead, attacks
on the individuality-squelching society that create such angry outcasts.
It’s preposterously vain, of course, and often hilariously naff. But ‘Holy Wood…’ puts Manson’s critics and second division nu-metallers like Korn and Slipknot firmly in their place. As far from market-ready angst-by-numbers as it’s possible to get, it’s a hard, fast, mean record, and its hackles are up for a reason. By far the best thing Manson has ever set his warped mind to, ‘Holy Wood…’ ultimately inspires something far more potent than fear or hatred. Respect.