Marilyn Manson | Forever Anti-Christ…Forever Superstar…

itsl manson_75Into the rock stratosphere his name went, and shall always remain.

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This month, we aim our spotlight on “The Reverend,” Marilyn Manson. Shocking fans and Christians alike since the early 1990’s, this artist (formerly known as Brian Warner) and his many cohorts have never relented on his mission. And what is his mission? To open the eyes and minds of listeners world-over with his cryptic message and sinister look. He began his mission in Florida, working as a freelance music writer for the alternative and industrial clubs in town. He soon realized that writing music, not writing about it, was his calling.

itsl manson_400The first incarnation of his band, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, got the off to a luck start by opening for Nine Inch Nails at Club Nu. Even in his infant stage, artists like Trent Reznor saw in Manson the next big rock star…and Manson was happy to oblige. Signing with Interscope Records, the first Manson album, Portrait of an American Family hit shelves to an un-suspecting public. Slickly produced, the finished product paled in comparison to what Manson heard in his head, as well as their live sound. Although not happy with the release, the band toured extensively. And when album sales were not as good as predicted, Manson blamed the album’s over-produced sound that turned off the fan base they were seeking. Audiences were eating them up in the live setting, but that translated poorly on record.

Enter Smells Like Children. The odd EP was much more a reflection of where the band were creatively, showered with a twisted sense of humor. Their stunning remake of Screaming Jay Hawkings’ hit, “I Put a Spell on You,” was wicked in delivery. Yet, it was the re-do of the uber hit, Eurythmics’, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” that fell upon mainstream radio and MTV. The single exploded, and Marilyn Manson, as the band was called now, would be forever in the minds of the world….especially those incredibly religious.

Production for the ambitious project, Antichrist Superstar began in 1995, with Trent Reznor at the production helm and Manson by his side co-producing. As production slowly trickled along, including some recording at the infamous Charles Manson/Sharon Tate hose on Cielo Drive in California, a rift slowly but surely grew between Reznor and Manson resulting in even more delays. Manson felt that his project was being hijacked by Reznor. But whatever hard feelings surrounded the creation of the album, Antichrist Superstar raced up the charts and out of record stores….and riled up the Christian demographic. Protesters from several Christian and parents groups marched on the shows in almost every town the tour was booked. The state of New Jersey actually offered to pay Manson not to play. The album spawned the hit single, “The Beautiful People.” Into the rock stratosphere his name went, and shall always remain.

itsl manson_450Manson toyed with the trans-gender persona Omega on his third full-length outing, Mechanical Animals. Sales of the album were fierce, as were tickets for the tour behind the album. Featuring three hit singles, including, “Rock Is Dead,” and, “The Dope Show,” the album played with drugs, homosexuality, and the glam rock scene of the 1970’s. Well-received by fans new and old, Manson had yet another hit on his hands as well as more death threats and protests.

The band’s following releases, HolyWood (In the Shadow Of Death), The Golden Age of Grotesque, and Lest We Forget: The Best of Marilyn Manson, while not really generating newer fans, kept the masses of fans happy. Then, as does every decade or so, the musical climate changed, and an older, perhaps even wiser Manson, did not hold so much appeal.

Manson came back with an album that was much more rock and roll, much less industrial noise and contained masterful songwriting. Eat Me, Drink Me was primarily written and performed by Industrial Metal legend Tim Skold (KMFDM). Combined with Manson lyrics, the vampire-themed album fell on hard ears. The tour was a disaster, with Tim Skold quitting mid-run and the re-hiring of Twiggy Ramirez after a long hiatus. Gone from the set list were the new songs, replaced by Twiggy-played classics.

Embarking on his own label, Hell, Etc. Manson released his first album on the label, Born Villain. While old-time fans perhaps appreciated the record, the newer generation weren’t buying it. Was there still a place in the heavy metal hierarchy for him? Are the days of shock rock really dead?

It seemed rather so. Where to go from here? An artist who has broken down barriers at every turn, while being blamed for many a misery. When you are the anti-hero, what is your status when the people have become hero-friendly?

Forward to modern day. With the release of his latest album, The Pale Emperor, and no one left to really shock, his emphasis is back on song-crafting. With songwriting and production partner, Tyler Bates, Manson’s new material is organic in creation and classic in delivery. Gone are the heavy, droning synths and industrial screeches. Present are a lean, melodic tunes based in rock and roll. Having “found the redneck in his voice,” the artist can finally call himself a singer. Featuring two lead singles, “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge,” and, “Deep Six,” the album is loaded with hot riffs and eerie melodies.

The, “Hell, Not Hallelujah Tour,” is a stripped down version of Manson. No more pulpits and flying bible pages, nor are their crosses made of TV’s and anti-religious rants. Showcasing Manson at his most intimate, The Pale Emperor leaves nothing left to lose.

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It will be interesting to see where artists like “The Reverend” will go in the future. Now that he has his own label, he can no longer be pre-categorized or made to sound a certain way. He now has the freedom necessary to survive, and even thrive, in his career. | Marc J. Farr

About Marc Farr 244 Articles
Marc Farr is the Live Music & Assignments Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. He's so invaluable to us, we've nicknamed him Mr. Music. Reach out if you have coverage ideas! "I know it's only rock and roll...but I like it!"
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