After the Columbine massacre in April of 1999, reports surfaced that the murderers were Marilyn Manson fans. While Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were certainly influenced by mass entertainment and our dysfunctional culture, the teenagers didn’t care for the band’s music. Nonetheless, Manson was partially blamed for the shootings, with the media looking for any scapegoat possible.
Marilyn Manson took the scrutiny to heart. Feeling the pressure and blame of the shootings, he locked himself into his house for three months and wrote arguably the greatest concept album of the decade. The third installment in a reverse trilogy of records – which also includes Antichrist Superstar (October 1996) and Mechanical Animals (September 1998) – the character Adam is presented as a hedonistic celebrity that promotes violence, martyrdom, and hero worship. In other words, he was the embodiment of the Columbine killers, and even Manson himself. And if Antichrist Superstar is the black sheep and Mechanical Animals is the red-headed stepchild, then Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) is the big, protective brother to both.
Not only did Manson respond to accusations of his music being the blame for the tragedy, but he also made this album an open commentary on what’s wrong with the world at large. The focus is on the lyrics; you’re drawn to them. Such maturity took place over the first six years of his career that Manson actually seemed concerned. Concerned not only for himself, but also for 1,000s of misfits that are ignored by others. His thought was if these outsiders continue to be ignored, who knows what could happen? Entertainment was not the culprit, he contended; the media, society as a whole, and parents are to blame: “I wanna thank you mom / I wanna thank you dad / for bringing this fucking world to a bitter end” (from the album’s first single ‘Disposable Teens’). “I’m sorry you never check the bag in my head for a bomb”, he says with guns pointed straight at the parents on ‘Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)’. These are no-holds barred lyrics. And, dare to be said, he’s onto something. It portrays the psyche of a sociopath. It becomes the soundtrack for the atrocities of Columbine.
Co-producer Dave Sardy and programmer Bon Harris (Nitzer Ebb) hone in on key sounds to make this arguably Manson’s finest hour. And, along for the ride on his first studio album with the band, John 5 (David Lee Roth Band, Rob Halford’s Two, Rob Zombie) made huge contributions with writing credits on 15 of the 19 tracks. His crunchy, straightforward guitar on ‘Cruci-Fiction in Space’ makes it the most simplistic but heaviest track on the record. Of course, Twiggy Ramirez also gives his riff-heavy input to the proceedings, though not as much as on past albums.
With the odds stacked against them, Marilyn Manson returned with a powerful album. Holy Wood is full of social incite that made even the most conservative Christians take note and think. Striving to convince us it’s not his fault in one of the band’s most haunting songs to date, ‘The Nobodies’, Manson holds fast to the thoughts of the Columbine killers: “We are the nobodies / We wanna be somebodies / When we’re dead / They’ll know just who we are”. Or are those Manson’s thoughts on his own life?
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