Marilyn Manson has sought to push the barriers of free speech and good taste throughout the band’s short career. Each of Manson’s albums has surfaced amidst great controversy – a main reason for the band’s success, which includes a large worldwide following.
With the new record Holy Wood (nothing), Manson seeks to recreate the success of its shocking past releases by again concentrating on anti-normative themes.
Holy Wood represents an attempt by Marilyn Manson to distance himself and his band from the aura of gender-bender glam rock that surrounded their last release. Sporting a grotesquely altered Manson on the cover (in a pseudo-crucifixion pose) that is not for the weak of heart, Holy Wood seeks to attack the listener before the album even hits the CD player.
Marilyn Manson first gained national attention in 1994 with Smells Like Children. With the support of Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, the band gained acceptance within the increasingly popular Goth-rock and industrial genres. The band was immediately met with protest from religious organizations and activist groups who described Manson’s music as depraved and destructive.
Other albums, including Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals, have inspired propaganda campaigns and ludicrous rumors. Such attention has seemingly had little effect, except to propel the band’s career.
Fans of Manson’s earlier work will undoubtedly be overjoyed at the release of Holy Wood that signifies Manson’s return to their not so-long forgotten Goth-rock roots. With tracks such as President Dead and The Fight Song, Manson kicks out the special brand of combative rock that established the band on the music scene.
Manson strays little from past themes on the new album, keying in on a few aspects of life in America. The Love Song and God Eat God are hard-edged rock songs about drugs, guns and Satan.
Target Audience sneaks up quietly on the listener creating a haunting atmosphere that is suddenly dispelled by an explosion of distorted guitars. Similarly, in Lamb of God, the band moves away from abrasive rock and creates a quiet and truly eerie atmosphere.
Holy Wood lacks the originality of Manson’s past releases. The album’s 19 tracks are little more than a formulaic reproduction of the band’s 1996 hit release, Antichrist Superstar. The first single, Disposable Teens, is painfully reminiscent of the band’s hit, The Beautiful People. Indeed, most of the 19 tracks have sister songs on Antichrist Superstar.
In spite of the band’s attempt to exist on the fringe of modern culture, Marilyn Manson’s new release mostly hits well-trodden ground. It is wholly devoid of original social commentary. Manson re-addresses the old issues of rockstar culture, drug use and Satanism. Song lyrics are almost interchangeable and they do little more than blindly attack popular culture. The band seems content to rehash the old rather than going for anything revolutionary.
Holy Wood is musically adequate as a hard-rock release. It is certainly worth a listen for long-time Manson fans, but it lacks the depth and intensity of Manson’s past releases. It has few distinct qualities and acts only as a supplement to a wider Marilyn Manson library.
Manson fails its goal of further pushing the barriers of acceptability and producing another shocking record. It’s just not scary when it’s already been done.