Antichrist Superstar is a 1996 Rock Opera/Concept Album by Marilyn Manson. Rife with social critique, it was a critical and commercial success and became his breakthrough album but also caused a lot of mass hysteria and controversy from religious and civic groups.
In retrospect, it's been credited for bringing an end to the grunge craze within popular music and has been honored as one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time (although its sound is closer to Industrial Metal). It's best known for the title track and the single "The Beautiful People".
It is part of a trilogy (or a "triptych") alongside Manson's two following releases Mechanical Animals (1998) and Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000). However, since the series' story is told in reverse chronological order, Antichrist Superstar therefore ends the narrative.
The central storyline on the album revolves 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 and artificial beauty.
- "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" - (4:17)
- "The Beautiful People" - (3:38)
- "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World" - (4:15)
- "Tourniquet" - (4:29)
- "Little Horn" - (2:43)
- "Cryptorchid" - (2:44)
- "Deformography" - (4:31)
- "Wormboy" - (3:56)
- "Mister Superstar" - (5:04)
- "Angel with the Scabbed Wings" - (3:52)
- "Kinderfeld" - (4:51)
- "Antichrist Superstar" - (5:14)
- "1996" - (4:01)
- "The Minute of Decay" - (4:44)
- "The Reflecting God" - (5:36)
- "Man That You Fear" - (6:10)
- "Untitled" - (1:39)
The Beautiful Tropes:
- Album Filler: Tracks 17 until 98 are all silent tracks.
- Anti Christ: The whole album is about the concept of the antichrist coming back to earth, although in a rather metaphorical sense.The time has come, it is quite clear
Our antichrist is almost here... it is done ("Antichrist Superstar")
- Arc Words: "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you."
- As the Good Book Says...: The booklet of the album makes reference to "Revelation", chapter 12, verses one to five.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The antichrist superstar rises to become the Physical God he always dreamed of being, but crosses the Despair Event Horizon in the process and destroys the earth in a nihilistic rage. The last words of the album are actually "when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed" - repeated over and over amidst a wall of static.
- Biblical Motifs: The anti-christ, also "your apple has been rotten" in "Man That You Fear".
- Book-Ends: The opening and closing seconds of the album include the distorted phrase:When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you.
- Concept Album: The album deals with society's obsession with beauty as its highest ideal and is divided in three cycles: "The Heirophant" (track 1-4), "Inauguration of the Worm" (track 5-11) and "Disintegrator Rising" (track 12-99).
- Downer Ending: The album—and the whole overarching narrative of the triptych—ends with the protagonist transforming into the Antichrist Superstar, whose motivations transcend any sense of morality, as a result of being ostracized by society. They become so nihilistic and disgusted with humanity that they instigate a genocide of the human race that ends with the whole planet being destroyed.
- Face on the Cover: Marilyn's face is partially shown on the right side of the album.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" → "The Beautiful People", "Tourniquet" → "Little Horn", "Kinderfeld" → "Antichrist Superstar", "The Reflecting God" → "Man That You Fear", "Track 99" → "Irresponsible Hate Anthem"
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The overarching storyline, at least from cycle II on (starting with "Little Horn"), the protagonist starts out as pathetic worm, gets his wings and becomes the antichrist superstar.Then I got my wings and I never even knew it,
when I was a worm, thought I couldn't get through it ("Wormboy", repeated in "Kinderfeld")
- Pun-Based Title: The album title is a pun of Jesus Christ Superstar.
- Rule of Three: The album is divided in three cycles.
- Subliminal Seduction: Many songs of the album use backmasking to creature bizarre sounds. See here
- Tarot Motifs: The whole album has them, the first cycle is called "The Heirophant" (a typical tarot motif).
- Übermensch: The antichrist superstar himself. He reaches beyond conventional morality to break the chains of conservatism, religious belief and artificial beauty.
- Accentuate the Negative:
I've looked ahead and saw a world that's dead
- "1996" lists a lot of stuff the antichrist is against, many contradicting themselves.
- "The Minute Of Decay"
I guess that I am too
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Little Horn"The worms will wait with baited breath
- Adult Fear: Being confronted with the darkest things in one's own soul, as depicted in "Kinderfeld".This is what you should fear, you are what you should fear. note
- Album Title Drop: Happens during "1996" and not, as you might assume, during the title track.Anti-people now you've gone too far...
Here is your antichrist superstar
- All-American Face: Parodied in "Irresponsible Hate Anthem":I am so all-American, I'll sell you suicide
I am totalitarian, I've got abortions in my eyes
- Ambiguous Syntax: In "The Reflecting God", is the protagonist looking at himself ashamed shortly after looking at god or is he already god and is as such watching himself? Also does "reflecting" mean like "pondering" or "in a mirror"?I went to god just to see, and I was looking at me
saw heaven and hell were lies, when I'm god everyone dies
- Annual Title: "1996". The same year the album was released.
- Anti Anti Christ: "1996"Here is your antichrist superstar
(...) Anti Satan
Anti song and anti me
I don't deserve a chance to be
- Based on a Dream: "Tourniquet" is based on a disturbing nightmare Manson had.
- The Beautiful Elite: Deconstructed in "The Beautiful People", as their so-called beauty is just artificial and hides a huge pile of darkness beneath, almost leading to Beauty Is Bad.The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In "Minute of Decay" to show that the downward spiral is inevitable.The minute that it's born, it begins to die
I'd love to just give in, I'd love to live this lie
- Blind Obedience: A central theme thoughout the album, people just believe whatever they want to believe (mostly in "Irresposible Hate Anthem" and "Antichrist Superstar").
- Bowdlerise: The radio version of "The Beautiful People" changed "Hate every motherfucker that's in your way" to "Hate every other hater that's in your way".
- Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Manson wears a very deformed version of this in the music video of "The Beautiful People" (here) alongside an old-timey flying hat.
- Broken Record: In "Man That You Fear", the last line is repeated over and over again: note When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.
- Call-Back: "Beautiful People" has a sample by Tex Watson, a member of the Charles Manson cult. Charles Manson was referenced earlier on Portrait of an American Family (1994) and Smells Like Children (1995). The sample itself also was used in the Spooky Kids era track "Dune Buggy".
- Call-Forward: The following lines originating in "Cryptorchid" are then reheard six tracks later in "Antichrist Superstar":Prick your finger it is done
The moon has now eclipsed the sun
Angel has spread it's wings
The time has come for bitter things
- Careful with That Axe: Aside from regularly screaming his lines, Marilyn lets out a straight-up scream multiple times in "1996".
- Cluster F-Bomb: The pre-hook of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem".Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Manson criticized society's obsession with organized religion and beauty as the highest ideal. This is further implied in the music video of "The Beautiful People" and manifests the most in "Irresponsible Hate-Anthem":I wasn't born with enough middle fingers
I don't need to choose a side
- Dream Within a Dream: One is described in "The Reflecting God", although we can't be sure how it will work out.There is a dream inside a dream, I'm wide awake the more I sleep
you'll understand when I'm dead
- Epic Rocking: "Antichrist Superstar", "The Reflecting God", and "Man That You Fear" are all 5-6 minutes long.
- Evil Laugh: Marilyn chuckles at the start of the "1996" after saying "light a candle for the sinners/set the world on fire".
- Foreign Language Title: "Kinderfeld" is German and means "children field"
- Freud Was Right: In "The Beautiful People" we get a glimpse of what the size of steeples really means.the beautiful people, the beautiful people,
It's all relative to the size of your steeple [...]
It's as anatomic as the size of your steeple
- Hates Everyone Equally: Invoked in "The Beautiful People":There's no time to discriminate
Hate every motherfucker that's in your way
- Hidden Track: The album ends with one that follows the final song, "Man That You Fear", after 82 silent 4-second tracks. It has been referred to under multiple names like "Better Messiah", "Dying Years", "Minister", "Empty Sounds of Hate", "Untitled", and "Track 99". If the album is looped, the pacing of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" matches the distorted recitation of the hidden track, forming a perfect loop.
- Hydra Problem: "Antichrist Superstar" shows that fighting against the rising disintegrator is futile as is just too strong like the hydra.Cut the head off, grows back hard
I am the hydra, now you'll see your star.
- If I Can't Have You...: "Mister Superstar"Hey, Mister Superstar,
I'll kill myself for you.
Hey, Mister Superstar,
I'll kill you if I can't have you.
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: "1996"Anti gay and anti dope
I am the faggot anti-pope
- List Song: "1996" lists all kinds of things the protagonist is against.
- Magical Abortion: Used in "Man That You Fear" to make a point how society disguises an abortion to keep up a shiny facade. One line refers to a story in which Manson as a child found a coffee can with something rotting inside. His mother told him it was discarded meat, but later told him that it was actually an aborted fetus.Spread me open, sticking to my pointy ribs
are all your infants in abortion cribs
- Might Makes Right: Discussed in "The Beautiful People". Doubles up with Virtue Is Weakness:It's not your fault that you're always wrong
The weak ones are there to justify the strong
- Miniscule Rocking: The Hidden Track that ends the album is around one-and-a-half minutes long.
- Misfortune Cookie: The last line in "Man That You Fear" is taken from a fortune cookie but put into a much more destructive context.When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed...
- Monster Fan Girl: Parodied in "Mister Superstar", where a female Loony Fan goes crazy about any kind of new "star":Hey, Mr. Superstar, I'll kill myself for you
Hey, Mr. Superstar, I'll kill you if I can't have you
Superstar, superfuck baby
- Mushroom Samba: In "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World" the hero goes through a heavy one when being high on cocaine:I'll be your lover, I'll be forever
I'll be tomorrow, I am anything when I'm high
Don't you want some of this?
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Used in "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" to show how uncritical obedience makes you an idiot:I'm so all-American, I'll sell you suicide, I am totalitarian, I've got abortions in my eyes [...]
America cannot see anything, history is written by the winner, fuck it!
- Offing the Offspring: In "Man That You Fear" this is done by a desperate parent but can't heal the emotional wounds of the perpetrator.You've poisoned all your children, to camouflage your scars.
- One-Man Song: "Wormboy" and "Man That You Fear".
- One-Word Title: "Tourniquet", "Cryptorchid", "Deformography", "Wormboy" and "Kinderfeld".
- "The Beautiful People" contains a distorted spoken-word sample of Tex Watson saying [We would] swoop down on the town...[and] kill everyone that wasn't beautiful."
- "Minute of Decay" begins with a heavily distorted sample from a film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four that says "From a dead man...greetings".
- Prayer Is a Last Resort: Parodied and deconstructed in "Man That You Fear" as it shows someone (a mother?) who desperately prays to escape her never-ending pain but sadly fails:Pray until you're number, asleep from all your pain
Your apple has been rotting, tomorrow's turned up dead. [...]
Pray unto the splinters, pray unto your fear,
pray your life was just a dream, the cut that never heals.
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- "Kinderfeld" ("children field") is about Manson's grandfather who had model trains in his basement which he turned on full volume when masturbating in secrecy. One day Manson hid in the basement and witnessed this and became deeply disturbed.
- "Man That You Fear" was inspired by an incident during Manson's youth when he found a coffee can with something rotting inside. His mother told him it was discarded meat, but later told him that it was actually an aborted fetus. note
- Rock Bottom: Manson backmasked the line "This is my lowest point of vulnerability" into "Tourniquet". This was not an exaggeration as he admits in his autobiography.
- Russian Reversal: Used in "Man That You Fear" to show the absurd level of obsession with television:The ants are in the sugar, muscles atrophied
We're on the other side, the screen is us and we're TV
You never ever believed in meI am your tourniquet
Anti song and anti meI don't deserve a chance to be
- Serial-Killer Killer: The idea behind "Irresposible Hate Anthem":I hate the hater, I rape the raper
I am the animal who will not be himself.
- "The Beautiful People" was inspired by Marilyn Bender's 1967 book of the same name. Her book dealt with world of scandal within the "jet-set" lifestyle of the 1960's, and the culture of beauty, as it pertained to fashion and politics. The song also has a distorted spoken sample, by Charles Manson member Tex Watson and the line: "How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" is a reference to the The Beatles' song "Baby, You're a Rich Man," from Magical Mystery Tour. "The Beautiful People" has also been found to be related to the book "The Age of Manipulation: The Con in Confidence, The Sin in Sincere," which is also referenced in "Deep Six" off The Pale Emperor from 2015.
- The line "when you wish upon your star" in "Deformography," references the theme song "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio.When you wish upon your star, don't let yourself fall, fall in too hard.
- In the music video of "Man That You Fear", Manson portrays a man who is condemned to die and is "chosen" by random chance. The video features all events of his last day on earth, leading up to his death by stoning in an isolated location of the desert. It is very reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery.
- Subliminal Seduction: "Tourniquet" begins with a backmasked vocal saying "This is my lowest point of vulnerability."
- Surreal Music Video:
- "Tourniquet" features an gallery of grotesque imagery within a dark and surreal environment. It is mostly about an odd humanoid, propped up on wheels to move. Watch it here.
- "Cryptorchid" uses scenes from Merhige's 1991 experimental horror film Begotten, which are black and white surreal collages, with new scenes including Manson pulling out his own intestines and holding them up to the camera. Can be seen here.
- Total Eclipse of the Plot: In "Cryptorchid" the moon eclipsing the sun foreshadows the coming of the antichrist:Prick your finger it is done, the moon has now eclipsed the sun
The angel has spread its wings, the time has come for bitter things...
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Summing up the whole premise in "Man That You Fear", the boy that everyone loved is now the person everyone is afraid of.The boy that you loved is the man that you fear.
- Wishing Well: This is used for a clever wordplay in "Antichrist Superstar" where the protagonist just gives the audience what they wished for, nothing else.You built me up with your wishing hell, I didn't have to sell you
You threw your money in the pissing well, you do just what they tell you.
- World of Symbolism: "Cryptorchid" is the song that uses the most metaphors and figurative language and uses sythies and distorted voices.Each time I make my mother cry, an angel dies and falls from heaven
When the boy is still a worm, it´s hard to learn the number seven