October 2002
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In the Shadow of the Valley of Death
By Christopher Colwell, Age 16, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB

Holy Wood by Marilyn Manson

Nothing Records, 2000

Marilyn MansonThe end will come like a thief in the night. After enduring the darkest hour during the Columbine massacre, Marilyn Manson returns with arguably their most powerful revelation.

Ever since they began making music nearly a decade ago, these shock rock superstars have never backed down from taking on the most dangerous subjects America has to offer: God, drugs, violence, politics; by tearing into the beating heart of western culture with such ground-breaking albums as 'Portrait of an American Family', 'Antichrist Superstar', and ‘Mechanical Animals', Marilyn Manson has carved a controversial niche into music history.

But, on more that one occasion, this infamy has placed them in a compromising position. Their death-blow almost came when it was reported (falsely) that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the so-called 'trenchcoat mafia' members at Columbine, were fans. This sent lead singer Rev. Manson, from whom the band takes their name, into a spiral of self-doubt and stark introspection. The religionists, politicians, and angry parents across the country could finally pin his face to something more terrifying than all the rumours they had hitherto formulated.

'Holy Wood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death', the first album of entirely new material Manson has released since the massacre, exemplifies their response to their detractors: at times ferocious, at others melancholically nostalgic, but always thoughtful and tongue-in-cheek sardonic. Never has this band been so effective in choosing its targets, nor so precise in shooting them all down, song by song.

Each of the 19 tracks on this album shows us a new facet of "Planet Holy Wood" - a quasi-hyperbole of modern American culture. Its introductory crooning, 'Godeatgod', describes our compulsion to deify our pop icons, then tear them down to make room for the next fad. Seven songs later, we hear a sinister Rev. Manson, opposite a pulsating electric guitar, using Darwin's theory of evolution as a metaphor for man's tendency towards violence - the end result of which being man's creation for himself a fifth limb; the gun. Again, in a searing political overview entitled 'Burning Flag', he sings the ingenious quip, "My right wing is flapping / The left one is grey / Let's here it for the kids but / Nothing they say."

And let's not forget our good friends, Eric and Dylan. Amidst a simple harpsichord melody, Manson vindictively rasps, "We're the Nobodies / We wanna be Somebodies / When we're dead / You'll know just who we are."

This album begins with critical, intelligent lyrics and finely mixed harmonies, and doesn't let up until the suspenseful finale – the cocking of a revolver. This quality of art – that is, if art can be qualified – is hard to find in any medium, let alone the angst-driven, head-bang-and-forget-your-troubles genre of industrial rock.

Though one might expect this album to be picked up by the brave and heretical few, I've witnessed it be the catalyst for mind-expansion for people of all walks of life. This masterpiece comes recommended to anyone willing to look scrutinizingly at the world – and themself – who will not shy away from what they see. Who knows? It may even cause an Uberman Revolution – a personal Armageddon of sorts – that will forever change the listener.

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