WORMS WITH ANGEL WINGS

paula angelynx spent two nonstop weeks with Marilyn Manson's astonishing second LP, Antichrist Superstar, and hereby offers you her entirely unauthorized interpretation thereof (plus more than you probably expected to find out about the larval forms of hymenoptera)...

written and (c) by Paula O'Keefe (==angelynx==), 1996

Nota Bene: All opinions and interpretations expressed herein are my own, and are presented subject to the possibility that I'm dead wrong.

What's it about?

Pure hate. Contempt and withering scorn. Sorrow and emptiness and the bitterest, blackest disillusionment you can imagine.

The peeling of oneself down layer by layer to the core and crushing the core; the dark night of the soul; negation and rebirth.

It is a harrowing, scathing experience and if you say it didn't scare you even a little I think you're lying.

It is such total deconstruction of anything we understood as "Marilyn Manson" as to accomplish genuine ego death, magickal dissolution, a state of nonbeing that is stunning and chilling to witness. In every single second it hammers itself and you relentlessly against the floor and the walls, against every concept you might have thought it stood for, and every other word of it is "I" and every bit of its destruction is being carried out on and in one person. And that ain't Ginger Fish. It is the merciless dissection of himself (and by extension us) by the Right Reverend and selfmade wizard Marilyn Manson and it's no bit pretty. Nearly every piece of it - I hesitate to call these "songs" - is delivered in a bloodythroated shriek. Masks, skins, shreds of ego pelt the floor like spit - I'm not a rock star, not a sex god, not your daddy, not the Devil, not even human, not fit to live. Few samples, no hallucinogenic comic asides; the whole twisted-70's-childhood mythos of TV shows and lunchboxes is raked aside like the mulch on a serial killer's innocent-looking flowerbed, laying bare the bones and bloody hatchets hidden underneath. You thought you had Marilyn Manson all wrapped up, it says. Dr. Seuss and Kiss and H.R. Pufnstuf, sugar addiction and mass murder and child abuse, gender imbalance and guys in drag, with a little trendy Satanism and some bondage outfits for spice. You were wrong.

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The first thing you hear is "when you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you." And a crowd that could be you an' me yelling "we hate love we love hate."

1) "irresponsible hate anthem" - an unbelievably intense version of this monster. Right away we're told that this LP is a construction of time travel and premonitions, with the note [on an album released in 1996] that the track "was recorded live on February 14, 1997." The star at the crest of his temporal power, fronting a band so strong it kills on contact, yet still holding onto a sense of kinship with his audience ("everybody's someone else's nigger, I know you are, so am I") --Great variant on an old line: "Let's just kill everyone and let your God sort them out."

2) "the beautiful people" - big, chugging power grinder that sounds like NiN meets Slayer, with crowds chanting hate. ("How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" --remember that Beatles song?...) Classic social Darwinist/Satanist platform statement: "The weak ones are there to justify the strong...hate every motherfucker that's in your way." First worm reference of the record, but this one's impersonal, using them only as the classic symbol of decay and dissolution.

3) "dried up, tied and dead to the world" - rock'n'roll decadence and impersonal, narcotic sex. Very NiN-style. "Cake on some more makeup to cover all those lines, wake up and stop shaking 'cause you're just wasting time... don't you want some of this? Don't you need some of this?" (Somehow I'm picturing someone specific in here, a spaced-out presence in a soiled dress...) Extravagant and meaningless promises are made: "I'll be your lover, I'll be forever, I'll be tomorrow" - then the shrug - "I'll be anything when I'm high." -- If we were listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" this would be "Comfortably Numb."

4) "tourniquet" - already-famous and much loved. Things go badly between the star and his fragile girlfriend; he's tried to insulate their relationship from what's happening to him ("I wrapped our love in all this foil," what an American image) but it's going wrong, and he helplessly offers himself as both target for her equally helpless rage ("take your hatred out on me, make your victim my head") and grip to stop her bleeding once that rage is spent. It's deeply and surprisingly tender but choked on bitter anger - "I never wanted it to end like this/but flies have laid their eggs," he mourns, the expression of emotional loss shading into a startling suggestion of maggots and rot; and the hard admission "you'll never ever believe in me" becomes "I never ever believed in me" before it's over. (--Could this have a wider address as well? Are we all invited in some sense to take our hatred out on this self-punishing advocate of hate? How many times did we hear "I want everybody here to SPIT on ME!" All the while with an underlying sense that we don't understand what either of us wanted?)

(The point of applying a tourniquet, we should mention, is to cut blood flow between the bleeding wound and the heart...)

5) "little horn" - our first hint of the scope and range of what our narrator will become. The star sees a vision of his destiny; an image borrowed from the dreams of the prophet Daniel, who saw a mythic beast rising from the sea having "a little horn with eyes like the eyes of man and a mouth speaking great things...came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them." The coming of a being powerful enough to cast down angelstars from the heavens.

It represents a king who will destroy kings, the Antichrist -- "a king of dark countenance, and understanding dark sentences...and he shall destroy the mighty and the holy people." The star absorbs this vision, accepting it into his heart, gripped by the knowledge that the earth will submit in every sense ("spreads its legs for another star/shows its face for another scar"), powerless to oppose the coming dark ruler. Already sensing his own fall (read the shifting delicate balances and levels here between performing star/celestial star/falling star/fallen angel --"and I beheld Lucifer fall as a star from heaven...") he identifies himself with the agent of destruction. "...everyone will suffer now, everyone will suffer now, you can't save yourself..." And again there are worms, again waiting their turn to devour the dead.

6) "cryptorchid" - An unexpected moment of strange, stately delicacy and beauty. The prophetic vision stirs memories and a sense of imminence in the star, who contends with them as in a dream of his own. The worm image expands and becomes personal here - in a nightmare of self-hate, the lowly eater of rot personifies a lower self that threatens to rape/absorb the boy as well. But in the same breath the star feels his "back is changing shape," the slow and hidden development of wings, as in a caterpillar's cocoon, or the incarnation of an angel. (The "crypt" part of "cryptorchid" means "hidden, unseen.") Pulled tight between his lower and higher natures, the star utters the LP's most remarkable verse, in itself having the quality of a prophecy:


"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."

What is this? "Prick your finger" suggests the drawing of a drop of blood, as is done to sign a demonic pact; or is it "by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes"? "The moon has now eclipsed the sun" - night over day, dark over light, magick over science. "The angel has spread its wings" - the incarnation of Antichrist takes root in the star. "The time has come for bitter things" - behold all ye souls and tremble. (Nota bene: The title has nothing to do with sepulchers or flowers but refers to having one or both testicles not descended outside the body, as happens in a normal puberty...either I'm hallucinating, or I hear a dark mutter of "wish I had balls..." back there somewhere...)

7) "deformography"- the star rails at his captivity; an orgy of mutual punishment and abuse ("lift you up like the sweetest angel, tear you down like a whore...I make myself sick just to poison you") while the other eats his heart and leaves jagged holes. "Rock star, you're such a dirty, dirty rock star!" he rails--it's never "I'm such" so who's speaking, or who's it aimed at? Again the inversion - "You are the one I want and what I want is so unreal" becomes "I am the one you want..." We're all ACS, you see - what befalls the star affects the fan, we're in this mess together, we've caused each other this mess which would not exist without complicit behavior on both sides, the star is no more and no less our victim than we're his, and there's no place for these agonies of guilt I've been putting myself through because goddamnit he's causing me a pretty good sight of anguish on this end too. I Am You, indeed. ---

8) "wormboy" - well, they all warned you, but you just didn't listen. A goofy sound that reminds of POAAF, with those rounded, loopy structures and weird vocal shifts. Gut hunch says this is one of the last strong traces of Daisy's presence in MM. Almost comical distress: "Oh no! It is everything they said it was! Oh no! I am all the things they said I was!" And neither "love everybody" nor "all hate" is gonna work... The star has a good look in the mirror and realizes just how much of that despised lower self he's internalized (foreshadowing: "the world shudders when the worm gets his wings") but doesn't hit total bottom until...

9) --complete, venomous rejection of the masses. Tears down every facet of the Image and skewers people you probably know well...maybe very well. "mister superstar" updates "thingmaker"; the barely-post-teen Mr. Manson who was no more than righteously pissed at local kids copping his carefully-crafted style, has now had a gutful of ignorant and smothering adulation on the national scale, and reacts with utter loathing. -- "I know that I can turn you on / I wish I could just turn you off / I never wanted this / I never never never wanted any of this..."

(poor kid...had he known, do you think he'd have done it? How far into the future did he see? Or was there never any chance of its going otherwise?)(--On the other hand, what the hell did he want? Whose idea was all this anyway?) --Listen closely - use headphones - to catch the chilling interplay between speakers, one voice droning in despair "I wish I was dead...I wish I was dead..." while the other whispers avidly "kill yourself on TV...I wish you'd kill yourself on TV...will you kill yourself on TV...we'd like to see you dead...we'd like to see you dead..." (Anyone want to bet he's heard about the spate of online suicide rumors we've all been so greedily gnawing over? Do you feel really, really cold?)

10) "angel with the scabbed wings" -- the star eats drugs for breakfast, spreads STDs, behaves with total license and generally wallows in degeneracy; a plundering rapist-savior. There's that nameless and faceless "you" character again, the star's abuser and victim; "you're never gonna see him/you only wanna be him" --you want the image more than the understanding -- but you're locked into a symbiotic feeding frenzy, "you're never gonna leave him / you're always gonna please him." Takes two. -- [--Check the "looking-glass people" and "mama's got a scarecrow/gotta let the corn grow/a man can't always reap what he sows" lines thrown in - they're not in the lyric sheet but they're in there, all the way from "Luci in the Sky with Demons" (must be Manson's favorite of the old demo songs) to here.]

11) "kinderfeld". Now we know why. In exquisitely horrid detail ("hands are cracked and dirty and the nails are beetle wings...") we're suddenly plunged into a multi-personality hell of tense shivering guitars, child abuse, beatings and psychotic dissociation. Manson trades voices between the guttural croak of "Jack" (Spooks will of course recall that Manson's porn-collecting jackoff-addict of a grandfather, the one with the cellarful of electric trains - "when we'd hear the trains go on we always knew he was doing something he didn't want us to hear," he told one interviewer - had had throat cancer and spoke in a sort of hoarse bark), the high fragile tone of the abused "worm" and "a voice we have not heard before"-- fairly much Manson's own, which defiantly proclaims "because your lies have watered me/ I have become the strongest weed." (A weed, like a worm, may be a low creature, but it's tough and hard to uproot...multiple personality disorder is a form of self-defense, manifesting an alternate self that you perceive as able to take more punishment than "you" can...and by the way its most common cause is childhood sexual abuse...) Isis, just listen to the way he forces/sobs out the line "when he turns the trains on he unties all of the strings--", so paralyzed with dread there's no air in his throat. There's something there, I'd bet a finger on it.

It's under this intolerable stress that the worm's eyes are opened and he "gets his wings" -- dies as the caterpillar does, rebirths himself under unimaginable pressure, like carbon turning to diamond under tons of magma and shifting stone. He is healed of his deepest wound, like the crowned sea-beast of Revelations 13 - a beast whose power and authority were granted by the diabolical Red Dragon (Leviathan, whose name is configured in Hebrew lettering around the goathead Baphomet seal of the Church of Satan; the same lettering of the same name which appears around the lightning-bolt seal of the Antichrist Superstar on this very record) - and all the world marvels, and worships the strange creature, and wonders who is like unto him. "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things...and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven." In this delirious, agonized vision, the "little horn" comes to its full stature and power; the star sees his full destiny as the utter rejection of every authority. Everyone will suffer now. "This is what you should fear: you are what you should fear." And we will see no further worms on this record; the cocoon's empty.

("Kinderfeld" does mean, as it seems to, "field of children," but "field" in the sense of a battlefield or arena - "Feld" is literally "locale of war.")

[["I got my wings/and I never even knew it" harks back to "When will you realize you're already here?" in Wormboy, I think - the idea that you actually had the potential to do this all along, It just took a drastic circumstance to jolt you into awareness of it.]]

12) "antichrist superstar" - which of course had to be the next track. Huge, buzzing guitar track as the now-superstar taunts "you do just what they tell you" and roars a demand for repentance. The "prick your finger" verse reappears to underline the knowledge of shed skin and new wings, the larval stage over at last. (Did you know that "larva" means "ghost" too?) "Cut the head off, grows back hard; I am the hydra, now you'll see your star" - a hydra is a mythical monster with multiple heads, which grows back two when one is cut off, and the Beast from the Sea had seven heads with ten horns; make all the phallic references you like, they probably belong. But multiple heads = personalities/voices too; notice how many voices interweave in this one, almost always several at a time. The superstar is become the compilation of his past and future selves. Call him Legion. ("Whose mistake am I anyway?"-- I love that..) "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you" reappears -- yeah, now it's our turn to see what I hate about me... hold tight...

13) -Whew! "Light a candle for the sinners, set the world on fire," and he snickers, and then lets rip the most unearthly and bloodfreezing scream. "1996" is a black hole, a savagely brilliant guitar charge (who played on this one?! Bleeding God, if it's not Daisy, find this guy and give him the job NOW!), an anarchic and devastating anti-rant. It rejects everything, every possible category and definition, lashing its singer - now "faggot anti-Pope" and "anti-music god" - into a tornado spin of raving black nothingness, not just against cops and Satan and presidents but antimale and antifemale, antidrug and antisober, antipeace and antihate - "HERE'S your Antichrist Superstar!" (Do I hear him yelling "Fuck this! Nothing's changed!" back there before the last verse?)[no, it's just "1996!1996!" but I still like the idea.] --Contracts itself into a tighter and tighter downspiral until it whips into an inescapable crash dive - "anti-money, anti-life, anti-husband, anti-wife/anti-song and anti-me/I don't deserve a chance to be!" he shrieks in a hatred so devouring it eats even its own voice, drowns every speck of light. And something gets smashed to shit as the guitars snarl and strangle off to fade. --Utterly utterly blazingly transcendent and one of the greatest rock and roll performances of all forever-and-ever-goddamned time!

14)"the minute of decay" - A haunting, Bowielike moment (check the "Aladdin Sane"-style piano work) of exhaustion and reflection, the eye of the hurricane. "There's nothing left to love, too tired today to hate..." Everything seems empty, done and over with, nothing left to say and the self itself negated. "I'd love to just give in, I'd love to live this lie." When did it become a lie?... The other central revelation of the record, in which we see the superstar's barren and despairing vision of the future --"I looked ahead and saw a world that's dead/I guess that I am too" ...his development of psychic powers and prophecy has delivered this stunning accomplishment but with it the realization that it's all for naught, the taste of ashes and wormwood. (Footnote re: wormwood:: a bitter herb; the deranging element in absinthe; in Revelations 8:10, the name of a great burning star that falls from heaven at the opening of the Third Seal, poisoning one-third of all earth's water, "and many men died". It is not itself mentioned in this album but believe that its name is of significance.)

15) "the reflecting god" - Utterly staggering. Mastery of the magickian's single-point focus and total concentration: the world contracts to a bullethole, a needle shot, the pupil of a staring eye. "The nature of the leeches/the virgins feeling cheated" - the insatiable audience grows restless and wants more, not comprehending what it already has. But the superstar knows what's in his hands. "My world is unaffected, there is an exit here, I say there is and it's true...there is a dream within a dream, I'm more awake the more I sleep, you'll understand when I'm dead." ---Magick is a discipline intended to transform human to divine, to give man true knowledge, to open up the 9/10ths of our brain we never use. The superstar knows that he's transcended his lesser nature, staked a spot on the universe/brain interface; by mystical study, physical discipline and judiciously applied hard drugs he's gained more freedom on the neural-Kabbalistic paths than most of us ever will. He can just turn it all off and go back inside his head, and he knows it. He's seen that, as they say, God is only Man writ large. And Man is God writ in tight tight little sutures. And stitches. And layers and layers of fine white scars.


"When I'm God everyone
dies, scar, can you feel my power
One shot and the world gets smaller
scar, scar, can you feel my power
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT MOTHERFUCKER
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT MOTHERFUCKER---"

--an incongruous acoustic interlude in which the crowds cheer, we mindlessly cheer even this awesome vision, we don't understand...

16) "man that you fear" - sad, despairing closure, also reminds me of Bowie - this album is "Ziggy Stardust" for the apocalyptic 1990s and here's its "Rock'n'Roll Suicide." "I was born into this, everything turns to shit, the boy that you loved is the man that you fear." The harsh squall of most of the LP subsides and Manson actually sings this, in the softly-breaking nasal baritone we know so well. He sits in the Antichrist's throne of absolute power and prepares to end the world, but it's no moment of cackling triumph, just a world-weary diminuendo - he already knows the future. Why has he done all this? Is it really just because "someone had to go this far"? We've become television; what we once watched now watches us. And won't stop.

"Pray now baby, pray your life was just a dream...the world in my hands, there's no one left to hear you scream...no one left for you."

And the last thing we hear is a distorted voice looping over and over that resolves into "When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed."

His and ours too. Being a big rock'n'roll star turned out to be other than the simply bright and vengeful prize it seemed. The demon/god hero-daddy we may have thought we had, isn't, and didn't want to be.

What do we do now?

What could possibly come after this?

Can we all understand now why this was presented to us as the end of Marilyn Manson, of music, and of the world itself?

1996 angelynx@spookhouse.net