photo & text by nacrowe
HOLY WOOD (IN THE SHADOW OF THE VALLEY OF DEATH) (INTERSCOPE, 2000) was a bit of retread record. having expanded his INDUSTRIAL-tinged GOTH METAL roots at the zenith of his FAME and CULTURAL CACHE with a left turn to that of CLASSIC 70s GLAM ROCK a la DAVID BOWIE in MECHANICAL ANIMALS (INTERSCOPE, 1998), this follow-up saw MARILYN MANSON return back to the formula that seemingly worked on ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (INTERSCOPE, 1996) almost four years earlier. only thing was that the cultural moment HOLY WOOD was released within had transformed the AMERICAN public's view of MANSON. this is since it was released a year after the COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE in COLORADO that saw twelve students and one teacher murdered at the hands of two heavily armed classmates. it was (falsely) reported in the press at the time that said murderers were fans of MANSON, an INNACURACY that forever transformed his career.
its hard to put COLUMBINE into perspective with our current AWFUL state of affairs where school shootings happen on such a regular basis that it is easy to be OVERWHELMED and HOPELESS about the prospect of change. the likes of SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY, VIRGINIA TECH, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLASS, UC SANTA BARBARA, SANTA FE, and ROBB ELEMENTARY are just the most prominent of an enduring facet of AMERICAN LIFE: our inability to confront the corrosive widespread availability of high-capacity weapons of war in our society. in 1999, during the CLINTON administration, COLUMBINE was that initial siren warning us all of this impending danger. instead of change or legislation, a new IMPOTENT NATIONAL RITUAL was instituted in which HOLLOW PRAYERS were made and nothing happened. gone on ever since. back then instead of change we as a country did the easy thing going after cultural targets: i.e. violent movies, video games and, of course, MARILYN MANSON.
for me its hard to read HOLY WOOD disentangled from that cultural moment, as MANSON himself was consumed by it. his global supporting effort was the "guns, god and government" tour for starters. he even made a MEMORABLE and THOUGHTFUL cameo in MICHAEL MOORE's BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (UNITED ARTISTS, 2002) film, itself an examination of AMERICA's fascination with guns, before a DENVER gig. sonically the record is not that far removed from MECHANICAL ANIMALS in that the songs are pretty streamlined and traditionally structured, unlike previous efforts which were more EXPERIMENTAL INDUSTRIAL art pieces. lyrically MANSON is trading on his requisite themes of ALIENATION and PSYCHIC / SOCIAL ISOLATION on memorable tracks like "CRUCI-FICTION IN SPACE," "THE FIGHT SONG," "A PLACE IN THE DIRT," "THE NOBODIES," "BURNING FLAG" and "DISPOSABLE TEENS." my personal favorite track is the plodding "CRUCI-FICTION IN SPACE" which has a 40,000 foot elevated perspective on the human race and its follies similar to that of the famous ORSON WELLES / HARRY LIME ferris wheel scene in THE THIRD MAN (BRITISH LION, 1949) were the true value of mankind is discussed and entertained from a distance. the implication for MANSON seems to be that if these students dont matter in AMERICAN LIFE, than who does?
who does indeed. HOLY WOOD is still as RELEVANT now as it was more than two decades ago.