Holy Wood (In The Shadow of The Valley of Death) - Composition


"Is adult entertainment killing our children? Or is killing our children entertaining adults?"

—Introductory statement on the band's website during the Holy Wood era.

During pre-release interviews Manson stated that Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) was intended to be the "industrial White Album ... in the sense that it's very experimental. I play a lot of keyboards, we switched things around, wrote in the desert ... it's experimental and when I think of experimental I think of The White Album." The 1969 Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed, another source of inspiration, was written in the same house where he wrote Holy Wood.

Sonically, Manson said the record was "arrogant in an art rock sense", yet it turned out to be the "heaviest" record the band has done. "It needs to be to complete the trilogy," said Manson. The majority of the songs contain three or four parts, similar to art rock, due to the way that the story is told. The band took great care to avoid being "self-indulgent." Manson contended that the record is entertaining and pleasing. "Art rock is only self indulgent if it bores you." According to CMJ New Music Monthly, the songs are "angry and complex." Rolling Stone magazine noted that "on such songs as 'Target Audience', 'Disposable Teens' and 'Cruci-Fiction in Space', dismantles the slick, glam-tinged sound of Animals in favor of the more brutal industrial-goth grind of his first albums."

Similar to Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood utilizes a compositional device called the song cycle structure, which divides the record into four movements—A: In the Shadow, D: The Androgyne, A: Of Red Earth and M: The Fallen—to form the framework of Kadmon's story. The storyline unfolds in a multi-tiered progression of extended metaphors and allusions playing in Manson's psyche. For instance, the album's title was not just a reference to the Hollywood sign but also to "the tree of knowledge that Adam took the first fruit from when he fell out of paradise, the wood that Christ was crucified on, the wood that Oswald's rifle is made from and the wood that so many coffins are made of."

"GodEatGod" follows Adam as he contemplates in the desert. "The Love Song" was written as an anthem for Holy Wood's religion of Celebritarianism. Manson explained the idea for the song comes from his observation that "Love Song" is one of the most common titles in music, but weaves in a metaphor about guns: "I was suggesting with the lyrics that the father is the hand, the mother is the gun, and the children are the bullets. Where you shoot them is your responsibility as parents." The chorus is a rhetorical take on an American bumper sticker, which asks: "Do you love your God, gun, government?"

UK music magazine Kerrang! described "The Fight Song" as a "playground punk anthem." Manson noted that the song's theme is Adam's desire to be a part of Holy Wood; the track is inherently autobiographical. Speaking broadly, it is about "a person who's grown up all his life thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, but when he finally, he realises that it's worse than where he came from and that it's truly exploitative." The line, "The death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions is just a statistic", relates to the disvaluation of the deaths of ordinary people who die every day, who are ignored by the media, compared to the frenzy that results in the press when someone dies in a more dramatic way.

"Disposable Teens" is a "signature Marilyn Manson song." Its bouncing guitar riff and teutonic staccato has its roots in former glam rocker and convicted pedophile Gary Glitter's song "Rock and Roll, Pt.2". Its lyrical themes tackle the disenfranchisement of contemporary youth, "particularly those that have been to feel like accidents", with the revolutionary idealism of their parent's generation. The influence of The Beatles was critical in this song; the chorus echoes the disillusionment expressed in opening lines of their White Album song "Revolution 1". Here the sentiment was appropriated as a rallying cry for "disposable teens" against the shortcomings of "this so-called generation of revolutionaries", whom the song indicted: "You said you wanted evolution, the ape was a great big hit. You say want a revolution, man, and I say that you're full of shit." Manson singles out "Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)" as his favorite song on the record and that, to him, it related to every person's desire for self-actualization.

Borrowing a riff from English alternative rock band Radiohead, "President Dead" is a guitar-driven song that showcases John 5's technical skills. The song opens with a vocal sample of Don Gardiner's ABC News Radio broadcast of the death of John F. Kennedy, which is the track's subject matter. On another note, the song is 3:13 in length — a deliberate numerological reference to frame 313 of the Zapruder film, the frame of the fatal head shot, and the point where JFK became an American media martyr, "because the production value of his murder was so grand; the cinematography was so well done." "In the Shadow of the Valley of Death" is an introspective song where Adam is at his most emotionally vulnerable, to the point of wanting to give up. "Cruci-Fiction in Space" further delves into the Kennedy assassination, and concludes that human beings have evolved from monkeys to men and, finally, into guns. "A Place in the Dirt" is another personal song characterized by Adam's rumination and self-analysis of his place in Holy Wood.

"Lamb of God" Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player.
You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser. Using the assassinations of Jesus Christ, JFK, and John Lennon as examples, in "Lamb of God", Manson criticizes his accusers by illustrating their hunger for venerating dead people into 'martyrs' and 'superstars' and for turning tragedy into televised spectacle.

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