Manson has described Holy Wood as a merging of the industrial-rock fury of 1996's Antichrist Superstar with the ghostly melodic Mechanical Animals. This time, the heavy riffs are supported by tight arrangements, and the spacy pieces are kept accessible by slow, dirgelike grooves. It's a highly entertaining slice of rock 'n' fun, although it does require listeners to dig past a substantial amount of clutter.
Holy Wood, a prequel to Manson's first two stories, purports to tell a story about conforming and having one's rebellion co-opted. Like all concept albums, this 19-song effort asks a lot of the limited American attention span, and everyone but the devoted will think this gets kind of silly, especially when Manson sings in a ridiculous falsetto; implicates John Lennon, John F. Kennedy, and Christ as part of a conspiracy to die for entertainment's sake; and gives high-quality songs such pretentious names as "Coma Black a) eden eye b) the apple of discord."
Although Holy Wood is difficult to digest as a whole, it offers bite-size brilliance. "Lamb of God" depicts the frustration of an idealist sacrificed to consumer culture, while "The Nobodies" features the lethal lines Some children died the other day/we fed machines and then we prayed/puked up and down in morbid faith/you should have seen the ratings that day. Although he continues to attract more attention for his buttocks-baring, Bible-burning antics than for his ideas, Manson provides some genuine insights, calling both liberals and conservatives on their hypocrisies while trumpeting the power of the individual. He might not change the world with Holy Wood, but he does manage to redeem himself as a relevant figure for discerning heavy-music fans.