Charles Manson – Horsefly
Side A: Revolution
Side B: Air Trees Water Animals
I’ve been sitting and pondering this release for several months now, letting it sit undisturbed in the room adjacent to this one in which I spend most of my time, facing outwards, the portrait of Manson’s one visible eye staring out at me from it’s spot in front of the other vinyl promos awaiting their turn for a write-up, beckoning, taunting as the familiar other half, a portion of the face on the Shroud of Turin, peers with one ghastly dead eye from the other side. Many times, after a momentary connection with the front cover, I have passed it over because, frankly, I just wasn’t ready to write on it yet. This is the type of thing that isn’t a simple artistic expression that someone has put out on record — there is so much more depth, meaning and importance to something like this than some journalists would have the chance to experience in their career, though not all of which are of Manson’s choosing. Symbology, music, artwork and text aside — all the things that normally make up a concrete release for a project — this is at it’s most basic, core level one man’s ability to reach out and show society that the walls that contain his physical body cannot contain his spirit, his writing, or even his music. That man’s modern inhuman, flawed systems can only hold that vessel that carries him, but not that which IS him. That man can implement their forced view of morality and put in chains the body which disrupts their fickle societal reality, but what really makes someone “real” transcends those barriers so long as there are few outside those walls who still believe in what freedom actually means.
I could go into great length and detail about my feelings on the subject of Manson’s incarceration, the hypocrisy involved, the lies and the ignorance/apathy that plagues modern society into simply swallowing what they’re fed instead of looking at facts and taking the time to research much of anything. I could go into great detail on what kind of man Manson really is to myself and others. However, this record comes with a lengthy article as written by Nikolas Schreck whom — and I feel this should go without saying — has had his own battles with media portrayal and backlash from society, both from his spiritual beliefs which have steadily evolved over the years and his musical endeavors (see: Radio Werewolf). In the end, Schreck puts Manson and his life-long ordeal into perspective in a more profound and educated way than I could ever hope to, which shouldn’t come as any surprise given his known sympathies towards Manson as seen in his book “The Manson File”. Regardless, the problems that he speaks of transcend the individual and reach far past Manson himself to other controversial subjects and individuals like Boyd Rice or Adam Parfrey and the rest of “Apocalypse Culture”, though the stigma against both is far less intense. However, this is neither the time nor the place for that discussion.
Moving on, the one thing that Schreck did not hammer home about Manson with his article on the subject that I personally believe is one of the most important characteristics about him is that he is the ultimate symbol of a spiritual man’s unending quest to transcend that which makes him human and live closer to the deity that he is drawn to. In Manson’s case, his belief in and his love for the Gnostic deity Abraxas has led him to constantly have to fight the duality of his own existence in prison — the hatred and the love, the criminal underworld in which he lives and the society which contains and restrains him — to consider and represent in himself the complete reality of right AND wrong / light AND dark that Abraxas himself wholly represents. Equally, Manson represents the human weakness to need a leader or need followers, so much so that murders that were carried out, in some minds, in his name — not on his command — have landed him the legend that he has become, when in reality he merely wishes for individuals to be responsible for their own actions and beliefs — to leave him as a neither a leader nor a follower, but simply a man with a voice. As can be seen on both a literal political and a metaphorical personal level for Manson, Lynette Fromme perhaps put it best when she was quoted in the documentary “Charles Manson Superstar” as writing: “As for Manson’s revolutionary right-wing cause, I believe that if Manson had wings, he’d have at least two of them and a substantial soul-self in the center.”
Horsefly Back Image
Now that we’re through that, it’s time to focus on the most important part of Manson’s being and ultimately the most important idea that he has to offer humanity from the cage that it has left him in, and perhaps the second biggest influence on this record — the ecological idea of ATWA. It might seem strange to some whom are reading this review and are already disillusioned by my personal sympathies for and ramblings on Manson, but the man himself is an environmentalist, someone who identifies with the ways of wildlife more than he does with the ways of his own species — and for good reason. ATWA simply stands for Air, Trees, Water, and Animals, and has had an “R” for Revolution added to it to create “ATWAR”, a movement and entity completely separate from “ATWA” but based off it’s ideas. This ecological idea is simple and uncompromising on several levels, both preaching the return to the natural world because of our parasitic habit of obliviously destroying everything that we depend on and the realization that one man’s gain in modern society is another man’s labor, that instead of loving our brother, we’re enslaving him. These are obvious thought patterns that have a very modern reality that should need little explaining to the environmentally conscious mind — though it seems the majority of us in the Western world continue to live under the illusion that what we’re afforded here doesn’t come with consequences to someone else (or for ourselves further down the line). Symbology aside, the back cover of the 7″ pictures, in a realistic manner, Manson as a champion for that natural cause, surrounded by the forest and wildlife that he so identifies with, from wolf and raven to the subtle presence of scorpions and a trio of horseflies. There is also a supernatural quality to the art as well, with eyes completely white and the forehead swastika that he has become known for becoming ignited, reaching up and faintly touching the center of a Germanic black sun halo which symbolizes his (in his own way) alignment with the beliefs of pre-christian and pre-industrial thought. Even in those few years in the late 60′s when he had his freedom, he was avoiding the post-modern coming-of-age realities of feminist (and other) philosophies and reverting himself and his followers to look towards the natural world. The wolves being white and black symbolize, once again, the duality of Abraxas through color (black/white and dark/light) and symmetry (left/right). The horseflies at his head remind of old superstitions that state that a horsefly signals the coming of a visitor. Given Manson’s (hinted at) belief that he can astrally project his thoughts out into the world from his confines, it would seem that these symbolize the vehicle for those projected thoughts. The fact that these objects have obvious significance to his ties to occult subjects should go without saying.
This review has become somewhat of a biography, but it’s imperative that if you’re reading this that you try to open your mind beyond whatever preconceived notions that you have about the man and understand who Manson is from a perception that lies beyond the usual media hysteria. This record represents a man towards the end of his life who is simply just doing his thing as he has always done. It’s a genuine piece of music from a soul who has carried a banner of authenticity even through his flirtation with Hollywood and the “big time”. This isn’t meant to simply be a historical artifact or an attempt to document someone who may soon no longer be part of our reality. It’s certainly not a fickle attempt to make a dime off a famous figure. The very nature of the movement behind this release, A.T.W.A.R., firmly aligns the people behind this release as being behind Manson himself, and when this is looked at in relation to the other recent releases of similar themes, it should show that this release envelopes and captures who Manson is on a level seen in only glimpses before.
The music was released on November 11th, 2011, which was Manson’s 77th birthday — a mathematical anomaly that one has to admit is stranger than fiction. The music itself is what one would expect from an older Manson whom hurriedly recorded his soul on two tracks via a smuggled recorder. Grimy Southern old-time prison folk that heralds back to the influences of his youth but in that unique Manson sound that concentrates more on a linear path of thought that is streaming out of him rather than a concrete, constructed song — a style that symbolizes the chaos that Manson has faced in his life, both internally and externally, since his birth. The lyrics and vocal style, especially on side A are somehow incredibly similar to the likes of both Captain Beefheart and David Tibet (Current 93) in their psych overtones and, specifically Tibet’s spiritual ramblings, yet are also completely different, simply meeting somewhere in a combination of those two gentlemen with a little bit of bluesy soul. The guitar can act as both an accent to his current mood in the track or as a simple backdrop to his spoken word, but it is always changing and not necessarily evolving — it’s always becoming something new, not simply progressing from the previous line. The other side of the insert that contains Schreck’s article on Manson contains a beautiful portrayal of how I prefer to see him — as one with the wilderness, raven on wrist. This side of the insert also contains the lyrics for both tracks that, like the songs themselves, contain no structure and are only transcriptions by the label — a truth that is made apparent through segments that are marked “[inaudible]” and can unfortunately only be heard as such on the recording.
With ATWA, it appears that his primary reasoning is that words don’t mean anything. Only action matters in this life, and it has to be action that doesn’t utilize a hypocritical engine (“You can’t protest cutting down trees by writing papers”). In the end though, even if he could read them, Manson couldn’t care less about my thoughts on who he is or his music. He isn’t concerned with having followers, but only his own survival — he doesn’t want the attention, but rather to return to where he was before his latest incarceration — to the desert. So in the end, that soul that reached out and will be touching 1,000 individuals through this release, in reality, it’s just one man doing his thing and nothing more. Music is his religion, and he’s going to express that religion by any means necessary. But to the listener, he offers only words. Whether we choose to do anything with them is on us, but if you do, be prepared to take responsibility for your actions, and to do it alone. This realization doesn’t change the fact, though, that in his own way, intentionally or not, Manson is slowly influencing a growing number of people on an ecological front, and perhaps one day, will fully overturn the perspective that he has achieved falsely in life through disinformation that he is a murderous mastermind and turn that legend towards the status of folk hero. It would seem that this is quickly becoming the state of things as recent years have seen an influx of activity from Manson’s musical offerings via this release and a few offerings from Magic Bullet Records. The basic point in the end though is that if you want to get into Manson’s head — REALLY get into his head — this is the release to do so with.