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Antichrist Superstar

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Antichrist Superstar
Marilyn Manson - Antichrist Superstar.png
Studio album by Marilyn Manson
Released October 8, 1996 (1996-10-08)
Recorded February–August 1996
Studio Nothing Studios, New Orleans
Genre Industrial metal
Length 77:26
Marilyn Manson chronology
Smells Like Children
(1995)Smells Like Children1995
Antichrist Superstar
Remix & Repent
(1997)Remix & Repent1997
Singles from Antichrist Superstar
  1. "The Beautiful People"
    Released: September 22, 1996
  2. "Tourniquet"
    Released: September 8, 1997

Antichrist Superstar is the second studio album by American rock band Marilyn Manson, released on October 8, 1996 by Nothing and Interscope Records. It was recorded at Nothing Studios in New Orleans and produced by the band's eponymous vocalist along with Sean Beavan, former Skinny Puppy member Dave Ogilvie and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. It is the band's last studio album to feature founding guitarist Daisy Berkowitz, who quit the band acrimoniously halfway through its recording.

A rock opera and a concept album, it was the first installment in a trilogy which included succeeding releases Mechanical Animals (1998) and Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000). The band supported the album with the controversial "Dead to the World Tour", which was heavily criticized by elements of the Christian right. Nearly every North American venue the band visited during the tour was picketed by religious organizations, mainly as a result of unfounded, exaggerated claims of onstage drug abuse, bestiality, and satanic rituals including animal and human sacrifice.

Preceded by hit single "The Beautiful People", whose music video was nominated for three awards at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, the record was a critical and commercial success upon release. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and went on to sell almost 2 million copies in the United States alone. As of 2011, worldwide album sales have surpassed over 7 million copies. Lorraine Ali of Rolling Stone credited Antichrist Superstar with bringing to an end the dominance of grunge within popular music. It has since been heralded by numerous publications as the band's finest work, as well as one of the best hard rock recordings ever released.

Background and recording[edit]

Antichrist Superstar was recorded at Nothing Studios in New Orleans by an extensive group of musicians, including members of Marilyn Manson (namely the band's eponymous vocalist, Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Daisy Berkowitz, and Ginger Fish) and Nine Inch Nails (guitarists Robin Finck and Danny Lohner, and drummer Chris Vrenna). Manson, Trent Reznor and frequent Nine Inch Nails mixer Sean Beavan produced the record, alongside former Skinny Puppy member and longtime producer Dave Ogilvie.[1] The process of creating the album was reputedly a long and difficult one, highlighted by experiments involving sleep deprivation, near-constant drug use,[2] as well as self-harm, with Manson indicating that he would regularly insert sewing needles underneath his own fingernails.[3] During this time, antagonism between band members was high, with most of this directed toward founding member Daisy Berkowitz.[2]

Zim Zum during the Antichrist Superstar promotional campaign

Berkowitz (real name Scott Putesky) later claimed to have been "shut out" of recording sessions, and alleged that other band members destroyed much of his equipment—the four-track recorder, which had been used to produce many of the band's early demos, had been microwaved, and his drum machine had been discarded.[4] The latter was subsequently revealed to have been thrown from a second-story window.[3] He was also highly critical of Reznor, whom he alleged destroyed a Fender Jaguar which had been given to him by his father as a child, saying: "I was in the studio, and they were all in the control room, and I'm playing guitar. At the end, Trent says, 'Do it again, but do it more like this.' We went through this three times, and he says, 'Hold on. I'll come in there. Let me show you what I'm talking about.' So I take my guitar off, hand it to him—and he smashes it, just to fuck with me. Then he laughed and left the room."[4]

As a result of this tension, Twiggy Ramirez performed much of the guitar work on the record.[2] Berkowitz's replacement, Timothy Linton, joined the band after responding to an advert. Breaking the six-year tradition of naming members after female icons and serial killers, the band chose Zim Zum as Linton's stage name, which was derived from the Lurianic Kabbalah concept of Tzimtzum. Keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy was responsible for the inclusion of Kabbalah as one of the major inspirations for the album.[5] The song "1996" was the subject of legal action brought against the band by former bassist Gidget Gein over alleged similarities to a demo titled "She's Not My Girlfriend". The latter had first been recorded in 1990, four years before Twiggy Ramirez joined the group.[6]

Concept and artwork[edit]

"So-called morality has repressed the human spirit to such an extent that only hate remains. Rock 'n' roll can metamorphose its practitioners into the energetic embodiment of that hate, freeing them from the lie of a good society. Marilyn Manson, a lowly worm in this concept, enacts that process and becomes the Antichrist Superstar everyone secretly desires [to be]. He ain't pretty folks, but he's our just desserts."

Spin writer Ann Powers on the underlying concept behind Antichrist Superstar.[7]

Antichrist Superstar is a rock opera concept album, and its title is based on the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar.[8] It is primarily an industrial metal record,[9][10] and contains material which has been described as industrial rock and death metal,[11] as well as progressive metal, new wave and gothic rock.[12] The album's central storyline revolves around a supernatural being who seizes power in order to initiate an apocalyptic end event.[1] The record is a social critique which utilizes this premise as a metaphor for the fascist elements of the Christian right in North America.[13] The band's frontman has said that the underlying concept of Antichrist Superstar was both inspired by and a tribute to the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche,[1] specifically his philosophical concept of an Übermensch.[14]

The record is separated into three sections: "The Heirophant", "Inauguration of the Worm", and "Disintegrator Rising". In the final section, the central character transforms into the Antichrist Superstar: an epicurean demagogue whose motivations transcend any conceivable sense of morality.[14] Nihilistic and disgusted by humankind, it initiates a genocidal extermination of the human race, eventually destroying the entire planet.[15] The album is also cyclical, with both its opening and closing seconds consisting of the distorted phrase "When you are suffering, know that I have betrayed you".[16]

Antichrist Superstar features elaborate artwork.[16] Images in the booklet consist of various medical diagrams and Kabbalah symbols, a visual worm-to-angel metamorphosis,[16] as well as references to verses one through five of Revelation 12, and liner notes—a note found under the lyrics of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" claim the song was recorded live on February 14, 1997, despite the album being released in October 1996.[17][18] After the release of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) in 2000, Manson revealed that Antichrist Superstar formed a conceptual trilogy alongside both the aforementioned album and 1998's Mechanical Animals. He explained that the trilogy was an autobiographical story told in a reverse timeline (chronologically reverse from their release dates), with the storyline beginning on Holy Wood, followed by Mechanical Animals, and Antichrist Superstar acting as its conclusion.[1] Furthermore, although Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals made sense as individual concept albums, there was an overarching story running through each release.[19]

Release and promotion[edit]

"The Beautiful People" was released as the album's lead single, and both the song and its accompanying music video were critical and commercial successes. The song became a hit on alternative rock charts in the US, reaching number 26 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks,[20] and number 29 on Mainstream Rock.[21] It was also an international hit, peaking within the top fifty in both Australia and New Zealand,[22][23] as well as at number 18 on the UK Singles Chart.[24] Floria Sigismondi directed its music video.[25] It appeared at number fifty-four on MTV's list of the "100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made",[26] as well as at number one-hundred on MuchMusic's "100 Greatest Videos Ever",[27] while VH1 included the song at number eighty-six on their list of the "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs".[28] The video was also nominated in the categories of Best Rock Video, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards,[29] where the band also performed the song live. This performance would prove controversial,[30][31] and has been listed as one of the most iconic in the shows' history.[32] It would later be credited with helping to establish the band in mainstream culture.[33] By the end of 1997, Manson appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, who awarded the band their "Best New Artist" accolade.[8]

The album was promoted by the year-long "Dead to the World Tour", which began in September 1996. It was their longest and widest-ranging tour yet, with the band performing 175 shows throughout Europe, Japan, Oceania, and North and South America.[34] "Antichrist Superstar" was released as a promotional single in late 1996,[1] with music videos for both that song and "Cryptorchid" being created by E. Elias Merhige. The video for "Cryptorchid" heavily incorporated imagery from Merhige's experimental 1991 silent film Begotten, while the one for "Antichrist Superstar" would remain unreleased until 2010, when it was leaked onto YouTube.[35][25] The latter had been screened at the 1997 San Francisco International Film Festival, where it won a Golden Gate Certificate of Merit Award.[36] However, its release was blocked by Interscope Records, whom Manson described as being "appalled by it."[37] It combined performance footage and fascist iconography, namely the Nuremberg rallies, along with US military footage and images of a Ku Klux Klan lynching.[25]

Numerous outtakes and previously unreleased recordings were also issued on movie soundtracks throughout 1997. "Apple of Sodom" appeared on the Reznor-produced soundtrack to David Lynch's Lost Highway in February.[38] A music video for the song was created in 1998, although this would remain unreleased until its director, Joseph Cultice, uploaded it to his website in 2009.[39][40] Also in February 1997, "The Suck for Your Solution" appeared on the soundtrack to the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts.[41] "Long Hard Road Out of Hell", featuring backing vocals from Sneaker Pimps vocalist Kelli Ali,[42][43] was released on the soundtrack to Spawn in August.[44] The following month, "Tourniquet" was issued as the album's second and final commercially released single.[24] Its music video was also directed by Sigismondi.[45] W.I.Z. directed the final music video created for Antichrist Superstar, "Man That You Fear".[25] Its concept was adapted from the plot of Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story The Lottery, and the video contains aesthetic and symbolic references to the 1989 Alejandro Jodorowsky film Santa Sangre.[35]

The band's second EP, Remix & Repent, was released on November 25. It contained remixed versions of Antichrist Superstar's two singles—a Danny Saber version of "The Beautiful People" titled "The Horrible People", and the band's own Prosthetic Dance Remix of "Tourniquet", as well as live versions of "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World" and "Antichrist Superstar" and an acoustic version of "Man That You Fear".[46] A VHS concert film entitled Dead to the World was released in February 1998.[47] It debuted at number one on Billboard's Top Music Videos, eventually spending a year on the chart.[48] Antichrist Superstar was reissued on cassette exclusively in Europe as part of Record Store Day 2016.[49] Manson indicated that an expanded edition of the album would be released on October 20, 2016, to celebrate its twentieth anniversary,[50] although this failed to materialize.[51]


The release of Antichrist Superstar coincided with the band's commercial breakthrough,[6] and much of the attention received by the band from mainstream media was not positive.[1] In December 1996, Senator Joseph Lieberman, along with former Secretary of Education William Bennett and Secretary of Pennsylvania State C. DeLores Tucker, held a press conference wherein they questioned MCA – the owner of Interscope – president Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s ability to head the label competently whilst profiting from "profanity-laced" albums by artists such as Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Marilyn Manson.[52] Tucker had previously called the band's 1995 EP Smells Like Children the "dirtiest, nastiest porno record directed at children that has ever hit the market."[53]

The group's live performances were also heavily criticized, and nearly every North American venue the band visited during their "Dead to the World Tour" was picketed by religious organizations.[54] Opponents of the group based their protests on exaggerated, unfounded claims of onstage drug abuse, bestiality, satanic rituals – namely animal and human sacrifice – and claims that the band frequently engaged in homosexual intercourse with one another, and that underage concert attendees were violently raped by other audience members.[54][55] An affidavit written by an anonymous complainant in a January 1997 lawsuit against the state of Utah claimed that "about 30 percent of the Manson concert crowd participate in open, overt sexual activity at an average Manson concert."[54][56] In this context, Utah passed legislation which allowed state-operated venues to ban the group from performing, forcing the cancelation of their January 11 performance at Utah State Fairpark. This legislation would be repealed six months later after a group of nine fans successfully sued the state.[57] Similarly, an April 10 concert at the state-owned Carolina Coliseum in Columbia was canceled after the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to ban Marilyn Manson from ever performing on state-owned property. This resulted in the state being forced to pay the band's promoters $40,000 for loss of income.[58]

During this time, schools in Florida threatened to expel students for attending Marilyn Manson concerts,[59] and over 5,500 residents contacted the mayor of Jacksonville, demanding that he cancel their April 17 concert at the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.[56] The city council of Richmond, Virginia ordered the cancelation of their May 10 concert at Richmond Coliseum,[58] although the ACLU would later sue the city on the band's behalf.[60] A July 22 concert at La Luna in Portland, Oregon was canceled when the venue was unable to obtain insurance for the event.[61] Their concert at Calgary's Max Bell Arena three days later was canceled by the owner of the venue, Larry Ryckman, who cited the band's reputation as justification for doing so. He would later be successfully sued by the band's promoters for $66,000 in damages.[62] The New Jersey date of Ozzfest at Giants Stadium was canceled by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, who cited Marilyn Manson's scheduled appearance as its reason.[63] The event was only held after Ozzy Osbourne successfully sued the state, which compelled authorities to allow the concert.[60]

In November 1997, the band found itself the target of congressional hearings, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representative Sam Brownback, to determine the effects, if any, of violent lyrics on young listeners.[64] This hearing was held by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and was titled "Music Violence: How Does It Affect Our Children".[65] At this subcommittee, Lieberman once again criticized the band's music, calling it "vile, hateful, nihilistic and damaging", and repeated his request that Seagram – then-owner of MCA – "start [...] disassociating itself from Marilyn Manson." Lieberman would go on to refer to the band as "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company."[59] The subcommittee also heard from Raymond Kuntz, of Burlington, North Dakota, who blamed his son Richard's suicide on Antichrist Superstar–specifically the song "The Reflecting God".[66]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[12]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[67]
CMJ Positive[68]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[69]
Entertainment Weekly B[70]
The Great Rock Discography 8/10[71]
Spin 8/10[7]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[72]
Ultimate Guitar 9.5/10[73]

The album was released to widespread acclaim from music critics, who praised its concept, production, as well as the vocals of frontman Marilyn Manson. M. Tye Comer, in reviewing for CMJ New Music Monthly, described the record as a "magnificent [...] aural skull-fuck", writing that the band "[took] in all the angst, hellfire and damnation one band [could] ingest, then [released] it in a fierce scatological display of apocalyptic sound and fury." He went on to commend Manson's vocals, which he said could "communicate pain, passion, fear, hate and euphoria in one mighty, ear-piercing roar."[68] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune complimented the album's production,[67] as did Jim Farber of Entertainment Weekly, who also praised its "ambitious" concept.[70]

Ann Powers of Spin also commended the album's concept, as well as the band's songwriting, saying: "Until now, Manson's ideas carried more weight than his music, but Antichrist Superstar's sound matches the garish grandiosity of his arguments. Its 16 songs rock like '70s Sabbath-style metal, but harder; the arrangements echo Queen in operatic scope but are more intense; the mood owes its vampiric chill to Bauhaus, but [Marilyn Manson] actually bites the vein."[7] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the album would be considered the band's definitive statement, but was critical of Reznor's production, saying: "Though the sonic details make [the album] an intriguing listen, it's not as extreme as it could have been—in particular, the guitars are surprisingly anemic, sounding like buzzing vacuums instead of unwieldy chainsaws."[12]

Lorraine Ali of Rolling Stone credited both the album and the band's associated rise within mainstream culture as "[marking] the end of the reign of punk realism in rock & roll", calling the record "a volatile reaction to five years of earnest, post-Nirvana rock." She went on to hypothesize that: "Marilyn Manson offer total escapism as a true alternative, complete with carefully crafted gloom wear (no baggy shorts allowed), a frontman who blatantly begs to be in the spotlight and lyric imagery rivaling that of the best slasher movies."[11] Similarly, a 2016 article from The A.V. Club called the record influential, suggesting that its success was indicative of a shift in the culture of rock music which resulted in other rock bands "trading grunge's bruised-heart jadedness for seething, self-flagellating nihilism."[74]


According to Acclaimed Music, Antichrist Superstar is the 20th most-renowned album of 1996, and the 222nd most-renowned record of the 1990s.[75] The record has often been referred to as one of the best rock albums of all time, and has been listed in several books, including 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,[76] 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die[77] and Albums: 50 Years of Great Recordings.[78] In 2008, Consequence of Sound identified Antichrist Superstar as a modern classic in their "Dusting 'Em Off" feature, due to its counter-cultural and social impact during the late '90s.[16] Rolling Stone included it among their "Essential Recordings of the '90s" in 1999,[79] and placed it at number 84 on their "100 Best Albums of the '90s" list, which was compiled in 2011.[80] Revolver included Antichrist Superstar at number 49 on their "69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time".[81]

The album has been featured in multiple lists compiled by several British rock magazines. Kerrang! dubbed it the 3rd best album of 1996,[82] and placed it at number 14 on their list of "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die",[83] as well as at number 88 on its "100 Greatest Rock Albums".[84] In 2001, it featured on Q's list of the "50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time",[85] while NME placed it at number 92 on their 2009-compiled list of the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums".[86] It also appeared at number 92 on Classic Rock's list of the "100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever",[87] and, in 2006, the magazine – as well as its sister publication, Metal Hammer – included it on their respective lists of "The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s".[88] Record Collector included Antichrist Superstar in their extensive list "10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century", in the metal category.[89]

Multiple international publications included it in their respective lists of the best albums of 1996, including the French edition of British magazine Rock Sound, who placed it at number 13,[90] Dutch magazine Muziekkrant OOR ranked it at number 109 on their "Best Albums of 1996",[91] while Alternative Nation included the album at number 8 on their list of the "Top Rock Albums of 1996".[92] Rock Sound also featured the record at number 11 on their "Top 150 Albums of Our Lifetime (1992–2006)".[93] German rock magazine Visions ranked the album at number 37 on their list of "The Most Important Records of the Nineties".[94] Furthermore, French magazine Rock & Folk listed Antichrist Superstar as being one of "The Best Albums from 1963 to 1999",[95] while retailer Fnac included it on their list of "The 1000 Best Albums of All Time".[96]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Acclaimed Music United States Greatest Records of All Time[75] 1996 1281
Alternative Nation Top Rock Albums of 1996[92] 2016 8
Classic Rock United Kingdom 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever[87] 2001 92
The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s[88] 2006
Fnac France The 1000 Best Albums of All Time[96] 2011 606
Kerrang! United Kingdom Albums of the Year[82] 1996 3
100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[83] 1998 14
The 100 Greatest Rock Albums[84] 2006 88
Metal Hammer The 200 Greatest Albums of the '90s[88] 2006
Muziekkrant OOR Netherlands Albums of the Year[91] 1996 109
NME United Kingdom 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums[86] 2009 92
Q 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time[85] 2001
Record Collector 10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century[89] 2000
Revolver United States The 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time[81] 2002 49
Rock & Folk France The Best Albums from 1963 to 1999[95] 2000
Rock Sound Albums of the Year[90] 1996 13
Top 150 Albums of Our Lifetime (1992–2006)[93] 2006 11
Rolling Stone United States The Essential Recordings of the '90s[79] 1999
100 Best Albums of the '90s[80] 2011 84
Visions Germany The Most Important Albums of the '90s[94] 2000 37

Commercial performance[edit]

Antichrist Superstar was an immediate commercial success in North America. It sold 132,000 copies in the United States on its first week to debut at number three on the Billboard 200.[97] The album was certified platinum by the RIAA on December 11, 1996,[98] and sold over 1.2 million copies within a year of its release.[99] As of November 2010, the record sold almost 2 million copies in the US alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[100] It peaked at number two on the national RPM albums chart in Canada,[101] where it has been certified double platinum by Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) for shipments in excess of 200,000 units.[102] In Mexico, the record was certified gold by AMPROFON, indicating shipments of over 100,000 copies.[103]

The album's international commercial success was initially modest, however, peaking at number thirteen on the Finnish Albums Chart,[104] but failing to make an impact on the album charts in both France and Germany—peaking at numbers 116 and 100, respectively.[105][106] Despite only peaking at number 73 on the UK Albums Chart and spending a sole week on the chart, Antichrist Superstar was certified gold by the BPI in July 2013 for sales of over 100,000 copies.[107] Similarly, the record spent six non-consecutive weeks on the ARIA Charts, peaking at number 41,[108] and would go on to be certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association.[109] Conversely, it became the band's commercial breakthrough in New Zealand, peaking within the top five and spending a total of 45 weeks on the New Zealand Albums Chart,[110] where it was eventually certified platinum.[111] Antichrist Superstar has sold in excess of 7 million copies worldwide.[13][49][112]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Marilyn Manson, except "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" written by Manson and Twiggy Ramirez.

Cycle I: The Heirophant
No. Title Music Length
1. "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" 4:17
2. "The Beautiful People" Ramirez 3:38
3. "Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World"
  • Manson
  • Ramirez
4. "Tourniquet"
  • Berkowitz
  • Ramirez
Cycle II: Inauguration of the Worm
No. Title Music Length
5. "Little Horn"
6. "Cryptorchid" Gacy 2:44
7. "Deformography"
  • Ramirez
  • Reznor
8. "Wormboy"
  • Berkowitz
  • Ramirez
9. "Mister Superstar" Ramirez 5:04
10. "Angel with the Scabbed Wings"
  • Manson
  • Ramirez
  • Gacy
11. "Kinderfeld"
  • Ramirez
  • Gacy
Cycle III: Disintegrator Rising
No. Title Music Length
12. "Antichrist Superstar"
  • Ramirez
  • Gacy
13. "1996" Ramirez 4:01
14. "Minute of Decay" Manson 4:44
15. "The Reflecting God"
  • Ramirez
  • Reznor
16. "Man That You Fear"
  • Ramirez
  • Manson
  • Gacy
  • Berkowitz
99. "Empty Sounds of Hate" (hidden track)
  • Gacy
  • Ramirez


  • Tracks 17–98 consist of a few seconds of silence each.
  • While consisting of three cycles, the album was released as a single disc, similar to the four cycles of 2000's Holy Wood.
  • There are different names for the hidden track, "Empty Sounds of Hate". The Marilyn Manson Collection on iTunes titles it "Ghost Track". Rhapsody titles the track as "Untitled".


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Antichrist Superstar.[113]

Marilyn Manson

Additional musicians

Technical personnel



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[123] Gold 30,000^
Australia (ARIA)[109] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[102] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[103] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[111] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[107] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[98] Platinum 1,900,000[100]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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