Review Summary: Simply put, one of the heaviest albums ever recorded. Brilliant for the fact that here stands an album, so dark and morbid, yet so energized and punky. Brilliant for the fact that it's lyrics expose humanity for what it really is.
If Richey Edwards, lyrical talent behind the Manic Street Preacher's first three albums, aimed to accomplish one thing in life, that would be to follow the Rock'n'Roll creed once spoken by Neil Young; "It's better to burn out, then to fade away". Those artists who he admired did so; poets, musicians, and writers, all of which were born to this earth, created a masterpiece, and vanished. In Richey Edward’s case, he vanished quite literally; becoming a missing person soon after the release of this record, and nowadays, presumed to be dead. Since then, the band has gone on to become quite popular in the United Kingdom, changing their sound almost completely after this release, which is probably why I'm really not so much of a Manic Street Preachers fan as I am a "The Holy Bible" fan.
With the pseudo-glam punk image washed away, and the messiness of their first two albums mopped up, the band follows up with, what I can honestly claim to be, one of the heaviest albums ever released. The genius behind this record though, is the fact that for one fleeting moment, this band was able to create music this heavy without the use of traditional tactics employed by metal, hardcore, and similar kinds of bands (throaty vocals, evil sounding guitars, lyrics that tell tales of virgins being raped and the legions of hell marching upon Earth, etc.) Instead, every song on here is fast, somewhat poppy, somewhat punky, guitar rock. However, it’s all in the delivery of the ideas, and that's really how you should look at this album.
Each theme is presented in such a perfect way. The lyrics, which are really the backbone of this entire album, are sung with some of the catchiest and passionate vocal hooks I have ever heard (any band that can make me sing the line "He's a boy. You want a girl, so tear off his ****. Tie his hair in bunches, *** him, call him Rita if you want" out loud in such a happy way deserves a golden medal for delicious vocal melodies). And really, James Bradfield deserves enormous credit for his vocal work on this album. It takes his powerful, jagged, and somewhat strained vocals, and *** load of talent, to really do these words justice. Yet despite how dark, morbid, and depressing these lyrics are, they're still played with plenty of energy and passion, something in which kids forgot how to do back in the 90's.
"The Holy Bible" is in essence, a collection of short stories, where you're transported into the minds of the sickest people that walk upon this earth; pimps, corrupt dictators, masochist, anorexics; people who are either completely corrupt or just disturbed (sometimes, even both). Reading the actual Holy Bible reveals texts about the sort of "evil" that walks this earth, and so does this album. However, in Richey Edward’s tormented mind, the lyrics are no sung with passion or forgiveness towards the human race; what Edwards preaches is misanthropy. I've never heard such vile contempt for humans as much as I do here. I always hate quoting songs in reviews, but I believe I wouldn't do my argument, or the album, justice if I didn't...
Richey Edwards, commenting on the state of the nation:
"Junkies winos whores, the nation's moral suicide" - "Of Walking Abortion"
Richey Edwards, and his belief in the overarching philosophy of the human race:
"The centre of humanity is cruelty" - "Archives of Pain"
Richey Edwards, describing his own self-inflected struggles with anorexia:
"See my third rib appear, week later all my flesh disappears. Stretching taut, cling-film on bone, I'm getting better." - "4st 7lbs."
Richey Edwards, spilling out his uttermost desires:
"I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit...and force it to look in the mirror." - "Mausoleum"
Well, you get the picture:
"So damn easy to cave in, man kills everything" - "Faster"
And again, if the lyrics seem to paint the picture that this album drags, ignore it; these songs range from blistering fast, to mellow and bittersweet; a little something for every fan of the rock spectrum. The self explanatory "Faster" rides along a landslide of soaring guitars, "This is Yesterday" shows us the gentler side of the Manic Street Preacher's sound, and "The Intense Humming of Evil", the only "weak" track on here, being the sole, gothic-industrial grind, in what is truly the darkest song on the album. All the sharp, interlocking guitar riffs, soaring, spastic solos, pummeling drumming, and lumbering bass work all coil together in such a tight sound, that it's hardly worth asking if this band has "chops".
While the music is fantastic, the melodies all memorable, and the delivery so well thought out, it's still really a lyrical album, as I mentioned before. On one side, we deal with the political corruption that decays the very moral fabric of our society. Pol-Pot, Mussolini, and Hitler are just a few bombs dropped on this album. However, where punk rock ideals would turn such a chance to stab out at the political world into a brainless and somewhat childish statement, the authors that penned these lyrics use their knowledge of political history, archiving and presenting the parallels between the tyrants of yesterday and today.
On the other side though, we're transported to the diary pages of Richey, where his obviously twisted mind is put on display. In interviews, he always claimed that despite all of his troubles (drug and alcohol addiction, self mutilation, physical disease), he would never be weak enough to commit suicide. Instead, he chooses to be a masochist, making himself suffer for whatever reason he thought justified it. It all seems like helpless self pity; however, you can't help but at least feel sorry for the guy. Just like "In Utero" and "Unplugged in New York" served as the final epitaph for which we will remember Kurt Cobain; "The Holy Bible" is a tribute to the life of Richey Edwards, and most likely, will be the one album that history remembers this band for. Sure, they may have topped charts with releases to follow this album; however, the "Manic Street Preachers" have never been so memorable as they are here.
From start, to somewhat brief (yet perfectly timed) finish, through all of the shades of evil and the solemn sound bites which introduce most of the tracks on the album, this album will implant itself within your consciousness. If not for its shocking message, then for its sound (a sound that seems to appeal to all spectrums of the rock music scale, from goths to metal heads, indie kids and classic rock purists). It's simply just a piece of disturbing art that you cannot help but admire. Like Kevin Carter's photograph of a vulture overlooking a starving African child, you are sickened yet glued to the image with disbelief. For a brief moment, you look at yourself, appreciate what you have and maybe the fact that in a world full of sinister men you are relatively "good", and carry on with what you were doing before, however, with that image faintly etched into your mind.