The Holy Bible was the third studio album by the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers. It was released on August 30 1994 by Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony Records, unlike their two previous albums which had been released on the Columbia Records imprint. It peaked at number 6 on the UK Albums Chart. In August 2005 it topped Newsnight Review's 'Quintessential Newsnight Viewer' top 5 favourite albums poll, pushing Radiohead's OK Computer (a much bigger seller) into second place. It is listed on the list of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2001 Q magazine named it as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time.
The first single from the album, "Faster", was released on June 6 and peaked at #16 on the British singles chart. The single marked a new chapter for the band as the material was both lyrically and sonically different than their previous release, the Life Becoming A Landslide EP.
The song lyrics consisted of many diary/journal entries made by Edwards, and were, in essence, his final writings before his mysterious disappearance on February 1, 1995. In Q magazine's January 2006 100 Greatest Albums Ever! list, where The Holy Bible came in at #69, it was said of the album: 'Graphic, violent torrent of self-lacerating punk fury which infamously details the horrors in Richey Edwards' head before his 1995 disappearance.'
Edwards' lyrics took on a poetic nature (Sylvia Plath was a big influence), and the melodies are highly unusual, perhaps due to the fact that James Dean Bradfield was adapting the poems that Edwards wrote and wrapping them around the songs. Single words are stretched to fill a whole line and some entire sentences are sung very quickly, rendering them barely intelligible even when read from the complete lyric booklet. Many of the songs contain obscure religious, political and literary references. The album embraced various philosophical mindsets including nihilism ("I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing") and misanthropy ("All I preach is extinction"). Edwards also wrote about weighty themes, such as the Holocaust, in an ambiguous style that borders on stream of consciousness.
All of the songs do have a meaning, but many lines appear to be unconnected slogans, proverbs and phrases as well as many highly poetic descriptions. An example of this is in the song "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart" (itself a famous quote by Lenny Bruce), the lines "Vital stats, how white was their skin, unimportant just another inner city drive-by thing" are followed by "Morning, fine, serve your first coffee of the day, real privilege it will take your problems all away". On the surface these lines would appear to be unconnected, but in the wider context of the song it is an attack on the indifference of America's predominantly white middle classes to the poor living in urban slums. There are many more instances of this abstract and indirect approach to song-writing in many of the album's songs, making the lyrics a jigsaw puzzle for the reader/listener to decipher.
The album is notable for its limited use of instruments compared to the radio-friendly sound of their previous album. The only instruments used on the album are the electric guitar, bass, drums and percussion. Other instruments such as the piano or strings are rarely present on the album - there are small synth parts that can be heard at the beginning of "She Is Suffering" and "Die in the Summertime". However, upon listening, the reasons for this soon become apparent: each song is implicitly linked and related to all the other songs on the album; as such, the album sounds like a complete set of songs that support and complement one another.
"Comfort Comes", a B-side from the previous album Gold Against the Soul, is generally regarded to be the first Manics track to display the musical style of The Holy Bible though its recording quality is much cleaner and less harsh than that of The Holy Bible. In interviews Nicky Wire has also said of the track "Judge Yr'Self", released in 2003 on the B-sides collection Lipstick Traces, to be "very Holy Bible. It's the way Richey wanted us to go, very aggressive and automated, not that Richey had a clue musically".
The Holy Bible is regarded by most critics and fans to be the band's most uncompromising album, and indeed as one of the most introspective, dark and impenetrable albums in rock history. It was compared to Nirvana's 1993 album In Utero in almost every review at the time, which is no coincidence as Edwards had been listening to that album as well as Cranes at the time. The others had been listening to Cranes, Wire, Magazine, Alice in Chains, The Smiths, Joy Division and David Bowie's Low and Heroes, both considered to be among his most uncommercial work. Although it is thought by some to be the Manics' best album, it sold extremely poorly in comparison to Everything Must Go.
The band have said since that the reason for this was because they felt they had lost a lot of focus during the Gold Against the Soul era and believed that having a unified, militant image would bring them together again. The band's military fatigues also represented a change of attitude and newfound intensity that left its mark on the recording, with Bradfield regularly working in the studio for thirteen hours a day. This showed on "Faster" which required approximately thirty-six rewrites over a period of three weeks to end up with the final version which, in Bradfield's words, was "strychnine, like parallel lines with the lyrics". As well as the recording itself, the period of creativity that ultimately resulted in The Holy Bible was equally intense. Edwards was constantly writing during this period as well as reading five books a week, which partly accounts for the numerous obscure references found on the album. The videos for the album's three singles - "Faster", "Revol" and "She Is Suffering" (there was no video made for "P.C.P." which was a double A-side with "Faster") - also featured the band wearing army and navy uniforms.
The album cover is a painting called Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face) by artist Jenny Saville. Although the band were originally quoted £30,000 to use the painting by the Saatchi gallery, Saville gave her permission for use of her work for free after a 30-minute telephone call with Edwards in which he described, in detail, each song on the album. Underneath the painting is the tracklisting and above it is the band name and album title, all in the same typeface as Simple Minds' Empires and Dance album. The back cover features a photo of the band in military uniforms and a quote taken from Octave Mirbeau's book The Torture Garden. Of the album title, Edwards said "In every hotel in the world, the only constant is the Holy Bible".
The second CD was the version of The Holy Bible that had been released in Canada (and was planned to be released in the US, which ultimately didn't happen). It had been re-mixed by Tom Lord Alge, who would go on to mix recordings by Marilyn Manson amongst others and is significantly different from the UK version on Disc 1. Nicky said of the remix that "it does beef it up quite a bit actually, gives it a bit of American savvy". Sure enough, the US mix sounds more like a rock album than the less commercial post-punk sound of the British mix. James also commented on the enclosed bonus DVD interview that the overall sound of the US mix is reminiscent of how the tracks sound live. However, not all of the tracks were considered superior by the band - Nicky stated in the DVD interview that although he considered around eight of the US tracks better than their UK counterparts, "Faster" was a better song in the original mix. James mirrored this opinion, expanding the list to not only "Faster", but "Archives of Pain" and "The Intense Humming of Evil", suggesting that in the original mix they were "closer to their roots".
The DVD features a 30-minute interview with the band, the Manics playing "Faster" on Top of the Pops as well as an acoustic performance for MTV's Most Wanted. It also includes live performances from the Glastonbury and Reading festivals, 3 tracks from TV show Butt Naked, the American video for "Faster", a new film for "Yes" and the "Judge Yr'Self" video previously only available as a video stream from the band's official website. The videos for the singles can be obtained by clicking "enter" when the "R" appears on the screen.
CD 2: US mix of album/Demos & Radio Sessions