Manic Street Preachers - Holy Bible

Manic Street Preachers

The Manics' bleak, vicious, and visceral third album might have been a masterpiece of vision, but its gaze was locked firmly into the abyss.
Columbia: 30 August 1994

Last updated: 20 November 2008

For many, the polished stadium-metal of 1993's Gold Against The Soul demonstrated that the Manics had been subsumed into the corporate slurry of the music industry, that they'd sold their conviction down the river to make a radio-friendly album and a fast buck.

Holy Bible cover

Tracklisting

  • Yes
  • Ifwhiteamerica...
  • Of Walking Abortion
  • She Is Suffering
  • Archives Of Pain
  • Revol
  • 4st 7lb
  • Mausoleum
  • Faster
  • This Is Yesterday
  • Die In The Summertime
  • Intense Humming Of Evil
  • PCP

Indeed, it appeared the band themselves acknowledged that some of the fire had been lost. So when it came to the recording of their third album, the Manics chose to strip away the gloss and embrace a new darkness.

Recorded in Soundspace, a cheap, claustrophobic studio in Cardiff's red-light district, The Holy Bible is a dark and harrowing glimpse into depravity, human weakness, and man's inhumanity to man.

With the lion's share of the lyrics culled from an increasingly unstable Richey Edwards' notebooks - jotters bulging with chilling yet eloquent tracts about prostitution, self-mutilation, and the Holocaust - and James and Sean's music gaining a cold, austere edge that recalled Joy Division far more than it did Guns N' Roses, this was clearly the Manics at their grim and righteous best. NME called it "a vile record", which it was. But it was also the band's first - possibly only - cast-iron masterpiece.

It's all there on the first single, Faster - the most terrifying Top 20 single of all time. A breathless death-rattle, opening with a quote from Michael Radford's cinematic version of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, and boasting a chorus that proclaimed superiority to "Mensa, Mailer and Miller/I spat out Plath and Pinter", it saw the Manics take a hatchet to some of their literary idols with a powerful, righteous arrogance.

Meanwhile, Archives Of Pain offered chilling reaction to society's glorification of serial killers, Mausoleum and The Intense Humming Of Evil were born out of the band's pilgrimage to the concentration camps at Dachau and Belsen, and the harrowing 4st 7lbs saw Richey put the psychology of his eating disorder into words: "I want to walk in the snow/And not leave a footprint/And not spoil its purity".

The troubled guitarist would disappear six months after the album's release, an apparent suicide. Perhaps it is fitting that The Holy Bible stands, artistically, as his last will and testament.

Words: Louis Pattison


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