Sound — 10
The guitars are raw much like the overall sound, it is very stripped back which was achieved by the band recording in a small studio in Cardiff's red light district. After trying to be Guns n Roses and doing everything on an epic scale the band went to the other extreme, James Dean Bradfield booked them into a tiny studio in Cardiff and the album was recorded with a distinctly underproduced sound in order to give it, its raw and bleak sound. Richie James, the Manic's talismanic guitarist was battling a lot of personal demons at the time, and his dark lyrics reflected this, he gave them to James who (as seen on the dvd) thought 'F--king Hell, how am I supposed to write music for something like that?" The spoken word samples at the start of some tracks add a sense of menace and brooding that is found throughout the album. It is a bleak soundscape that provided the soundtrack to Richie James depression and eventual disappearance/suicide.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are dark and disturbed from the outset. Penned by Richie James as he battled against depression, alcoholism, and anorexia it was never going to be a cheerful album. Opener Yes deals with prostitution but in a wider sense it is merely a commentary on how everything in today's world has it's price. The second track Ifwhiteamerica, deals with racism in America as well as alluding to censorship. Of Walking Abortion and She is Suffering are great tracks, Archives of Pain is about the cruelty at the centre of the human race, emphasised by it's chorus; a list of serial killers from history. Revol is often cited by critics as the weak point on the album and lyrically at least it does not have the impact of many of the other songs on the album. 4st. 7lbs. is a masterpiece. It is Richie's account of his anorexia told through the eyes of a young girl, it is a dark lyric that gets across well both the deterioration of the girl in the song (or Richie in real life if you translate the meaning) and also seems to convey the obsessive compulsive, almost desperate need that anorexics feel to just get that bit slimmer. This is far and away one of the two best songs on the album. Mausoleum is possibly one of the bleakest songs ever written, it seems to deal with human cruelty again like Archives of Pain although in subtler terms. Track Nine (were you keeping count? ) is entitled Faster. It is the album's stand-out track. It deals with Richie's depression, the song is about self-hatred and it is along with Love Will Tear Us Apart one of the rawest songs you're likely to hear. James Dean Bradfield's voice is almost inhuman on the opening verse and it retains some of that quality throughout the song. "Self-disgust is self-obsession honey and I do as I please" is possibly the key lyric on the album. Richie's recognition and statement that self-disgust is just as much self-obsession as any other kind of vanity. Die in the Summertime and This is Yesterday follow faster, and as the two songs on the album primarily written by Nicky Wire rather than Richie they offer a slight respite from the onslaught. Die in the Summertime almost seems to represent life as a cycle, always in motion and never staying the same, This is Yesterday almost seems to be a belated apology from Wire for not being able to save Richie from his demons. This is highlighted by the second verse "Someone somewhere soon will take care of you, I repent, I'm sorry, everything is falling apart." The Intense Humming of Evil is the penultimate track and brims with barely concealed menace. It is in no uncertain terms about the horrors of the holocaust, just another example of human cruelty, recurring theme throughout the album. The final track P.C.P. is a high energy punk rock song, it careers along highlighting the hypocrisy of modern society at large and provides a fitting end to this album.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is, quite honestly, one of the best ever made. With it the Manics reached depths they'd never got to before and never would again. Richie James' lyrics highlight the worst humanity does to itself and to others. With his disappearance, and likely suicide (sorry conspiracy theorists) the Manics had to completely change their attitude. For their next album, which received widespread acclaim and had more chart success they became a softer band. The Holy Bible was in reality Richie's last will and testament if not, his extended suicide note. The most obvious comparisons are to Closer (Joy Division) and In Utero (Nirvana). The former matches The Holy Bible for despair, desperation and ultimately for it's honesty, both albums were written by men (Ian Curtis & Richie James) who were feeling exactly what they wrote, and both men would unfortunately take their own lives. In Utero matches The Holy Bible for it's sheer, blistering punk energy, both albums are raw documents, nothing is there that wasn't needed. With Kurt Cobain also succumbing to his demons, the biggest tragedy from a music lovers point of view is that we will never know how good they could have been. Though both In Utero and Closer can match aspects of The Holy Bible neither can match it's overall quality. The most impressive songs on the album are Faster, which is the album's key track, 4st 7lbs, Richie's account of anorexia, and personally Yes and P.C.P. just for their sheer pace and energy. If this were stolen or I lost it I would definitely buy it again, specifically the 10th anniversary edition, for the extra dvd, if not the American mix, which I didn't think that much of. Lists in music seem to be commonplace, with Q Mag having one at least every other month, however next time you see a list of the hundred greatest albums being publicised, just remember that they're all battling out for number two, The Holy Bible is the greatest album ever made.