Fields of the Nephilim
posted on 4/2006 By:
A fine example of goth-rock done right, by a man who’s been a part of the genre for over 20 years...
South London’s Carl McCoy has taken fans of his goth-rock outfit, Fields of the Nephilim, on an interesting journey over the past 20 years. McCoy grew up in an environment steeped in religion, and found his days as a youth filled with stories whose origins were buried deep below the surface of Old Testament writings - teachings from works such as The Book of Enoch (Enoch being the great-grandfather of supposed flood ass-kicker, Noah), which focuses much of its attention on the doings of fallen angels known as Watchers, who apparently fell to Earth, begat sons and daughters from mortal women, and in turn taught their offspring – The Nephilim – some of the shadier aspects of angelic life (including sorcery and incantations). It was writings such as these, coupled with McCoy’s growing fascination with films depicting The American West that lead his musical endeavors down a strange, dark, goth-rock meets spaghetti western path.
McCoy’s early works, such as the seminal 80s release, Nephilim, employed many of the goth elements shared by his peers at the time – Mission U.K., Clan of Xymox, etc. – but also held an odd ‘western jangle’ to the guitar patterns that easily set Fields of the Nephilim apart from the flock. In the mid 90s, the band essentially became a solo project for McCoy, so he decided to take the music in a more modern direction for 1996’s, Zoon, an album which dropped much of the western feel and leaned heavier on industrial/metal elements. Mourning Sun, McCoy’s first album in 10 years, essentially continues where Zoon left off. The album is chocked full of heavy bass lines and light guitar strumming that brings to mind early goth-rock titans, Bauhaus, Joy Division, or The Cure, but throws in generous doses of atmospheric keyboards, heavier riff patterns, looped industrial noises, and angelic choral vocals to give the album a new twist. Also spotlighted on Mourning Sun is McCoy’s signature deep, sometimes rasped vocals. His voice is strong, confident, and never strays too far into the ‘Ogilvie-home-permed, billowy shirt wearing, romantic vampire’ styled vocals many of the bands in this genre unfortunately employ.
Mourning Sun is an album best experienced in one sitting, as opposed to the ‘one track here, one track there’ style of listening. While each song’s foundation is different, they all have a similar ethereal link that not only occasionally bleeds from one songs’ exit to another songs’ intro, but also helps tie the whole work together. Track one, “Shroud”, sets the album up nicely, but is really little more than an extended intro to the excellent, “Straight Into The Light”, a song that dips into the metal patterns, industrial loops, and heavy bass lines mentioned earlier. Song three, “New Gold Dawn”, slows things down a bit and definitely emphasizes a song structure similar to late 80’s Mission U.K., while the distant, “Requiem XII-33”, spotlights McCoy’s pipes and stands as probably his strongest vocal delivery of the album. Track 5, “Xiberia”, starts off with an almost Floyd-ian guitar lead before morphing into the most industrial song on the record. The rasped chorus and driving rhythm are quite reminiscent of mid era Ministry. The last two tracks both clock in at just over 10 minutes. “She”, the slowest cut of the album, makes generous use of atmospheric keyboards to help give it a very melancholy sound, and the closing title track revisits the heavier end of the spectrum laid down earlier in the record, along with the ethereal choral backgrounds during its quieter moments.
The issues I have with Mourning Sun are fairly minimal and stem mostly from the relatively flat production. At times McCoy’s vocals are way too high in the mix and some of the songs could have been made more dynamic if the guitars were brought more to the front. Also, some of the songs are a bit too long, making things a tad repetitive, but not so much as to distract from the overall enjoyment of this fine endeavor.
Mourning Sun is a triumphant return by Fields of the Nephilim, and might stand as McCoy’s strongest material to date. It certainly warrants the attention of fans of the genre and may pull fans of metal looking for something different into the fold. You can certainly toss me in with the group that’s hoping it’s not another 10yrs before the next release. Impressive.
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