Review Summary: A haunting, hypnotic second album from Carl Mccoy and co., that may or may not be to everyone's musical taste.
If ever you wanted to obtain the ideal soundtrack to a cold, chilly winter night, the closest thing would probably be a Fields of the Nephilim album. Carl Mccoy's creepy, monstrous yet somehow seductive vocal styles, mesmerizing instrumental work and slow moving, dream-like atmospheres all backed by references to such interesting themes as the Chthulhu Mythos and the writings of Aleister Crowley. Fields of the Nephilim may well have been tagged “Gothic Rock”, but they also sounded completely different to their peers in the late 80s, an era which was dominated by many musical styles, yet never seemed to make Carl Mccoy and his (not so) merry men a successful, domineering force.
The band's second album, “The Nephilim”, released in 1987, is a prime example of their 80s sound, yet isn't quite their best album either. The lyrical content here is perhaps one of the things that made the band stand out from the crowd, using mystery, the Uncanny and the odd reference to Gothic Horror. Particularly on songs such as 'Endemoniada' (Portugese for 'Possessed') and 'Shiva', Mccoy seems to adapt his voice to whatever emotion the lyrics themselves would convey. He rasps his way through “Such a thrill...The way I feel/Now I'm falling asleep at the Wheel/And I'm dreaming of the kill” on the former, whereas on the latter he almost croons his way romantically as “Walk/This is welcome to Heaven/Believe/Welcome to 666/Breathe/Come closer/1/2/3/4”. These are not only examples of the more Gothic style that the band had taken after the release of the somewhat lacklustre “Dawnrazor”, but also proof the Mccoy can change his vocal style from time to time without ever losing his creepy touch. In fact, when Mccoy does sing, he has more in common with Tony Todd's main character in the “Candyman” movie than he does with, say, Wayne Hussey of The Mission.
However, even if the vocals here do differ and stand out from any other feature on the album, they are sometimes enough to put listeners off. Whereas some would be mesmerized and seduced by his sometimes lush, other times “tortured” voice, others would baulk at his raspiness and whispering techniques, itself sounding like the Cookie Monster trying to find his signature voice. This isn't to say that it drags the album down a fair bit because it actually doesn't. There is never a time when Mccoy provides vocals on his own, but instead manages to flow with the other instruments and consequently makes everything sound concise.
There are instances where a particular instrument does have its moment. The most obvious example of this is the guitar work, which has the most diversity and also controls the significant shifts between musical styles. The rockier tunes such as 'Phobia'and 'Moonchild' (The album's first single) both present Peter Yates' and Paul Wright's sweeping and harmonic guitar styles, as they not only keep up with the general atmosphere created by each song, but also offer a bit of substance to the song themselves. Paul Wright is perhaps a better example of making his guitar work stand out, as on many of “The Nephilim”s songs, guitar solos can be heard clearly, before returning to a more Gothic style, created only by a lush production. The drums and bass work tend to introduce themselves quite frequently too, but only for shorter moments than the guitar work. As usual, the bass and drum work help to maintain the flow created on each song, but are fortunately very audible, thanks once again to the production and its beautiful sound. There are musical pieces here and there that don't have anything to do with the main instruments, as on the album's melancholic closer 'Last Exit for the Lost', which features some synthesiser work looming in the background, yet never seem to shine through either. Even the choir work that introduces both opener 'Endemoniada' and 'Love under Will' seems lost when the other instruments come in, and never actually returns.
The album does indeed suffer from something that haunts many a Gothic Rock band, but it also depends on your perception of the genre itself. This is the structure of each particular song, and there is an obvious pattern coursing through the general structure's veins. The idea that everything seems repetitive, slow-moving and never dares to enter any uncharted territory is something that would divide fans of the genre more or less forever. However, even if the structure of songs such as 'Shiva' and 'Celebrate' do make some skip to the next track, it's almost as if one could get caught in the hypnotic and mesmerizing tones each particular song creates. It's all about listening to this album and embracing it without any distractions, rather than simply playing it once and putting it on the shelf to gather dust.
There is something about Fields of the Nephilim that never really makes them popular or successful in the mainstream world, yet this “something” also manages to make them an influential band in the particular genre of Gothic Rock. The idea that they can tie mysterious imagery and slow-moving, hypnotic music together into one seems impressive in itself, yet it is not for everyone. If you are looking for music that is heavy, fast and aggressive, you won't find it here. Instead, you will find beauty, lush atmospherics and hauntingly creepy yet seductive vocals. 1987 was a year dominated by plenty of musical genres, and even if this album debuted at #12 in the UK charts, it would seem that it was to be ignored for the next two decades or so.