Review Summary: Just as wondrous as an Elysium itself.
1990 heralded a completely new era for music in general. It seemed harder to discover the remains of Metal's extreme sub-genres, and in an even worse case, the former glories and successes of many a band labelled under the NWOBHM belt, became a former shadow of themselves thanks to an outburst of newly created genres. Most importantly however, this was a year where such influential bands circulating round the genres of Gothic Rock, Industrial and Post-Punk split up and went on hiatus for however many years. One of the bands that fall into the latter of these two groups is Fields of the Nephilim, a band that always managed be the exact musical equivalent of a crisp, cold Christmas Day morning.
What is instantly noticeable when listening to an album such as “Elizium” is the fact that each and every song leads so beautifully and simply into the next, providing not only flow but substance to the album as a whole itself. Just as you think the seductively rich and repetitive Gothic overtones of songs such as 'Sumerland (What Dreams may come)' and 'Wail of Sumer' carry on for one more second, the welcoming arrival of the next song shows, and consequently proves to be quite a memorable piece of music.
As with the band's greatly successful second album, “The Nephilim”, “Elizium” continued the gloomy atmospheres, the melancholic surroundings and the impressively noteworthy references to many a legend of Gothic literature and early 20th Century poets. One of the album's gloomiest yet surely satisfying tracks, the progressively Gothic 'At the Gates of silent Memory', proves to be a landmark in Fields of the Nephilim's career. The reason for this could be the way in which genuine excerpts from Aleister Crowley himself, reading in a creepy yet convincing voice every word to his beautiful poem “At Sea”:
“Such lights she gives as guide my bark;
That holds my Heaven and holds my Hell.
Love of my Life
Man is so infinitely small
Man is so infinitely great!”
It doesn't take a genius to work out that with Carl Mccoy's seductively haunting voice and such astoundingly written poetry like this, a sense of great melancholy and gloom is suddenly created. The lyrics of every one of “Elizium”'s songs is written in a similar way, and it still works to this day. On the shorter, punchier tunes such as 'For her Light' and '(Paradise regained)', Mccoy still manages to croon along in a slower tone to a much faster paced form of music, where his voice echoes feelings of romance (“How lonely you are waiting at the Sunday park/I'll elude you/I will lose you”) , necromancy (“You can;t wake up/Illusions born of the air/Something seems so precious there”) or even sexual overtones (“Love of my Life/Pour your light on the Faith/I can feel/Make it real/In her Sleep”).
This is indeed what early FOTN records excel at, but it isn't the only thing that makes “Elizium” the Gothic-tinged masterpiece it is. Throughout these 50 minutes of lush atmospherics and beautifully enhanced production, there is plenty of room for each instrument to breathe in its own significant way. As said before, Mccoy seems to adapt whatever vocal style he performs to the nature of the lyrics. At times he snarls his way through ('Submission', 'Sumerland'), croons ('For her Light') and even at one point almost growls in a way that wouldn't be out of place on an early Morbid Angel record ('Wail of Sumer'). The guitar rhythms performed by Paul Wright strongly complement the outstandingly good solo work by Peter Yates on both the enchanting '(Paradise regained)' and 'Submission', whereas the delicately picked bass work proves to be an act of musical precision in parts of both 'Summerland (What Dreams may come)'.
What is equally as enchanting here is the constant keyboard effects courtesy of Jon Carin, who frequently introduces each respective song in a very Gothic way, at times producing wails of hellish angels, cries of choirs, or even the odd repetitive note that somehow becomes hypnotic with each subsequent listen. The production here does help in a big way as well. Mccoy himself stated in regards to “Elizium” that “we wanted the production to be as clean, crisp and epic as possible”. Sometimes making the production sound as clean and crisp as possible does come with its disadvantages, for instance the loss of a band's signature sound or the idea that their fanbase may be alienated for better, or for horribly worse. However, none of this happens, and it seems that FOTN's sound on “Elizium” has been improved upon in almost every possible way.
The only criticism of an album as beautifully flowing and as well written as “Elizium” is, as usual with albums that are considerably long, that the longer songs may be too long for their own good-in some people's eyes that is. Of course, it only really depends on your perception of the band itself, yet when songs such as 'Sumerland (What Dreams may come') and 'Submission' seem to overstay their welcome by becoming slightly too repetitive, it may annoy some listeners wanting each respective song to change its structure.
Even if this a slight mishap, it is one that can easily be ignored, for the existence of “Elizium” as a whole is significant. The atmosphere and the flow from each song to the next proves as an instant highlight, and even the themes and concepts introduced contribute well to the album's overall success. Although it only peaked at #22 on the UK album charts, ten places below FOTN's previous album, “The Nephilim”, it still stands as the band's true tour de force, and consequently will be remembered easily by those who take care to listen to it.