Review Summary: A faster, heavier and more monstrous beast than "Elizium", "Zoon" surprisingly embraces Industrial and Death metal styles yet doesn't sound like anything but an album by The Nefilim.
It's happened many times before. Your band releases either the most successful album of their career, or succumbs to its own income and begins producing albums that either alienate their fans or simply reach their expectations each and every time. Fortunately, the former is the case with Fields of the Nephilim, who, after releasing a landmark album of the Gothic Rock genre in “Elizium”, lost Carl Mccoy in 1991. However, this didn't stop the rest of the band or Carl McCoy from making more music, as is more than evident on Nefilim's first and only album, “Zoon”, the Greek word for “living creature” or “beast”.
Right from the opening eeriness of 'Still Life', you'll know that this is a completely different sound to the clean, dream-like atmospheres that dominated the majority of “Elizium”, instead opting for a heavier, faster and nastier sound thanks to the overbearing crunch of Industrial noise and Death Metal aggression. Arguably the best examples of this new sound can be found in the album's shorter tracks, 'Xodus', 'Penetration' and also in the semi-satanic 'Venus decomposing'. The guitar work is monstrously heavy, the atmosphere is somewhat similar to that of a nightclub playing Industrial noise until the crack of dawn, and Mccoy's vocals seem to terrorize everything they come across, although not always that appealing. On 'Xodus' in particular, everything sounds as dark and disturbing as you would expect it to be, and even when the sound slows down into a more ambient, quieter one, the sound of melancholy and melody that haunted FOTN's earlier albums are nowhere to be found.
However, there is still a smattering of Gothic Rock here and there. The much mellower introductions of 'Shine' and 'Melt (The Catching of the Butterfly)' give way to Mccoy's cleaner vocals, himself trying to sing whilst still maintaining that hoarse voice all the way through. Even on each of the three parts of the title track (which for some reason, is split into two tracks as opposed to three), there is brief sense of harmony and solemnity, however much Industrial noise is put in to make it a different beast altogether. However, although Mccoy's vocals are undoubtedly diverse in “Zoon”, they don't always sound as nice as you'd want them to be. On 'Melt (The Catching of the Butterfly') Mccoy croons his way through the ambient sounds in the background, before croaking the beautifully written lyrics, “Now have your place with God/Innocence can be Hell/Of the perfumed and penetrated flesh”. As well as this, Mccoy often attempts to growl as fiercely and aggressively as David Vincent did with Morbid Angel in their early years, and whilst this does work well given the nature of the overall sound itself, on 'Penetration' it fails to impress.
What is most interesting on “Zoon” however, are the little things that make each and every song stand out on the album. The narrative work (which is cleverly marked out by speech marks when included with the rest of the lyrics) contributes well to the introductions of 'Still Life' (“We shall crush you, when there is no coming back”), 'Shine' (“We'll always be together, forever”) and 'Penetration' (“Seeing things in my whole life, images exploding”). This can also be discovered midway through 'Pazuzu' (“Look into the eyes of your creator”) and the title track (“Tune your mind, reach inside, peel away”), which is actually spoken in such a macabre way by Mccoy that it's hard to ignore against the constant barrage of crunchingly heavy death metal riffs and flourishes of Industrial noise.
At the end of the day, “Zoon” is an album that you will either listen to once and dispose of immediately in disgust, or respect its change in sound and listen to it a few more times to seek these aforementioned “little things” that truly make it a special album. It is an album that is successful for Carl Mccoy himself, in the way that “Blizzard of Ozz” or “Tyranny of Souls” were for their respective creators. If at all you can't stand Industrial music or death metal, then you would be advised to give this one a miss. However, if your curiosity gets the better of you and you feel that FOTN were missing something on their earlier albums, this will indeed be a treat.