Review Summary: The Mourning Sun has risen, and Fields of the Nephilim have once again released an album full of heartfelt melancholy, soulful songs and astounding atmosphere.
The icy remains of that cold, blank face that dominates the album cover of Fields of the Nephilim's fifth and latest album, “Mourning Sun”, could well be a mirrored image of Carl McCoy's very own face, when he found out that “Fallen” was wrongly released by Jungle Records. However, since then, the band have gone from strength to strength, and it certainly shows quite clearly on “Mourning Sun”. No more are there dismal, monotonous and pointless tracks like the ones on “Fallen”, but seven purely heartfelt and soulfully written songs, that all build up to a gargantuan 55 minutes. Fields of the Nephilim always wanted to prove themselves as a timeless band, and it seems that with a strong voice and an equally as powerful talent to pen the most enchantingly meaningful lyrics, “Mourning Sun” really is a worthwhile release.
The most instantly outstanding thing on this album is arguably one of the key things that Fields of the Nephilim has always excelled at. Of course, you'll know what it is if you've listened to albums as beautiful and melancholic as “The Nephilim” and “Elizium”. It's atmosphere. That sometimes eerie, sometimes mysterious atmosphere that creeps up on you in your sleep and takes your soul away to vast, icy wastelands devoid of any emotion or feeling at all. It's an atmosphere that flows through each song as freely as a bird does in the air, or a fish in water, and on each of “Mourning Sun”'s seven significant tracks, this atmosphere is used to its fullest extent.
The album begins in a strange yet striking manner, 'Shroud-Exordium' and its melancholic sounds becoming more and more tense as the song progresses into a wilder and louder beast. This is indeed one of the many things that makes “Mourning Sun” such a great record. The idea that near enough each and every song is introduced in a quiet yet eerie way, before gradually exploding into a monster as angry and enormous as the Hulk. In fact, the only song that doesn't work in this way is 'Straight to the Light', which gets straight to the point (or 'light', if you see what I mean), its heavy guitar work, backed by an equally as loud yet very clean production, somewhat reminiscent of “Elizium”. This paves way for a very doomy albeit upbeat sound that never goes off into uncharted territory, but like every other song on “Mourning Sun”, embraces the hypnotic and mesmerizing sound created by that perfect atmosphere.
Ideally, one of the other things that not only Fields of the Nephilim, but more specifically Carl McCoy have excelled at is the talent to write some truly meaningful lyrics and make them flow easily with whatever vocal style it suits. Whilst the very Gothic overtones of 'New God Dawn' and 'Requiem XIII 33 (Le Veilleur Silencieux)' are very impressive, it's really McCoy's lyrical and vocal talent that truly stand out. Whereas on the former McCoy uses his gravelly vocals to express that “I'm losing Sight/Can you look Behind?/Is it burning bright on the other Side?”, on the latter his voice becomes as clean and as delicate as a very innocent young girl's, soothingly crooning that “There's a place for us/I know another way/How does it feel?/Every time, Every tide?”. The lyrics themselves don't seem that impressive on their own, but with McCoy's vocals they are used impressively to create more melancholy and solemnity than ever before.
Even though the atmosphere and the production do seem to dominate “Mourning Sun”, the instruments themselves do offer a few surprises here and there. There is only one person who deals with the guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, and that is surprisingly the one man who was partly behind the heavy and aggressive overtones of “Zoon”, John 'Capachino' Carter. Even if he was only hired to do work on this album, his moody guitar work on songs as tense as 'Straight to the Light' and 'She' provides a lot of musical diversity, whereas the bass work, being oddly more prominent than usual, adds doom and gloom to an album that embraces the styles of Gothic Rock and Metal superbly. In McCoy's very own words, “The album does have applied pre-programmed drums on some of the tracks, but the drum work is also provided by a human-Carter”. Whereas on “Zoon” and “Fallen” the drums were completely pre-programmed, this time round Carter takes it upon himself to work with them, and consequently, on the few songs that they are heard, they give a heavier sound to the production, thundering along to the flow of the atmosphere itself.
Arguably the two best things on “Mourning Sun” is its last two beautifully written tracks, the harmonic 'She' and the extremely powerful title track. On the former, there is a somewhat happy, innocent tone as melancholic bass and guitar work flow beautifully to the atmosphere given off by the keyboards. 'She' is generally a song based on the same concept as H. Rider. Haggard's short novel of the same name, so that there is a theme of female worship. The latter is certainly the best song on the album, if not the best of FOTN's entire career. With lush soundscapes and backing vocals provided by no other than McCoy's two daughters, Scarlett and Eden McCoy, the title track works in such a surprisingly great way that it's very difficult not to replay it several times, just out of sheer enjoyment. Thus the album ends on as sorrowful and heartfelt a note as on the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and consequently leaves the listener wanting much more. And if it turns out that you do want more, replay the album and see if you can spot anything else that makes “Mourning Sun” the beautiful beast it is. It is an album that will surely grow on your more and more with repeated listens.
If there is one thing that really will annoy some listeners, it's that the production seems to make the sound seem very artificial and too loud for its own good, at times even burying McCoy's vocals in the mix. However, this isn't too much to worry about, because the general atmosphere is impressive enough to ignore such minor flaws. “Mourning Sun” is a victorious achievement for both Carl McCoy and the ongoing legacy of Fields of the Nephilim. Sure, the band have had their fair share of problems and disappointments in the past, but what band doesn't? Besides, you know you've got a great album on your hands when six of its seven songs are praised by a magazine as big as NME, expressing that they are “six of Fields of the Nephilim's best ever songs”. Buy this and love it, and if you can't, try to let it grow on you, for the end result is something truly grand.