Review Summary: What are we going to do with this one Frank ? ...... Now that you've called me by name.....A grating buzz-saw guitar riff echoes over the windswept landscape as five shadowy figures emerge out of the dust clouds and walk slowly but purposefully towards the camera. Their grimy duster coats flap in the wind as they arrange themselves in a line and coldly regard the young boy staring up at them from the corpse littered farm. Frank's icy blue peepers stare down at the child as he considers whether to blow him away.
You can do a lot worse than base your band's image on one of the most enduring portraits from movie history. Henry Fonda's famous villainous turn in Sergio Leone's masterpiece 'Once Upon A Time In The West' shocked audiences across the world on it's release in 1968. Goth act Fields Of The Nephilim took note of the strong imagery and duly adopted the dusters and cowboy hats for their live shows. Replace the dust with copious amounts of dry ice and the guns for musical instruments and you have a fair idea of how the band announced their presence on stage from venue to venue. 'The Nephs' were indeed an electric live act during their peak. This album, their debut, attempted to capture their energy and vitality in a studio setting. Sadly, the overall package proved to be a rather diluted representation of their latent power.
Not content to merely base their image and stage show on the aforementioned film this album opens with a piece of music lifted straight from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack. 'Harmonica Man' sets the scene admirably with its haunting abrasive guitar and slow crescendo but unfortunately the anticipation engendered by this classic opening falls somewhat flat as the band launch into 'Slowkill'. The song itself is a decent slice of mid-tempo goth rock which proved to be a real belter in a live setting but the lacklustre production on here renders it murky and soft around the edges. Throughout the album the overdriven guitar sounds are far too indistinct and lost in the mix which sadly pulls the teeth from a lot of the performances. The classic 'Dust', with it's memorable bass line and stomping rhythm, is similairly reduced to a leaden imitation of it's stage cousin. Front-man Carl McCoy's voice cuts through the gloom on a number of the tracks but even the potential of his deep guttural rumble is largely wasted.
This isn't a bad album at all. The Nephs ear for a good pounding melody and the partly successful application of a suitably dark and atmospheric soundscape go some way to making this a convincing debut. Maybe the neutering of their groundshaking live sound was a conscious attempt to make things more palatable to the masses but in any case this was largely a missed opportunity.