Thursday, October 31, 2013


In the pages of Frank's APA we are going through the letters of the alphabet, writing about artists, songs, or albums beginning with each letter. For the letter F I opted not to write about The Fall.

Fields of the Nephilim are one of those Goth bands. I came a bit late to them, initially put off by the idea I had developed that they were some kind of slavish Sisters of Mercy copyists, an idea that came mainly from their singer having a deep voice. Gradually though I came to a sense that they had their own aesthetic. My original exposure to their music came as a two pronged attack - a friend gave me a copy of a tape of loads of Fields of the Nephilim single b-sides and then separately I mysteriously acquired a copy of the band's first album, Dawnrazor. I cannot remember where that came from, but it may have been a gift from one of my glamorous ladyfriends.

I am not sure I would say that the Nephilim were necessarily better than the other Goth bands of the era but they were certainly different. They seemed much more serious about what they did and did not come across like they were playing an elaborate joke (as was the case with Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy). Nor were they amiable chumps like Robert Smith or Wayne Hussey, fellows who were just larking about with all this doomy Goth stuff. I am not sure if Fields of the Nephilim did interviews much, but I cannot really imagine Carl McCoy (the band's lead singer) telling interviewers about his favourite football team. The band played doomy music and seemed to be genuinely doomy, or at least they presented an impressive front of such doom. That maybe made them easy fodder for humorists; this is life.

The music and look went together. In appearance they looked like extras from Once Upon A Time In The West, that most gothic of the spaghetti westerns. Their music had a kind of rock Morricone feel to it, particularly with the first album, which opened with the sound of a steam train arriving and then the 'Harmonica Man' tune from that film, played on guitar. After that it is gruff vocals that are either sinister or comical, depending on your tastes, coupled with a rock sound, shimmering guitars and heavy basslines.

There are three Fields of the Nephilim albums. Dawnrazor and The Nephilim feature some wonderfully unnerving tunes, a mix of epic long tunes like 'Dawnrazor' itself or 'Last Exit for the Lost' but also shorter and surprisingly poppy yet still doomy tracks like 'Moonchild', possibly still a dancefloor staple in Goth clubs. The lyrics are of course all to do with returning revenants, damnation, Lovecraftiana, the cursed spawn of unnatural unions between humans and supernatural beings, and so on. The third album, Elizium, is less appealing. By this stage the band were using lusher and programmed production, moving away from the more direct approach with which they started. It is a long time since I listened to it, but my recollection is that Elizium is over-cooked and lacking in good tunes.

After that the band split and my sense was that nothing the individuals did afterwards was as interesting. There was a partial reformation many years later but I have not engaged with it.

So there you are. Fields of the Nephilm are not really a band for everyone, but I have long had a certain fondness for them and have had to endure the taunts of the less tolerant for it.

Other letter

Image source (2005 interview with Carl McCoy; he still does not talk about football)

An inuit panda production

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