Fields of the Nephilim – The Nephilim

Fields_Of_the_Nephilim_front_coverComing a little more than a year after FotN’s first release, there are elements that connect the two – when the songs get going, they have some similar sounds, and of course the instrumentation is the same. But the feeling has shifted. The Nephilim is a sprawling, strange disc where even the single is over five minutes long, and is aggressively pagan in the lyrics and feel. Dawnrazor was an album by a goth band with some weird cowboy costumes and a terrible video. The Nephilim reaches for deeper chords inside the psyche.

“Endemoniada” brings us in, singing about dreams – “We dream of familiar things here.” The title is Spanish, for “possessed.” The other songs are about the floating, dispossessed souls that look for some purchase. The churning twin guitars have come closer to the almost Floydian sound that dominates the next album (Elizium, the apotheosis of the FotN experience.)

Sound effects are used as willingly on this album as on the last, but they are less clear here. Not just quotes of dialogue from movies, or chainsaw noises. Monks chant, chains rattle, and distorted voices call out from the darkness, and little is resolved.

To me the album has always felt like two parts of a whole. The first six tracks, including the single, “Moonchild,” move through various religious perspectives, culminating in the strange “Shiva,” which is more like an instrumental with a whispering madman at the mic than a proper song. Again and again Carl McCoy whispers, “Come closer, come closer,” but to what he’ll never say.

The second part of the album, the last 24 minutes (not much less than half the album), comprises a trio of semi-connected songs about death – “Celebrate,” “Love Under Will,” and “Last Exit for the Lost.” If the previous songs were about religious perspectives, these are more about visceral experience – the last thoughts of a dying man before his soul departs his body. The bass-driven “Celebrate” is serene, and the trad rock of “Love Under Will” underpins a lament of the disembodied who see their loved ones for the last time. Then, the magisterial, nearly ten-minute “Last Exit for the Lost,” a final departure, begins sedately, picking up speed and momentum until it, whatever it is (the soul, the ghost, the consciousness) slips through the last exit. What happens next?

  • I know fully well this is a collection of nine tunes, written by a bunch of silly British goths in cowboy clothes and flour. I know I’m supposed to find it pompous and ridiculous, and make fun of it. But it touches me. Sorry, I have feelings.
  • This was not my first Fields of the Nephilim album, but it was how I found out about them in mid-90s Southern California, thanks to a list of “Lovecraft-related music” on some probably long-lost FAQ online. It is Lovecraft-related because a couple of songs mention Kthulhu (not even spelled right). Which means they were inspired by the fake Simon Necronomicon that my high school friends thought was cool. Which means I should hold this stuff in contempt. But I can’t. It gets me.
  • A hallmark of the Goat is not objectivity. While there are objective measures of pop culture, the subjective experience is the point. Still we try, in everything we do here, to look at the objects we review as they are, not just as a reflection of our personal experience. One will note, in most of our reviews, an absence of the personal pronoun. But for Fields of the Nephilim I can’t manage that. There is a core serious (even self-serious) to the proceedings, and a serious concern with possible afterlifes that concerns me. I do not think the album has a coherent spiritual message, but I believe it betrays the possibility of a belief, a possibility that modern-ironic culture denies with every breath. I prefer the Nephilim.

NAQ – Never Asked Questions

When did you first get the album?

I have no idea. Middle high school. When I first got it (after getting and loving the mysterious Elizium), I was initially disappointed with the vocals – I thought they sounded like death-metal screaming – so I obviously knew nothing about death-metal screaming. I’ve come around, particularly on the final three songs.

What other albums end with as perfect a final triptych?

Very few. Most albums that end well usually hit a good one-two punch. For me the only other album that reaches a zenith at the end like this is Joy Division’s Closer. Maybe the Pixies’ Doolittle.

Where should you listen to this?

On the road late at night, when things seem important (late teens, early 20s).

Last word?

Probably ridiculous to anyone not sold…but for the believers, it’s the second part of a perfect puzzle.


About Kent Conrad

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