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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Fields of the Nephilim

Mourning Sun

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that this is the first full album by Fields of The Nephilim that I have heard. I first gained knowledge of this outfit when several musicians I had interviewed mentioned them. Then in the research for my upcoming book I tracked down more information and some of their music. This one, though, is my first full exposure to FOTM. That said, apparently this album is a bit different in that it is essentially a Carl McCoy solo effort. That seems to be a bit of a case of splitting hairs, though because McCoy was always the core of the group. This disc is wonderful piece of darkness. There is really only one weak track, although for my money the more atmospheric pieces generally work better than the ones that rock out. Indeed, the one that really fails in my book is the hardest rocker on show here. Frankly, my problem with the song really comes in the production/mising of the vocals. It should be noted that while the cover pictured above is for the Limited Edition of the disc, that one includes a track that wasn't on my promo copy. So, I can't comment on that piece of music. What I can tell you is that, while this may be the first disc from them that I have owned, it won't be the last.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Shroud (Exordium)
This comes in with ambient dark music with bits of choral vocals across the arrangement, feeling rather like epic movie soundtrack music. After a time in this rather sedate method a dark processed, almost demonic sounding voice/growl begins to appear occasionally. Also during this time the arrangement becomes more lush, but also more melancholy. Then the voice becomes a spoken/loudly whispered one that has words that can be made out. The sounds of a baby crying also come across in this extended introduction. As this powers up it takes on a bit of a space rock sort of texture. This is a bit creepy, but also extremely tasty and even turns a little bit metal later with crunchy guitar fighting for control of the composition. This is powerful and one heck of a great disc opener. If I had to pigeonhole this one I'd consider it dark progressive rock. Ambient textures and sound effects (with a rising guitar line and creepy laugh) eventually end this and segue it into the next number.
Straight to the Light
This one pounds in with a rather industrial sound, but it is really the first goth rocker on the disc. This thing rocks out a lot, but also has plenty of dark musical textures. This feels quite epic in its approach at a lot of points. It drops towards the ambient after a time, and the creepy spoken vocals (accompanied by almost angelic voices) is a great touch here. They power it back up and out from there. It is another strong cut on a very competent disc.
New Gold Dawn
A more tentative guitar sound begins this one and serves as the backdrop for the disquieting vocals that at the beginning. As the arrangement fills out mid-verse this one becomes powerful, but still a bit nicely raw. It drops back down as it moves onward. It moves through in this general fashion for a while before rocking out harder in a pretty typical early goth rock mode. In many ways this is the most "catchy" cut on show here, but I also think that it lacks some of the charm of the rest of the album. It certainly is the most straight-ahead rocker on show here. The drop down to just vocals and ambience later is a nice touch, though. The number does also manage to get quite powerful at the end. I also like the dramatic soundtrack type sounds that end this one and pull it into the next one.
Requiem (Le Veilleur Silencieux)
Ambient sounds start this including birds chirping and a gentle thunderstorm. Eventually the mellow music begins to rise from this backdrop. After a while a ballad sort of approach with some great overlayers takes this in dramatic fashion. McCoy's vocals come over the top of this background and begin a heart-wrenching journey. The growing on this one is extremely slow, but also very powerful. Waves of sound come over the top as McCoy's vocal performance intensifies. This is dark and heavy, and very strong. It is another highlight here. The arrangement on the closing segments is both beautiful and potent and is another point that calls to mind progressive rock to me (particular in terms of the keyboard sounds).
Xiberia (Seasons in the Ice Cage)
Although this starts tentatively, with ambient textures and what could be a person shivering, after a time it kicks into a hard rocking techno type jam that is quite potent. This one works extremely well before the vocals enter. As they do, though, they are too far up in the mix and seem to be a bit overly distorted. While I can see the point in this effect, it doesn't really work for me. They kind of take away from what could have been one of the stronger tracks on the CD. This one is extremely metal, and just a bit too cacophonic for my tastes. Still, it manages to pull together nicely for a while in the more atmospheric segment with spoken vocals later.
She
This is a slower, but more rock oriented jam that isn't overly hard, but just about the right level to make it rock out without falling into anything close to metal. The balladic chorus segment is extremely beautiful and powerful. This is another of the highlights here.
Mourning Sun
More dark atmosphere starts this and the cut begins to build gradually on this basis. Eventually, though it shifts out into something that feels like a dark progressive metal jam with the emphasis on progressive. This serves as a short segment here, the track dropping back to more ambient modes for the next portion. Then it powers back out into more of this potent metallic jamming. This one is quite dynamic and the longest cut on show here. It is also my pick for best on the disc, making it a great closing piece. The last couple minutes are mostly atmosphere and pretty ambient tones, making it a nice cool down period.
 
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