Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Fields of the Nephilim - Psychonaut

Fields of the Nephilim
Psychonaut


Released 1989 on Situation Two
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 18/06/2008ce


NOTE - Originally released in several versions on 7", 12", CD single, and tape and featuring the Lib 1, Lib 11, Lib 111, & Lib IV versions as well as the 'Second Seal' version of 'Celebrate.' I still have the cassete single, not that it will play anymore! I am listening to the 'Lib 1 1 1' version that is 9:10 long and found on the 'Revelations'-compilation.

Produced by Bill Buchanan & The Nephilim
Words by McCoy. Written by McCoy, Yates, Wright, Petitt, Wright.

GUILTY PLEASURES. I'm really not sure about the whole 'Guilty Pleasures'-notion...if you like something, it's OK to like it, even if not really wholesome? & the defence of liking something for ironic purposes is a bit kack, suspending something in " " is no way to behave. Working out a list of suggestions & categories for Radio 6's Listener's Mix I guess this had to be included in the Guilty Pleasures-section (...there had to be something of gothic 80's extraction). There was a point where I was a bit Room 101 about stuff I listened to in the late 80s, but have revisited some of it and been surprised at how dubby early Bauhaus is, how apocalyptically amusing the Sisters of Mercy were, and how the Nephilim made some pretty decent stuff around a much maligned genre. I am dreading the day I return to 'Into the Gap' by the Thompson Twins and like it...though I am aware of that Proustian-thang of returning to a certain time. Better 'Psychonaut' than 'Doctor! Doctor!' & even our good host and favourite Arch Drude has mentioned the Nephilim (see Review # 44 from January 2004 - Terminal Lovers' 'Drama Pit (& Loan)') - it looks like he just digs the second side of 'Elizium.' Well it made me plonk that one back on....

DAWNRAZOR. The Nephilim seem a bit silly and have plenty of defects that could be picked on - but the idea of a post-apocalyptic Spaghetti Western influenced goth metal band with lashings of dry ice and flour is probably a great one. After a dubious period with a sax player they settled into the two-guitar/bass/drums/McCoy-howl period and made music that sounded like The Sisters of Mercy on a Motorhead-trip ('Power', 'Slow Kill.') The more interesting stuff - 'Vet for the Insane', 'Dawnrazor' was a bit more ambitious and took in the dubby realm explored by Bauhaus on 'Burning from the Inside.' Not that I've heard much of 'Dawnrazor' in decades or particularly want to go back there...McCoy's vocals are fairly terrible early on and definitely too close to Von Eldritch...

LAST EXIT. 1988's 'The Nephilim' was much more interesting, lots more Crowley and Lovecraft-inspired lyrics and cult allusions which might make them influential. There were dead ends - 'Phobia' exhausting the Motorhead-thing, 'Chord of Souls' standard goth-rock, while 'Love Under Will' is as dull as Iron Maiden were at the time. The 'Moonchild'-single kind of kicked arse - their singles were more enjoyable with the wild promos made by Richard Stanley ('Dust Devil', 'Hardware' - Carl McCoy having a cameo in that film with some choice soundtrack cuts from Ministry, Motorhead, & Public Image Ltd). 'Endemoniada' and 'Last Exit for the Lost' had musical complexity veering somewhere between prog and the much cooler post-rock. 'Celebrate' was more subtle...and 'Last Exit...' was the place where McCoy decided to sound more like Ian Curtis than Von Eldritch. Which means Fields of the Nephilim revolutionised the JD rip-off thang that became uber-hip in the last five or so years with Editors, Interpol and all that jazz...

'GOTH FLOYD. Psychonaut' was the key shift though, the epic 1989 single showcased a more epic and experimental tone that would dominate 1990's 'Elizium' - which would feature Pink Floyd/Roger Waters associate Jon Carin on keyboards. Goth Floyd, indeed...The lyrics might be a load of bollocks centred on Cthulhu Mythos, Sumerian stuff and all that...but it sounds kind of huge and a blend of Joy Division, Pink Floyd, the bassline of 'Two Tribes', prog rock, and HP Lovecraft...which is kind of cool? & as some dude pointed out in a piece on goth in Plan B if Devendra Bandhart came up with something like "Let us witness the reincarnation of the sun" certain folk would be creamin' their jeans...

PSYCHONAUT. I don't know if 'Psychonaut' was inspired or not - maybe they were just getting in on the epic single domain after the half-hour version of 'This Corrosion' came out, or the dire Zep-bombast of the 'Bombay Mix' of The Mission's 'Tower of Strength'? In a way, 'Psychonaut' is as cool as 1989's fellow epic single 'Fool's Gold 9.53' - both pointing back to the 1970s. 'Psychonaut' has that great Curtis-keyboards opening not unlike 'The Eternal' and then that huge song comes in, there's even a catchy chorus whose words I never really knew ("and you deserve us, Leviathan"), and then there's the part where things slow down and that bass dominates as McCoy does his spoken-word Jim Morrison-bit & chants abound ("Xi dingir Anna Kanpa...etc"). & then the song comes back in on the "Pray for Leviathan..." hook, just returning to the catchy chorus part and fading out around 9:02. Heck, they could have made this one even more epic!!

ELIZIUM. In the right mood, 'Elizium' is their most interesting record - 'Psychonaut' was where all that came from and that epic second side of 'Elizium' and the 'Dead But Dreaming/For Her Light/At the Gates of Silent Memory' medley also came from here.

GUILTY PLEASURES. Oh, this might be a guilty pleasure, but it seems kind of cool - prog goth Floyd on a Howard Phillips-trip and some Curtis-inflections...It does that Proustian thing too, returning me to a hedonistic afternoon in a field on the edge of Cheltenham (the only other tape we had was 'Surfer Rosa'), and their very enjoyable gig at the Town Hall in 'Nham the following year. So fuck Sean Rowley and his GP-schtick. I think 'Psychonaut' is cool and most definitely Unsung. 'Let us gather hallucinations from our private minds' indeed !!!


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