Fields of the Nephilim - Biography
It’s curious, the way in which fleeting pop-culture trends flash and fizzle like shooting stars, yet somehow manage also to have perverse resiliency, subducting into subterranean folds, only to resurface in displays of molten spectacle. Fields of the Nephilim are a relatively obscure band from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK; their name is equally arcane: the Nephilim are mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis, Numbers and elsewhere, but scholars debate the translation of the word, which remains in the original Hebrew. The King James suggests they were giants, the offspring of the daughters of men and the sons of God; other interpretations depict them as a tribe of massive angels, who fell to Earth with thunderous impact. Elsewhere, they’re described as terrestrial angels, so fearsome that a man’s heart would fail at the sight of them. If anyone can summon better imagery for a raging, amped-up goth-rock band, please step forward. It may seem from first appearances that glam died in the 70s and was supplanted by punk and post punk, but glam merely subducted, and when it erupted again, it took the form of goth, and Fields of the Nephilim were, indeed, spectacular.
The initial version of the band congealed in 1984, with Carl McCoy as the vocalist, Paul Wright on guitar, Tony Pettitt on bass, and Alexander “Nod” Wright on drums, with Gary Whisker on saxophone (maybe not the most goth of instruments, but hey, the Psychedelic Furs had a sax player on their first, rampaging LP). The group immediately went for a Look, donning cowboy dusters and wide-brimmed hats, in a decisive homage to the spaghetti westerns of filmmaker Sergio Leone. Their debut, Dawnrazor (1987 Situation Two/Beggars Banquet), hammered home the point by opening with a sample from the soundtrack to Leone’s masterwork Once Upon a Time in the West. Fields of the Nephilim then proceeded to tear into a stony-faced gallop across a version of Bauhaus refracted through Ennio Morricone, dusty cowboy goth, with ferocious numbers like “Preacher Man” and “Power.” Actually, the latter is the band’s definitive song, and Paul Wright’s performance could be neatly transposed to the Gun Club or the Flesheaters — he had a firm grip on raw Americana.
So, this was the post-glam, overwrought, costumed theatrics that the kids craved in the 80s, cinematic glory infused with fang-gnashing empowerment, and Fields of the Nephilim delivered. They followed with a number of increasingly adept albums, full of soaring, self-assured hooks. Nephilim (1988 Situation Two/Beggars Banquet) asserted the band’s presence on the UK charts, and they had a hit single with “Moonchild.” Elizium (1990 Beggars Banquet) continued their obsession with Aleister Crowley, and remains their best effort (and what’s not to like about a hard-driving rock band whose biggest influences were Aleister Crowley, Sergio Leone, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos). Earth Inferno (1991 Beggars Banquet), was a riveting double-live album and, unfortunately the last hurrah. It’s a thunderous document of a massive act that grasped the dynamics of on-stage tableau and rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza like few others. Fields of the Nephilim were the steely eyed, cigar-chewing masters of Sturm und Twang.