No Love Lost (Jungle Records)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
There's something about late 80s gothic rock that I love. Unlikely as it may sound, listening to The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim helps me transcend my everyday surroundings and connects me to something greater than myself. It might be a world of Jungian archetypes or some other well of human consciousness. When I'm lonely I feel less alone, when I'm lost I'm reminded I can be found. When I think it is the end, I discover it is only the beginning. Plus all three bands did great tunes to dance to when you've drunk too much snakebite and black.
Out of all three, Fields of the Nephilim always had the greatest effect on me. I'm grateful for the albums the band made before their demise in 1991. Following Fields of the Nephilim spin-off bands has sometimes been a thankless task. Without Carl McCoy leading the way the other members of Stevenage's finest floundered as Rubicon. Even Carl McCoy has disappointed with his heavy-metal take on Fields of the Nephilim by the name of The Nefilim and a collection of off-cuts (albeit released without his consent) in 2002. Only Last Rites, featuring ex-drummer Nod Wright and ex-guitarist Paul Wright, have shown consistent promise, though their 2001 album Guided By Light was stronger on atmosphere than transcendence.
It's probably not important to know how different members of NFD are related to Fields of the Nephilim, but here's a guide for the interested. Bassist Tony Pettit was a bona fide member of the band. As was guitarist Peter Yates who contributes slide guitar to three songs, "Awaken (ii) (Within Reach)", "Lost Souls (Still I Remain)" and "Enraptured". Then the links get more tenuous. Drummer Simon Rippin was a member of Carl McCoy's The Nefilim. He also performed alongside Tony with Fields Of The Nephilim in 2000. Singer Peter ' Bob' White has fewer been-in-Fields of the Nephilim credentials but has played with Simon in London-based band Sensorium.
Things begin with the intro track "Omen" reminiscent of "Dead But Dreaming", which was the introduction to Fields of the Nephilim's Elizium album. There are eldritch gibberings from unspeakable horrors, while the synthesisers surge. It clears the way for what is to come.
"Blackened (This Love of Ages)" is just one of five songs which features brackets in its title. Listening to this song is like being flown by plane. At first you are travelling through heavy weather. The guitars chug convincingly and the drums keep everything suitably oppressive. It's exciting, but not exactly pleasant. Then the clouds clear and you fly through clear blue sky while Bob sings: 'A darkened angel walking in the night, I could save her but she can't find the light.' Then the listener is plunged back into turbulent darkness. The heavy guitars might recall The Nefilim rather than Fields of the Nephilim (are you keeping up at the back?) but the two sides of the song merge effortlessly, leaving you with a sense of exhilaration. NFD neatly use a Fields of the Nephilim-esque sense of dynamics.
Third song "Stronger" starts with a plucked guitar laced with chorus and delay. Stylistically it takes its cues from Fields of the Nephilim's Watchmen, though it feels like a progression rather than a cover version under another name. The song builds and if Bob singing: 'My love is getting stronger' is hardly profound, we must remember that much of what Carl McCoy exhaled was more profane than sacred. It's all in the delivery and Bob delivers with conviction. Tony Pettit's bass can be clearly heard, adding a level of pleasure to this song.
Initially "Awaken (i) (A Life Forsaken)" fails to impress. The guitars throb heavily and Bob emotes about: ''All that we have been through. It's all become undone...' which is fair enough, but not greatly redolent of anything magical. However the mundanity is a trap for the unwary as two minutes in all the instruments are stripped back and it feels as if you have jumped off the side of a chasm. You float in slow motion midair for a minute before you hit the other side and all the colours and sounds return in a rush.
"Hold On To The Life" starts quietly. Bob wrestles with McCoy tropes such as entropy and decay: 'Don't hold on to the past. These things weren't meant to last.' This song doesn't distinguish itself especially, but works as part of the whole album.
In a more just world "Turbine (Nothing Lasts Forever)" would be a single. The imagery is evocative: 'Feel the turbine turning, see the pyres burning.' which take us to a 'city of dust' where: 'The sky is black and the rain it burns your skin. It's where the holy war begins.' There's plenty of room for interpretation, which I like. It could be a barbed political message shrouded in allegory. It might not. It allows the listener to bring his or her own interpretation. Goth has always been an apolitical place. The drumming is excellent - and the song wouldn't sound out of place on The Cult 's Beyond Good and Evil album. "Darkness Falls" continues The Cult vibe. It's the heaviest song on the album. And my least favourite. There's a pause in the fury about three minutes in - the band know how to build a song - but unlike elsewhere little is made of it.
Things are saved by "Lost Souls (Still I Remain)" which is beautiful. The lyric seems to concern having: 'nothing to lose, except your soul.' If only Carl McCoy were still around making music as good as this. It's not exactly "Last Exit For The Lost", but it feels like it should close the album in a suitably epic manner. It doesn't. We get the intriguing "Enraptured" as a curious coda. Just as "Omen" ushered us into the world of NFD, so this song lets us slowly awake from the dream and return to our own consciousness.
Inevitably this album raises more questions than it answers. How cynical is the band in their decision to have this sound? Where do NFD go from here? Is there a danger that they don't sound enough like Fields of the Nephilim for fans of the originals, yet are too close to those that weren't enthralled first time around? Basically, are NFD for real?
Perhaps the answers can be found in goth history. When Fields of the Nephilim first burst onto the scene they were seen by some as Sisters of Mercy-substitutes, yet they went on to develop their own superior sound. It' s my hope that while NFD might initially be dismissed as Fields of the Nephilim-derivatives they'll go on to develop their own sound too. Just as we once had a Sisters-of-Mercy-shaped hole in our lives that Fields of the Nephilim filled, so now we have a Fields-of-the-Nephilim-shaped gap that NFD can fill. Thinking about it we now have a Sisters-of-Mercy-shaped gap in our lives again, but we can't expect one album to do everything can we?
Listening to NFD gives me some of the same
feeling of exhilaration as listening to Fields of the Nephilim. It's not
Carl McCoy. You can tell that. It may drift a little in focus towards the
end but it's as close as we are going to get to the magic of Fields of
the Nephilim. And it's close enough.
The website: http://www.nfd.web.com