by Tim Holmes
Fields of the Nephilim are not British cowboys. You see, they're more like apocalyptic outlaws mapping out a perceptual connection between ancient Anglo-Saxon turf wars, a grisly black-veiled ancient version of the myth of the American West, and savagery skulking under the pristine surface of modern technology. With their second LP Nephilim, four psycho-spiritual lads come galloping across a timeless tundra, calling out through a cloud of dust.
Front Neph Carl McCoy sloughs off the press-given tag of "spaghetti metal." A somber, scholarly black hole of anti-charisma, McCoy -- like the rest of the Neph -- conjures his onstage magick from the alchemical test tubes of memory, history and interlocking systems of energy. There's a pentagram inlay on his front tooth, and he builds his own headgear, grafting top hat crowns onto Stetson brims, sprinkling graveyard talismanic flour to authenticate the doomsday crown. "I don't feel like a cowboy," he says. "I don't feel like a 'dress-up cowboy,' particularly. I feel like I've got good taste. The clothes I wear are quite practical, clothes I can wear day in and day out. That's why I choose them. I don't choose them so I can look good on stage, choose them because I feel right, I feel dressed, I feel protected."
Fields of the Nephilim invert the classic rock theatrics and grandiose arena cliche of dry ice for a diametrically-opposed effect. They perform their entire set shrouded in mist, spectral figures drifting in and out of silhouettes as their intricate hypnotic weave of sound eddies into the room. Nothing predominates -- they may be the first truly anti-narcissistic rock band. "We don't really care if we can be seen or not," says Tony, the bass player (on album jackets and bios, band members are purposefully, unspecifically identified). "In the early days it was a simple effect. It was cheap."
After the usual dirt-play with no-name shit bands, Fields of the Nephilim discovered each other. "We were tuned in on the same frequency," says McCoy. "And when we started playing with each other, there was this telepathy between us. We were able to inspire each other."
"We find we can sit there and get into the vibration of one note for half an hour," says Tony.
"It starts manipulating itself," McCoy responds. "You start hearing something in there that no one is playing."
There's a particular kind of Old Testament fundamentalism in the Neph's music. McCoy actually dug through Genesis and Numers to discover the Nephilim, the "giants of the earth." There are elements of scriptural exegesis that don't get screamed at you by garden-variety televangelists or even white picket fence Methodists. Neph lyrics prove the Bible a dangerous and radical gnostic text, much weirder than anything Poe or Burroughs or Kafka ever scribbled.
Carl McCoy's mother was a pious church-going woman; dad flirted with the occult. McCoy credits his longstanding belief in the unseen to a boyhood memory of an odiferous, cold, dank presence at the top of a door. "Sometimes," he says, "You have a brain wave, but you don't know where it comes from."
"When you mention the Nephilim," says McCoy, "people speak of fallen angels. The Bible, in Genesis, mentions these fallen angels as sons of God, or in some Bibles they're called the Watchers. These were an entity, an incubus-type spirit which impregnated the women of the Earth and produced this race of people called the Nephilim. They supposedly taught man of war, magic and astrology. Everyone used to say, 'You don't wanna be interested in that. Don't read that bit.' I said, 'I like that bit.' Subconsciously, I feel quite close to these people. there's this strange race of people doing their own thing, no one knows where they went, no one knows where they came from, really. No one knows if they truly existed."