by Vinnie Apicella
What starts, ends, and sometimes an end yields a new beginning. Nod and Paul Wright, brothers and integral parts of the acclaimed underground Goth-Rock sound of the UK's Fields of the Nephilim, have come seemingly from nowhere to develop a whole new design by way of "Guided By Light," their first new recording together in over four years. An album that remains steeped in the classic Gothic architecture of years past with a dynamic view of the future, an ambitious and atmospheric creation that few could've expected amidst the continued conjecture of a full-fledged Fields' reunion record and tour. "That's the thing I have to stress to everybody," begins Nod. "We never got back together again fully. It was talked about to some extent, we briefly rehearsed together and managed a certain amount of recording, but then it just never materialized. So The Nephilim really didn't reform after all those years apart and right now it still stands at the state from where we first split up back in '91." Indeed the band did manage at least two recordings, a precursor to the supposed album that was due later in the year but there were seemingly endless delays, and attempts to contact the band themselves to talk about the regrouping were destined to die on the vine. After the initial breakup a decade ago, frontman Carl McCoy would later go on to assemble the industrial-edged "Zoon" under the name Nefilim, while the Wright brothers and the rest of the original band would go on to form Rubicon, a more rock-oriented project that lasted for a couple of albums before fading into obscurity by the late '90s. "We did a couple of albums and a limited amount of touring through Europe," continues Nod. "I think the band just sort of fizzled out really. A lot of people probably expected something a bit different I think after the Nephilim days and it just didn't seem to really go anywhere."
"Guided By Light" in fact represents the first official recording since the Rubicon days, save for the handful of F.O.T.N. tunes that may never see the light of day, and Wright, perhaps answering a calling that the day had finally arrived to step out into the light for a project of his own making, and suddenly Last Rites was born. He continues: "It was plucked out of the air basically. In the winter of 2000 -- to just sort of sum up where we were at the time; how we felt, with preconceptions of doing something good and then the disappointments of not doing anything else for a while. So it was just being thrown up and down and finally we said, okay, it's time to get on with it. We felt bitter at the time over a few things that had happened, so it was our attitude to do this for ourselves this time instead of for other people."
The resulting release is nothing short of astounding. A veteran of the Gothic/Metal underground scene for a number of years, even he must've been surprised with the final product, though he'd admitted never having fully listened to it with headphones for full effect, but the music, faithful to the classic moments, fresh, vibrant, atmospheric, superbly stark, edgy and dark with a fair degree of modern elements and impressive sound quality - a triumphant return by all counts. Much of the new material came about from unfinished pieces of the past. Nod discusses how the eight passages for "Guided By Light" came to be: "This turned out to be the first official collection of songs that I've taken to the point where they got finished. A lot of things I'd written in the past had been sitting on the shelf without vocals on them. I just got to a point where I needed an outlet - a release basically, cause I had an album's worth of material but I had to go the extra yard where I could come up with something without depending on other people to help produce it. There are actually a few slightly older things on here that we'd been plucking around quite a long time. But some of it was written immediately and just became a matter of getting them down to complete the album."
On the nature of the album itself, its depth and the expected dark imagery that surrounds it, he adds: "It's sort of like a particular avenue with the darker or Gothic-style music and some people just tend to head down that particular road. It's nice to have that sort of sense of atmosphere and power about it. But it doesn't always have to have that particular Gothic tone and note in it. I don't think the music's very instantaneous. There's no sort of immediate gratification with some of the songs, it's deliberately drawn out to entice the listener to go further into it - to explore, rather than instantly moving from one track to the next and have the whole thing fly by. There are many elements in there without it being too obvious."
Songs such as "Resolution," "Race a Train," or the seven-plus-minute closing epic "The Powers That Be" prove that the listener is in for an adventuresome journey that doesn't conclude after the first pass. An album with durability, power, drama and emotional intensity, Wright's design wasn't to approach lyrically tales of expectation or drown the listener in complete dread, but rather come from the more introspective angle that will continue to hold significance long after the music's stopped. "The music's pretty personal to a great extent, not something I feel I need to hide behind," according to Wright. "Just a case of being totally natural, feeling the things around me, experiences and so forth - I could be quite temperamental sometimes, but emotionally - in the mindset I was in, I was hoping the music could serve as a sort of two-way gatefold on that front. If people can relate to certain sorts of things and put themselves in that position, I'm sure they'll have suffered some of the same experiences I had in the past and also enjoyed some of the pleasant ones. So I think with 'Guided By Light,' they can tiptoe through the lyrics and find themselves in there somewhere."
Having stuck close to home for the better part of four years since what started, did in fact end for Rubicon, ("What Starts Ends" - 1994 release) Nod's cautiously optimistic about taking Last Rites on the road. With the record hitting the streets in early September, Wright, in the spotlight for the first time for what's expected to be an ongoing project of permanency, finds it a bit daunting to play dual role of manager and performer. While the band is slated for a handful of UK dates, time will tell once the record finally gets its wings, and yet either way, Nod and his band will give little time for dust to settle. "We don't have a lack of will to tour. I think the UK gigs will be really good and I'm looking forward to them. After that, we'll see how it goes. Right now there's an awful lot more responsibility and sometimes the pressure gets ridiculous! (Laughs) But we want to let people hear it and get on a tour, very much so. But I still feel a bit stunted in a way cause I've been up for that in the past and then we've been sort of kicked back in the teeth again. So it's been a sort of stigma really, the idea of touring, and we'll have to prove ourselves all over again, which is fine, but it just feels like it's a bit tricky."
UK-based fans can catch the band doing select shows in early and mid-September in cities like Cambridge, London and Oxford among others. The band continues to work on coming up with new material and plans for another album could already be in the works before the end of the year and before they set out for a more extensive tour.