by Mark Reed

A decade ago, Carl McCoy told his constituents that "I AM The Nephilim!", and then promptly scuppered his previously prolific band's reputation with one album, two singles, and about ten live shows for the next fifteen years. Leaving aside 2002's "Fallen" (a ragbag collection of unfinished demos released by his former label), "Mourning Sun" is the Nephilims first album of new material in a decade.

The familiar cliches are still familiar: pompous and humourless, big hats, old Goths writing concept albums about something important like death and the afterworld, and whatever. It's almost as if you opened the Blue Peter Goth Time Capsule from 1987. The familiar black cover, the obsidian shiny art, the strained and ornate typography, the complete lack of any visual or musical progression since 1989, and yet - it sounds timeless. As if it fell fully formed from a world without time, and was opened with the gasp of escaping air like the Well of Souls in "Raiders Of The Lost Ark."

Of course, there's more to it than that. "Mourning Sun" is immense in its sheer black-painted balls and its stubbornly singular vision. From the opening, ambient terror of "Shroud/Exordium", which is five minutes of inocherently threatening mumbling (the entire lyric is "Closer. Closer. Closer. Die"), to the final, bizarre Halloween Metal ProgRock of "In The Year 2525," the Nephilim's latest release is the aural equivalent of a sulkily vicious Manga film.

Musically, there's little progression from the highpoint of "Elizium." The familiar ingredients: gravel-clad vocals, shimmeringly elusive keyboard textures, driller-killer guitars and a claustrophobically intense rhythm section, are matched with McCoy's economically inhuman, cold vocals. Lyrics betray little, if anything of a personality, and more of a philosophical concept that appears to encompass fallen angels, death, eternal life, love, and God's Mighty Hand. Imagine Johnny Cash singing this.

And whilst I appear to be hard on this, it's a record I love. Like "Zoon" before it, the songs are so complex, the musical themes interwoven so dextrously and coherently, that "Mourning Sun" is less of a record, and more one fifty eight minute song in ten parts : a rock symphony if you like. Sections rise and fall with the beating of waves, musical and lyrical motifs reappear then vanish, guitars cut slices through the airwaves, and a pummelling RSI-inducing bassline ripples like a Jurassic Park monster. And then Carl McCoy's voice, seemingly oblivious to the inherent self-parodiac nature of the medium, uncurls like God giving birth or El Diablo himself going carol singing.

"LOOK UP! LOOK DOWN! LOOK! STRAIGHT INTO THE LIGHT!" he implores, like some demented murderous clown doing a variation on "If You're Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands."

And "Mourning Sun" is great. Great to the scope of its vision, great to the achievement, and great in it's ridiculous and overblown pomposity. Move over Axl Rose, a new primadonna is in town.