SOUNDS JUNE 10, 1989

Their latest single is about Armageddon and Fields Of The Nephilim mainman Carl McCoy reckons that the end is nigh. Cathi Unsworth listens to his mystical musings and gets a few survival tips.

Dark clouds are converging overhead. The city frowns in their shadow, the spires of a thousand sooted churches reach up to keep the darkness in. You are entering Leeds - home of Goth.

Under the brim of the cowboy hat of the Eldritch memorial statue is Leeds University, where disciples can learn the sacred ways of the patchouli sect.

Today, this venerable building is home to the new messiahs of fire and dry ice, Fields Of The Nephilim.

It is a fitting scene. Tripping through the legion of the crimped outside, you go up a winding staircase to a room high above the city.

Inside Neph singer Carl McCoy shields himself against the light with a pair of enormous goggles. Swathed in leather, he's the embodiment of mystery.

Suddenly he speaks. His voice is that of Eastenders Pete Beale. The storm clouds flee in terror and the sunlight streams in.

The only mystery to Carl at the moment is the massive popularity his group are receiving - both through their growing live following and the sudden chart action of the new single, 'Psychonaut', which has broken into the Top 30 with no added hype.

"We've become really popular all of a sudden," he frowns. "But, I suppose, I was locked in my room all on me own last week and now I'm surrounded..."

Carl's genuine magical beliefs are the driving force behind the Neph, but they are not there to let you in. Only the 'Psychonaut' video, a thriving epic with a sound that's a constant swirling mutation, gives you any clues to Carl's world.

Littered with ritualistic images - from Voodoo to the hanging-by-your-nipples Red Indian Sundance -the scenario is blurred and chaotic, the final frenzy before oblivion.

"it's generally about the end of time and a new beginning that is to come," Carl offers. "We are now in the age of chaos. But you are limited as to how much detail you can put into a video. At the end of the day, we are still a band, and you can only do so much.

"My lyrics are in a language that I can understand, but I don't have to justify them, and they can't be translated so that everybody can understand them.

"I'm not forcing my ideas down anyone's throat. No one else in the band is involved with my magical beliefs in any way whatsoever."

Psychonaut is something of a musical progression for the Neph. No longer do twanging spaghetti metal guitars drive the pace. This has a more classical structure.

"Yeah. There's a lot of room in it and, at the same time, it's very complicated in places," McCoy states proudly.

Is it indicative of a new direction?

"It's all the same part of what we're doing, we're just discovering new worlds. It's an extension rather than a change. But, at the same time, I don't feel that the Nephilim have covered half the musical ground that we need to."

Now playing to packed houses, how much bigger can the Nephilim get?

"I dunno about that. I don't like thinking about that - I'd rather forget the whole stardom bit. We like to play to a lot of people, but stadiums are a long way off."

Do you think people take you and your image seriously?

McCoy stares at me in disbelief. "I take what we're doing very seriously."

Tony Pettit, bassist and apparent father figure to the rest of the band, sums this point up succinctly: "You come to our gigs and it's not as if people are just standing around miserably. We take what we're doing seriously, it's about serious subjects and that, but when everyone gets together they don't act seriously. They're there to enjoy themselves."

Carl: "It's more ritual than art, what we're doing. The whole thing with the flour, it's part of the process. People go through rituals every day of their lives.

"Sharing a feeling is a force of power, people can't help it. They come to get out of themselves, which is a natural experience, rather than taking drugs when you're not in control of your body.

"It does go deep, but it's very uplifting at the same time. We are doing probably the most progressive music people have heard for a long time."

Bold statements indeed, but these men are giving you their all.

As Carl says, "I think the whole soul of what we are doing, the whole subject matter, goes beyond our physical selves. You go up there onstage and it's your soul you're giving people."

You've said that 'Psychonaut' is basically about Armageddon. Do you truly believe the end is nigh?

Carl: "I think that in the last century we've witnessed so many rapid changes that it's inevitable. But I don't think it's going to be the ultimate end. I think people are looking forward to being part of a new era, but I don't think many will know how to survive in the end.

"I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, following the right path. So everything will be alright. Being in this band right now is part of it.

"The Nephilim," he reveals, "were originally the last race of people to have existed before the last natural catastrophe, which was the flood."

Do you think people have neglected nature in favour of scientific discovery?

"The way science has been used in the past has definitely assisted in the downfall of mankind. It's existed since the beginning of time anyway - as soon as man could begin worshipping, he worshipped himself."

At this point Carl's beliefs begin to rub against the band's progress.

"I can only progress by doing more of what I'm doing now. At the same time it's my inspiration, my life. I can't just limit myself to music, because I think rock music in itself is pretty stale. Rock doesn't make me feel good anymore.

"That's pretty horrible really, cos if you're involved in rock music you're doing it cos you believe in it and you're being honest about it, although you feel totally alienated to it. Things can't stay like this, music has go to change, it's just being used to control people."

In what way?

"It's brainwashing kids. They'd break their necks to see these bands that have been manufactured by big companies, they're just sucked in by it all.

"And that's also why I hate all these benefit gigs. They use bands. People go to see the band, not to try and help anybody or become more socially aware. Most bands are using it for their own ego. Bad people. They should have been politicians."

What does Carl McCoy listen to?

"Recently classical quartets, stuff like that."

There is a theory that listening to classical music is more stimulating than sex. Carl's response, though, is slightly confused.

"Well, a lot of old composers used a formula called Golden Section. This was a kind of ratio that was worked out so that it gave you perfect frequency and progressions, and it helped painters get perfect perspective.

"After a time it was banned, because it was letting too many secrets out. Like, a lot of bands now use numerical formulae to create their music, such as Killing Joke. I think we do it in our music, in an unconscious way."

Whether mystic or severely misguided, Carl McCoy and his men have managed to create a powerful force with a band that began life as rather too much a textbook exercise in goth.

Right now, they are perhaps the ultimate design, and can claim their honorary degrees in the subject.

You have been listening to the soundtrack for the apocalypse.