Music for a Monday: Fields of the Nephilim

When I first discovered the Fields of the Nephilim, I was reading lots of The Sandman, Michael Moorcock, books about Aleister Crowley, and those excellent short fiction anthologies White Wolf used to produce for the World of Darkness. This music was the perfect accompaniment for such dark mythologies.  The dark silhouettes cut by the Fields on their posters seemed to come out of the same dreamworld as The Sandman. Their music combined Ennio Morricone-style guitars with killer basslines and Carl McCoy’s deep voice. The Fields created their own mythology out of chaos magic, Lovecraft, and an inverted order that reveres darkness and negativity. Carol Shield’s excellent book Goth’s Dark Empire describes The Field’s identification of dark forces such as Lovecraft’s  Great Old Ones with dark femininity—a force representing chaos that provides ultimate freedom from the strictures of the mundane world.

The Mission tried their hand at the cowboy-hat goth thing, but they managed to miss the truly malevolent and sublime mythic dimensions of the Fields of the Nephilim.  Much flack has been handed out to the Fields for their dust-covered undead cowboy look. In retrospect, it may seem silly and melodramatic, but I consider it a sign of their devotion to their own mythology that they bothered to dust themselves in corn starch before hitting the stage. This music still manages to conjure up images of Morpheus, Elric and Crowley for me.

In a conversation with a friend recently about goth appropriation (this is pertinent to an upcoming post regarding my time at DragonCon), we agreed that while Joy Division and The Cure covers were likely to continue to be made by the latest hipster darlings, at least the Fields of the Nephilim were safe from being twee-ified in our lifetimes.

So, enough talk, let’s watch some videos!

Moonchild, inspired by the Aleister Crowley book of the same name. Note here the imagery: caves, water, a veiled woman in white. McCoy’s persona here is running deeper into an underworld presided over by a lunar goddess. The lyrics indicate he’s seeking asylum from the persecuting forces of rationality.

Psychonaut, which shares a title with a book on chaos magic.  In this video, McCoy seems to be undergoing a death and rebirth ceremony. He sings most of the song from behind a violet veil, as though located in the spirit world. The image of McCoy hanging like Odin from Yggdrasil crops up in a lot of these videos.

Blue Water. What can I say about this? The video begins with the hanged McCoy and follows him into what seems to be an underworld in which he’s cooked by elemental spirits. I’m not sure what’s going on with his Elizabethan mullet here. This video shows how absolutely gorgeous McCoy is. Truly, I consider Carl McCoy to be one of the most beautiful men ever. In the end, the Hanged Man is resurrected and leads the nuclear mutants from the Preacher Man video away into the forest.

Sumerland. In this video, we see another woman, veiled and masked. McCoy stands within the flaming ritual circle, perhaps to summon this desert goddess. Through the flickering flames, his face merges with hers and the mask falls away.

For Her Light. Mostly concert footage, but a fantastic song nonetheless.

I skipped over McCoy’s Nefilim project, which was a little too metal for my tastes. The Fields of the Nephilim released an album in 2005 which keeps the dark sound, but punches up the speed for something that still sounds metal-adjacent to me (actually, it sounds like late Ministry covering the Fields of the Nephilim.) I enjoy several of the tracks on this album, but they don’t have the goosebump-raising power of the earlier works.

I have to close out on this Roxy Music cover, which is absolutely pitch-black.

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