Fields of the Nephilim have been with us for twenty-two years and as a consequence could be considered grand fathers of the goth scene. They were churning out commercial goth rock before HIM's Ville Valo even thought about wearing black eye liner and deepest violet trousers. The 'Fields...' reached a commercial peak towards end of the eighties and the beginning the nineties, however since then their output has been less than prolific with only a couple of album releases to quell the fan's thirst for their doleful brand of goth rock.
'Mourning Sun' is the brainchild of singer and Fields' main driving force Carl McCoy, allegedly retreating into isolation to write this leviathan. Seven songs take up the fifty-five minute running time so there's little room for hit singles and commercial appeal. The album relies heavily on atmosphere rather than actual solid ideas with opening track 'Shroud (Exordium)' being the perfect example. Without any specific vocal melody it can be argued that this track is the album's introduction, albeit a long one. It starts with a choir, followed by heavy breathing, an un-discernable glottal articulation, a crying baby and huge keyboards. So dense is the atmosphere that it seems to drip from the speakers, covering the room with a wash of physical ambience. It's almost two minutes before the laid-back drumbeat adds definition to the blanket of sound, followed by a fading and hook driven guitar lick. The song still uses the aura as before but adds more to the mix, almost drowning out the physical instrumentation.
'Straight to the Light' has a more rocky approach with its upbeat feel and McCoy's trademark deep vocal style. It's slightly too long but it's a first rate foot tapper and leads seamlessly to 'New Gold Dawn'. This is another great track with a 'The Cult' feel about it, however it takes over two minutes to get going and this is the problem I have with the whole album. There are some good ideas on offer but they take forever to start, and I found myself sat back in my chair shouting, "Get on with it!" at the stereo. No doubt all the naysayers will complain at my short musical attention span, but for many of the tracks on this disk there's hardly any music for the first couple of minutes. This isn't a bad thing but the pudding is definitely being over egged on occasions, especially on 'Xiberia (Seasons in the ice cage)' when an immediate start with the drums would have grabbed my attention, as oppose to the ninety seconds of non descript build up. The ten-minute title track is an illustration when the atmospherics work to perfection. It is a slow brooding sombre number built round one basic idea, and even though the song appears never ending you are kept entertained by the quite gorgeous layers of keyboards and incidental sounds.
There is a fine line between using huge atmospheric sound scapes to enhance the music and letting them completely take over, and I feel 'Mourning Sun' walks the latter. Type O Negative's 'October Rust' is a perfect example of using moods and sonic climates to good effect, and I can't offer a better reference than that particular album for 'Mourning Sun'. If you liked that particular offering by Pete Steel and the crew then you'll get a lot out of this album. Maybe sometime in the future when I'm driving back up the M6 in torrential rain after witnessing a Slipknot show, I'll play 'Mourning Sun' in an effort to mellow out a little. Perhaps then I'll understand what it's all about, and fully appreciate Carl McCoy's effort because at the moment I am still scratching my head.