first round game
(6) fields of the nephilim, “preacher man”
(11) lords of the new church, "dance with me"
and advances to the second round
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchvladness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on March 2.
robbie maakestad on “preacher man”
“Some angels were cast out of the heavens, and they came down to the earth, and they bred with the women on the earth, and produced like this supernatural race of giants, and the giants sort’ve roamed the earth for a while and they were supposedly wiped out during the flood, but there was a few survivors, but no one really, really knows what happened to them. I mean, no one knows enough about the Nephilim anyways, it’s just like a legend, so we took the name on because it’s quite a mysterious thing, and we added ‘Fields’ as in like ‘magnetic fields,’ drawn in towards the Nephilim rather [than] like in green pastures.” —Carl McCoy, “Night Flight,” 1988
“I think Nephilim was originally a Hebrew word meaning ‘giant.’” —Tony Pettit, “Flour Power,” Sounds, 1988
“We just chose it ’cos we liked the story it was in and it’s quite mysterious. It doesn’t give too much away.” —Peter Yates, “Flour Power,” Sounds, 1988
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” —Genesis 6:4
It wasn’t until May 4, 1987, that British ears were first treated to the Fields of the Nephilim’s debut album, Dawnrazor: an eight track gothic rock oddity that critic Dan Dickson from the British music mag Kerrang! billed as having created a new goth rock subgenre: “Spaghetti-metal.” For indeed, the conceit of the goth rock album is Spaghetti-Western, from the twangy guitar riffs and sweeping background windscapes which evoke those of a barren American West landscape, to the intro track—“intro (The Harmonica Man)”—which, a month after the album release, was panned by the very same Dave Dickson, who noted that the band “plagiari[zed from] the master musician of Spaghetti Western, Ennio Morricone.” And it’s true: the track samples Morricone’s “Man with the Harmonica” from Sergio Leone’s 1968 epic, Once Upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda. While Dickson rated the album 3.5/5 stars for the album’s plagiarism and “truck loads [sic] of effects” used to conjure a western soundscape, Dickson also gave the album a second rating—5/5 stars; for after all, Fields of the Nephilim had created their own cowboy goth rock subgenre.
Yet oddly, Dawnrazor’s UK release did not include “Preacher Man,” the album track that perhaps most embodies the Wild West. However, the U.S. release of Dawnrazor included “Preacher Man” as track six—a fortuitous decision by the band, as it still holds a venerated place in the Fields of the Nephilim discography. Though the song remains a Nephilim classic, surprisingly, it’s not the most popular Fields of the Nephilim song, slotting in at fifth-most-listened on Spotify. However, on YouTube, “Preacher Man” clearly holds the most-watched spot, beating out the next most-watched Fields of the Nephilim video by 65,000 views, largely, it would seem, because of its exquisite 1987 music video that the band recorded, a video that was re-released (and uploaded to YouTube) in 2002 as part of their “Revelations / Forever Remain / Visionary Heads” triple DVD release, which included live footage from 1988 and 1990 concerts, and seven music videos from their most recent album Revelations.
In the first twelve seconds of the “Preacher Man” music video, what sounds like an angelic chorus sings a single note that increases in volume while an electric guitar strums faster and faster, as if a small hammer had been dropped upon one guitar string, bouncing until coming to rest. The music video, (which has skewed timing from the song itself due to a kitschy amoeba-patterned title screen that silently takes up the first 17 seconds of the video), opens upon a yellow warning sign shrouded in roiling smoke that reads “Zone Perimeter: Radiation Contamination.” A quick cut takes us to a silhouette of front man Carl McCoy, flanked by the slightly more visible silhouettes of the four other band members. Though the 1987 video footage is grainy, the one thing that can be clearly made out is that four of the five men wear cowboy hats of varying brim depths and shapes, and that Carl McCoy’s eyes glow white like stars from an otherwise blackened visage.
Carl McCoy founded Fields of the Nephilim in 1984 in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England alongside guitarists Paul Wright and Peter Yates; bassist, Tony Pettitt; drummer, Nod Wright; and Gary Wisker on saxophone. Wisker is the only founding member not to appear in the video for “Preacher Man,” as he only lasted a year with the band, likely because no Fields of the Nephilim song features any discernable sax whatsoever. Musically, their sound depended on deep basslines, strong drumming, and spiraling guitar-work, underscoring McCoy’s guttural lyrics, which sound like they’re emanating from deep within a trash compactor.
The general confusion inherent to Nephilim scholarship is fairly evident if you pick up any sources on the topic. Within conservative Christian circles, the prevailing interpretative view of Genesis 6:4 is that when God expelled Satan from heaven with a cadre of demons, the demons fell to earth and impregnated human women, creating half-demon children: the Nephilim—the explanation I received from my elementary Sunday school teacher when I inquired—a nice way of saying that evil angelic beings raped human women. This then caused God to order a worldwide flood to wipe out the mutant offspring, and nearly all of humanity for good measure. Essentially, the few verses about the Nephilim serve as the lead-up to the Noah’s Ark story, which finishes out Genesis chapter 6. Come to think of it, Sunday school is actually pretty goth.
At 33 seconds into “Preacher Man,” an upbeat, twangy guitar lick kicks in as a sign with old west-style font fills the screen to introduce the song a second time: “FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM·PREACHER MAN·” An unseen angelic choir begins to pulse out a single vocalized note in time with the drum beat. The video cuts to a rifle-toting cowboy (perhaps one of the band members?) patrolling a line of hooded, gas-masked persons in sackcloth, pounding pitchforks and shaking a chainsaw in time with the twinging guitars. Then, a third introduction of the song title: “FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM·PREACHER MAN·” A series of quick-cut shots ensues: a close-up of a bearded man turning to look off-screen; an illuminated shot of McCoy—wearing a black leather bolero, what can only be described as black sungoggles, and a dark trench coat—standing behind a pulpit with the Bible on it. As “Preacher Man,” McCoy raises his leather-gloved fist, then spreads his fingers wide to reveal glove blades like Freddy Krueger (incidentally, A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted in ’84, the same year McCoy founded Fields of the Nephilim). A flame erupts on a black screen, just as an even heavier guitar riff takes off at second 47.
Without a label, Fields of the Nephilim put out two EPs on their own—one in ’85 and one in ’86—gigging as often as possible throughout England, winning any fans they could. Before Fields of the Nephilim signed with Indie record label Situation Two, British music critics compared their sound to Sisters of Mercy, who featured a drum machine named Doktor Avalanche, and after whom Fields of the Nephilim almost certainly modeled themselves—taking heat for obvious sonic overlaps. But when their first album, Dawnrazor, debuted in ’87, Fields of the Nephilim revealed themselves to be auditory giants.
At second 48, a mysterious cowboy in a bandana and a white trench coat rides a horse through a pasture. Clips of this shot alternate with clips of a camera moving at triple speed through a negative-filtered graveyard that looks like high-speed headstone x-rays. According to the highest-rated YouTube comment on the music video, a user named Rob Upson informs viewers that the horse in these shots was named “Corrieander,” and that the “beardy bloke” (the cowboy) was his father.
Rewinding to 1983, Richard Stanley, a South African film student, shot his first Super-8 film, Rites of Passage, in which a modern man finds himself remembering shards of his previous life as a caveman (here Stanley cast himself). In filming, Stanley found himself kicked out of the school due to scenes shot on a cliff face that the administration felt endangered the actors—yet Stanley claims that he hired professional climbers who looked so like the actors that “the faculty heads didn’t believe we didn’t use the actors.” When Rites of Passage won an international film contest, Stanley’s film career kicked off, and he moved to London, where he met Carl McCoy, who hired him to design the art for Dawnrazor, and to film the Super-8 music video for “Preacher Man.”
In the video, when Nod Wright smacks his cymbals, we see that they are shattered, a chunk of metal missing. A minute in, from behind his pulpit, Carl McCoy begins to sneer his first vocals: Well he talks in confusion. The camera zooms out to reveal a large radiation symbol plastered on the front of McCoy’s pulpit. And he faults your point of view. Beneath the pulpit, Wright and Yates jam on their guitars, dressed in cowboy leather trench coats. You talk about his apparition. / And he talks. / Hear him laughing at you. Perhaps the “he” is Rob Upson’s bearded father astride Corrieander, or perhaps “he” is McCoy, the Preacher? Zooming further out from the pulpit, hordes of post-apocalyptic pitchfork/gasmask/chainsaw peasant folk bow before the Preacher.
In a 2001 interview with Sex & Guts Magazine, Richard Stanley said about Fields of the Nephilim:
I was never wild about their music. They had a spaghetti western/post nuke image. Sort of a goth/horror thing. The first video we did, and then the first album cover, second album cover, second video. And then I had a chance to invent the look of the band which was very exciting. I met them before they were signed, and had a big influence on how they actually looked. I did the album covers, and influenced them across the board. Eventually the lead singer became a character called The Preacher Man, this frightening religious zealot in a post-holocaust world. I did a great promo.
A valid assertion, that. Oddly enough, in 1990, Stanley filmed a low budget sci-fi horror film, Hardware, and cast Carl McCoy as Nomad—a character who finds a robot buried in a radiation- contaminated desert—a character who McCoy acknowledged was “essentially the same character” as the Preacher Man in the Nephilim music video. “All that stuff from Hardware appeared in the Fields of the Nephilim videos first.”
Contamination and radiation. With this line, we realize that in actuality, the hordes are humanoid radiation mutants—the faces of whom look like Playdoh Quasimodo masks made by a four-year-old. And yet, somehow the masks are flexile enough for them to sing along with McCoy: Let it crawl while the city sleeps. / Your turn to lay bait for a while. Suddenly, Rob Upson’s bearded dad appears from a cloud of swirling smoke with a whip raised, bringing it down upon a mutant peasant in a top hat, who, incidentally, Rob Upson also claims was his brother: “Lee Upson (deceased).” Now you're melting through your burning fields. / And all my people say “oh!” At the “oh!”, all the mutant serfs raise their hands as a guitar shreds a repeated note, and a mysterious white trench coated figure whisks past the rifle-cowboy-patrolman.
In an effort to better understand the Nephilim, I reached out to a colleague in my university’s theology department. “Ah, the Nephilim,” she said. “That’s like the Old Testament of the Old Testament.”
At minute 1:47 of the “Preacher Man” music video, the white-coated mystery figure doffs their hat, and tosses long reddish-brown hair back to reveal a beautiful woman! Again, Rob Upson’s dad whips Rob Upson’s brother. The woman produces a sheriff’s badge, STOP!, as—in my second favorite music video moment—the five band members who are suddenly aligned in diagonal profile, turn in unison to look at the camera. All five now wear cowboy hats.
Preacher McCoy pounds the Bible against his radioactive pulpit. When he talks / connected scars reopen. / A thousand fingers / Reach out for you. The “he” is now almost certainly referring to the virulent sermonizing spewing forth from behind the radiation pulpit, and not from Rob Upson’s bearded padre. Preacher McCoy waggles his blade fingers and points one directly at the sheriff, who whirls away from him in a cloud of auburn hair as the deformed throngs slowly advance upon her.
We don't feel no contamination
We don't feel no contamination
We don't feel no contamination
We don't feel no contamination
The motley peasant ensemble stumbles forward toward the sheriff. In these group-mutant shots we first see the “dreadlocked mutant” who Rob Upson also claims is his “bro Darren Upson.” Staring at their approach, the sheriff holds her ground.
Here, it should be noted that all efforts to identify the sheriff in real life on the part of the author have proven unsuccessful. That said, on an obscure page of a Fields of the Nephilim Discussion Forum, on July 3, 2010, a user named “almagest” wrote:
there are two things i don't understand about [the “Preacher Man”] video :
1. can anyone explain the "story" to a poor newbie like me?
2. the blonde person with a sherif [sic] badge : is a girl or a boy? does anyone know who is he/she?
One day later, in response, a user named “Pale Rider” responded with equally distinct colon spacing:
Answer number two : I think the lovely lady (Clare) was Tony's girlfriend at the time.
Five days later, in regard to this intriguing possibility, a user named Mark Anthony Quested chimes in:
2. It is a girl.
On the entirety of the World Wide Web, it seems this exchange is as far as anyone gets in identifying the sheriff.
The repeated guitar shredding returns as the malformed masses enclose around the sheriff and raise their hands above their heads—oh!—but still she stands firm. In my absolute favorite moment of the video (minute 2:21), the three guitarists and Carl McCoy march forward in tight formation while playing the repeated lick, (McCoy holds a double-barreled rifle instead of a guitar), but while they advance, Paul Wright does the goofiest little shimmy-shake with an immense grin spread across his face. This is the only moment of levity in the entire video—a moment that kicks off precisely one full minute of absolute guitar shredding sans McCoy’s vocals.
Though the “demons fall from the sky and rape women” reading of Genesis 6 is common—and clearly it was held by my elementary Sunday school teacher—this reads into the Bible much of the extra-Biblical Book of Enoch: an Aramaic document that surfaced around 300 BCE which ludicrously self-attributes its authorship to Enoch from the Bible, Noah’s great-great grandfather. The Book of Enoch details the fall of angels from heaven, as well as sexual violence on the part of demons necessitating the Noahic flood. This book is not considered canon by Christians or Jews, but has found much acceptance as a contextual expansion upon the Nephilim verses in Genesis.
The hordes reach their outstretched arms towards the sheriff’s throat, which she opens to them, leaning her head back and looking at the sky. A mutant rev-starts a chainsaw in time with the pulsing guitars. As one, the hordes lift the sheriff up—her arms spread like a crucifix—and spin her upside down—a post-apocalyptic Petrine apostle; the camera spins with her, as if the mutant world has been upended by her stoic self-sacrifice. The guitar lick ceases, replaced by the progressively louder roaring of the mutant’s chainsaw, which says “Guard Tip” on the tip, yet there is no guard tip. We have reached the halfway point of the music video.
Of the music video, Carl McCoy:
Those early videos were very tongue in cheek. Neither of them had a big budget—“Preacher Man,” for instance, was £500—so we were limited by what we could do. Therefore the finished product had to be primarily for entertainment value.
How true this insight.
Nod Wright smacks his broken cymbal. Paul Wright picks his electric guitar. Peter Yates twangs his guitar. Tony Pettitt keeps the baseline pumping while pointing his headstock toward the camera. Somewhere, Gary Wisker wishes that he’d found a way to work a saxophone into this track. Carl McCoy stares straight into the camera from beneath the brim of his bolero—deep hazel eyes that, compared to all the hardened occult-cowboy dramatization, seem somehow soft and inviting. The angel chorus again belts out their harmonic repeated background note. Leather cowboy boots stride across muddy grass. McCoy’s disembodied hat flies through the air, emitting a cloud of dust.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that throughout the music video, band members emit clouds of dust with every movement, and atmospheric clouds swirl in the background of nearly every shot, giving the video a gritty, grainy vibe that goes beyond the Super-8 film. And this dustiness is something that the Fields of the Nephilim are known for, even in live shows, which are nearly always performed at night to add to the ambience. As a pillar of their post-apocalyptic oeuvre, band members dress in black cowboy leather and torn black jeans; in an interview with Metal Hammer, McCoy once described their outfits as “Victorian clobber that we tended to pick up from charity shops… with some sort of Spanish/Mexican spaghetti western vibe.” Atop this, the Fields of the Nephilim always look dusted in a layer of radioactive ash. And that description is not far off: Carl McCoy has never been one to hide the fact that before each performance, the Fields of the Nephilim sifted their coats and hats with baking flour. Asked the reason for using flour, McCoy said: “We had to develop something because we were such an odd-looking bunch…. [we] basically covered [ourselves] in a load of shit, so we at least looked like we belonged together…. We didn’t really think about the flour that much. It just happened.”
And this flour is featured directly in the very next shot of the “Preacher Man” video, with Preacher McCoy raising the open Bible from the radioactive lectern, leaning in close, and blowing an immense pile of flour from page to air. Cowboy boots stride across muddy grass. McCoy glances over the Biblical page—presumably opened to Genesis 6:4—and it’s not until this moment that a pencil-thin mustache can be seen gracing McCoy’s upper lip. Boots stride across muddy grass. McCoy, the Bible now resting on his radiation dais, raises both blade gloves in the air above his head, and the mutant masses bow before him in unison as an upbeat guitar pulsation replaces the repeated angel chorus, raising the tension and speed of the track.
But the band’s proclivity for flour wasn’t without its problems. Carl McCoy:
A lot of our fans used to get involved with the ritual of it all and they’d bring flour to the gigs in plastic bags to chuck up in the air when we came on stage. Well, some of them came back to the hotel after [a show] and a cleaner found one of these bags. She called the police and the next thing we knew we were being hauled out of bed in the middle of the night and marched off to the nick in handcuffs! They searched our tour bus and found 13 lbs. of what they thought was cocaine, but of course it turned out to be flour! They couldn’t work us out at all. They must have thought we were heavily into our baking!
A photo from a show in 1990 captures the band lined up to go onstage. Bassist, Tony Pettit, mock-snorts a spoonful of flour as Carl McCoy hides a smile.
With this critical uptick in the song’s speed—a musical segue before McCoy’s vocals once again grace us with their guttural snarl—the music video shifts into a bizarre back and forth between cowboy boots striding across muddy grass and more grainy triple-speed black-and-white cemetery footage. We see boots, headstones, boots, camera racing this way and that through cemetery as if in a graveyard maze, boots, headstones, boots, headstones, boots, more frantic x-ray racing—a full 14 seconds of negative filter chaos alternating in time to the beat.
In 1991, Carl McCoy broke away from Fields of the Nephilim, saying:
The split-up was inevitable, and I can't pretend it's been amicable. It hasn't. I just decided I couldn't work with these people or the management. We'd done the complete cycle in what we were representing, and musically I felt it was time to change. The only way to progress, to try to develop, is to kill what was before, sacrifice it. Annihilate it, break it down. I'm now in the process of burning the fields so as to develop what I set out to do in the first place.
Guitarist, Peter Yates:
Carl rang us up and said he had no choice but to leave the band. It wasn’t that he suddenly turned ’round and made the decision. There were things happening, a bit of an uneasy atmosphere, while we were recording… We were expecting it. It reached the point where someone was going to say it, either us or him.
The rest of the band brought in Andy Delaney to replace McCoy, rebilling themselves as Rubicon—a band that found little critical success. McCoy reappeared on the music scene a year later in 1992 as lead vocalist for The Nefilim [sic], a death metal band he formed with John “Capachino” Carter, which only released one album in 1996.
At minute 3:19, Preacher McCoy grabs his irradiated rostrum with both hands and spits out the words: Oh keep talking / You're a hunter… Interspersed with two quick shots of x-ray cemetery, McCoy’s lip-syncing doesn’t come close to aligning with the words, but with each lippy snarl, a burst of flour emanates into the air. …I'm a wolf. As McCoy utters this line, the sheriff has somehow escaped the clutches of the polluted multitudes, and sits cross-legged among them, glaring toward the Preacher while displaying an enormous golden bowie knife. An odd miss-cut of the film makes McCoy repeat a glance sideways like a tic: Yeah. Despite the bowie knife, McCoy continues his evangelization. Keep talking. The masses once again enclose around the sheriff, reaching their hands to grab her shoulders. The bowie knife glints. McCoy points his finger blades towards his heart: I'm the preacher… Then straight at the camera: you're a fool. Again, the “Zone Perimeter: Radiation Contamination” sign appears.
Regarding his personal use of the name Nephilim/Nefilim [sic] apart from the other band members, McCoy said, “As far as I'm concerned, I am The Nephilim and all it stands for, and I feel I should use it, even though the others don't approve.” It is unclear what it means to personally embody “The Nephilim.”
Aside from reading Genesis 6 through the lens of the Book of Enoch, there exist numerous other interpretations concerning the Nephilim espoused by a heavenly host of scholars. Perhaps more plausible than demon spawn—albeit, less gothic—is the theory that the Nephilim were giants: legendary warriors that dwarfed the rest of humanity with their prodigious height. Largely, this view is held because of a second Biblical passage, Numbers 13, in which the Israelites sent spies to scope out modern day Palestine long after the Noahic Flood would have eliminated any demonic offspring, and the spies reported:
The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.
An intriguing angle to this reading of the text is that these large warrior folk eventually offsprung their way through the centuries to their progeny, Goliath, the giant slain by King David—a sort of symbolic triumph by the greatest of Israel’s kings over a mythic, prehistorical enemy.
At minute 3:34, a shrouded mutant in a gas mask crouches in some reeds in front of another gas mask peasant standing next to what looks to be a bombed-out Wood and Pickett Mini Margrave fitted out with auxiliary searchlights. The croucher turns to the camera—Contamination and radiation / Let it crawl while the city sleeps—while the shot zooms close to the standing mutant, revealing an absolutely hideous straw blonde wig atop its head, which one has to imagine conceals yet another as yet unidentified Rob Upson relative.
In 2012, McCoy was asked to reflect on the band’s breakup. His response: “I didn’t want the group to be really big. I liked the idea of being a culty act. Huge commercial success didn’t interest me at all and I had a fear that things were going that way… so I split the band up.”
Atop a close-up shot of the sheriff’s face in profile, the Preacher continues his solo: Your turn to lay for bait for a while. The sheriff’s face suddenly burns a bright yellow—as if reflecting an explosive glow—and she turns to look, just as a cloud of yellow dust erupts around a pair of cowboy boots. Now you're melting through your burning fields. Preacher McCoy spreads his arms out wide, That's when my people say… and the peasant masses lift their arms as one along with the sheriff: Oh! The chainsaw mutant advances through a cloud of flour air, and the sheriff again wields her golden bowie, as if protecting the mutants around her. We flash back and forth between the two, and the twangy guitar lick returns, amping the song’s intensity up once more. Preacher McCoy leans over his fallout lectern and lifts his black, sungoggles up to get a better view.
The Fields of the Nephilim remained disbanded until, on August 15, 1998, Carl McCoy and Tony Pettitt held a presser in Germany at Zillo Festival after playing several classic Fields of the Nephilim songs together. McCoy announced:
We've decided to reform Fields of the Nephilim in its traditional way, with the original line-up, but we will still continue with our experimental projects under some kind of Nephilim title, which will be immediately happening with me and Tony. We're doing a new Nephilim album, which will be followed by a Fields of the Nephilim album, and they will be quite different.
Tony Pettit followed this announcement with his own explainer:
The new Nephilim stuff me and Carl are doing separate to Fields of the Nephilim is more of a studio-based, experimental side of what we do, as opposed to the Fields of the Nephilim stuff, which will be the classic Fields of the Nephilim sound—we just need to have both outlets to do what we want to do.
And yet, this Fields of the Nephilim Fields of the Nephilim reunion never solidified for the Fields of the Nephilim. Nor for the Nephilim.
In an unexpected twist, the sheriff shrugs her shoulders, and sets her golden bowie down on the ground—will she sacrifice herself a second time? The mutant freak swings the chainsaw around and around in a threatening manner, as a chainsaw scream replaces the twangy electric guitar once more—a screaming dissonance within the track that makes the listener feel adrift, somehow scattered. A close up of the mutant’s face reveals one eye scarred over and deformed, and then the chainsaw is raised as if to deal a death blow. Preacher McCoy shifts backward with an arm outstretched as if to beg the mutant for mercy, but it’s too late—the mutant rushes forward, and now we see the mutant has been threatening the band, not the sheriff. We follow the silhouette of the sprinting chainsaw mutant toward Paul Wright and Peter Yates on their guitars and they spread just in time so that the mutant brings the chainsaw down directly slashing into the Bible and the podium in the rough, jumpy cut of a dull chainsaw blade with no guard tip. Preacher McCoy has fled his pedestal.
In 2000, Fields of the Nephilim released a retooled version of the first track, “Trees Come Down,” from their first EP (’85), and played four European music festivals, but Carl McCoy was the only founding member in this iteration of the band. Two years later, in 2002, Jungle Records released Fallen, a Fields of the Nephilim album—their first in eleven years—which consisted of tracks recorded between 1997-2001, as well as a 1988 demo track. Carl McCoy immediately decried the release, claiming the band had not authorized the album, and that none of the tracks had ever been finished. Fields of the Nephilim has only performed one song from that album live in concert. In 2005, Carl McCoy put out Mourning Sun, the first official Fields of the Nephilim album in 14 years.
The lyrics pick up again—We don't feel no contamination—as Paul Wright takes off his guitar, leans it up against an immense bass speaker, and picks up a double-barreled rifle. We don't feel no contamination. The mutated multitudes stumble forward as one, and the band gathers in tight formation. We don't feel no contamination. Carl McCoy, Nod Wright, and Tony Pettit wield rifles from the hip, while Paul Wright and Peter Yates keep the music rolling from their guitars. We don't feel no contamination. McCoy fires two shots off in time with the beat, but the throngs don’t react in the slightest. We don't feel no contamination. In a final cameo, the top-hat mutant—“Lee Upson (deceased)”—tears pages from the Bible, scattering them across the hay-strewn ground. We don't feel no contamination, McCoy’s upside-down face sings the lyrics as the camera spins until he’s right-side up. We don't feel no contamination. Then we see that the malformed have lifted Preacher McCoy up like he’s moshing, carrying him forward while still he sings: We don't feel no contamination. Lee Upson (deceased) tears more Bible pages, and then in a shot that pans quickly to the right, we see the dreadlocked mutant—Darren Upson one last time—bobbing to the beat and singing.
On May 24th of 2007, two years after their most-recent album release, Fields of the Nephilim performed live in London, featuring a newly added guitarist named Gizz Butt—their first concert in seven years. McCoy invited Richard Stanley—who filmed the “Preacher Man” music video so many years earlier—to film the concert for a DVD release, yet Stanley’s audio and video from the night proved spotty, and Carl McCoy “took the reins” of the project, which never saw light of day.
After panning past Darren Upson and his mutant bro-tastic dreadlocks, we see the sheriff’s face, now wearing Preacher McCoy’s sungoggles; she whirls, and the camera cuts far as she walks down the middle of two rows of mutants toward two large boxcar doors that she spreads apart in the gentlest of motions, revealing a bright light that overpowers everything and coincides with the introduction of McCoy’s concluding refrain: Radiation. Contamination. For one, brief half-second the sheriff’s white overcoat gleams with her arms spread wide: a triumphant Christ figure in a cowboy hat, backed by a flock of chainsaw mutants.
Biblical Nephilim scholarship is in itself inherently unclear because the Bible verses that precipitate the field are unspecific, ancient, and mythic. Should the Genesis 6 Nephilim legend be read through the lens of the Book of Enoch? Or were the Nephilim merely a mythic race of giants? Either option reads as fairly gothic. Or, as Annette Yoshiko Reed asks in her definitive text on the Nephilim, Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature: were the Nephilim merely a group of legendary warriors renowned from of old?
For in a close reading of Genesis 6:4, it’s a logical jump to read the Nephilim as the fallen angels who “came in to the daughters of men,” when the verse itself says that “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days… when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men.” This seems to indicate a clear distinction between Nephilim and the sons of God (fallen angels). The conclusion of the passage reads, “[The Nephilim] were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown,” which sounds less like demonic spawn or race of giants, and more humans who maintained legendary warrior standing in the ur-passages of early human oral tradition. Perhaps, then, the Nephilim were not so dissimilar from mythic, cloaked, bowie-knife-wielding, apocalyptic sheriffs.
In 2013, original bassist Tony Pettit rejoined The Fields of the Nephilim and has performed with the band ever since. From that year until present, McCoy and Pettit have made a routine of playing an average of 4.6 shows a year in England, Spain, and Germany, most recently rolling out four Fields of the Nephilim shows in England during fall of 2018—a band that shows no signs of stopping.
In the next shot of the music video, a thin rope dangles and the camera pans down, revealing a thick noose knot pulled tight around the neck of a de-hatted Preacher McCoy, hair wild, and singing—Radiation. Contamination—while glowering Satan’s stare into the camera. His face is half lit a golden yellow; the other half, a rich orange-red; his eyes a sharp, inky black, no longer warm. Three quick cut shots rotate between the deformed collective shuffling closer, and Preacher McCoy singing: Radiation. Contamination. A mutant reaches out a leathery, desiccated hand, and the Preacher sings his last lyric: Radiation. Leather sheriff boots kick a stool out from under Preacher McCoy’s feet. In the fractional frame of his face at the moment he falls, the Preacher’s left eye looks left, away from the sheriff—the only detail that can be noted before the blur of his fall.
We hear Nod Wright smack his cymbals twice, and then the guitars dissolve in one final dissonant scream. The rope vibrates wildly under the Preacher’s weight. His boots shake as the noose catches. The rope lets off a final puff of flour dust that gently sifts through the air as the rope goes still. The guitars conclude their ragged note and all is silent. As if from somewhere far away, a weird auditory crunch lets loose as the Preacher Man’s boots give one final, violent twitch.
“Fields of the Nephilim - Preacher Man.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsSFR43Z6000
Fields of the Nephilim Official Website. https://www.fields-of-the-nephilim.com/2011NEWS3 .html
“Fields of the Nephilim.” Bandsintown. https://www.bandsintown.com/en/a/31493-fields-of-the-nephilim
“Fields of the Nephilim: Revelations / Forever Remain / Visionary Heads DVD.” The Arkive. https://archive.beggars.com/fields-of-the-nephilim-dvd/
“Flour Power.” Sounds, 1988. http://sumerland.devin.com/articles/nephilim-sounds-1988.shtml
Genesis. The ESV Study Bible.
Graham, Ben. “Into the Subconscious: Fields of the Nephilim Interviewed.” The Quietus, 2012. https://thequietus.com/articles/08546-fields-of-the-nephilim-interview
Hansen, Skaht. “Fields of the Nephilim: Dawnrazor Review.” Pitchfork Media, 1999. https://archive.vn/20090205151812/http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/17710-dawnrazor
Johnson, Howard. “How the Fields of the Nephilim had the Last Laugh.” The Hammer, 2012. https://www.loudersound.com/features/how-the-fields-of-the-nephilim-had-the-last-laugh
“Music Videos.” Between Death and the Devil—The Unofficial Richard Stanley Website. http://www.everythingisundercontrol.org/nagtloper/other/music.php
Nickelsburg, George W. E., and James C. VanderKam. 1 Enoch: A New Translation. 2004.
Numbers. The ESV Study Bible.
Olson, Daniel. Enoch: A New Translation: The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, or 1 Enoch, Translated with Annotations and Cross-References. 2004.
“Preacher Man Video.” Fields of the Nephilim Discussion Forum. http://dawnrazor.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2958&sid=a0f06a026b04346bec7f0e99d52927f0
Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
“Rites of Passage.” Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0392717/
“Rites of Passage (Rel. 1983).” Between Death and the Devil—The Unofficial Richard Stanley Website. http://www.everythingisundercontrol.org/nagtloper/other/short.php
Ross, Hugh. The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis. 1998.
“Nephs Split!” Melody Maker, 1991. http://sumerland.net/articles/nephilim-melodymaker-2-1991.shtml
O’Keefe, Paula. “Gehenna to Elizium – Fields of the Nephilim 1985-1991.” KIA #1, 1991. http://www.spookhouse.net/angelynx/nephilim/nephlore.html
“Press Conference Announcing Fields of the Nephilim Reunion.” Zillo Festival, 1998. http://sumerland.net/articles/zillo-press-conference.shtml
Ramsey, Chris. “Fields of the Nephilim Interview.” Cornerstone, Vol. 19.18, 1989. http://sumerland.devin.com/articles/cornerstone.shtml
“Total Abuse: Richard Stanely and the Devil.” Sex & Guts Magazine. Vol. 3, 2001.
Thomas, Bryan. “Fire & Brimstone Tirades: “Video Flash Tracks” featuring UK Goth-Rockers Fields of the Nephilim.” Night Flight, 2017. http://nightflight.com/fire-brimstone-tirades-video-flash-tracks-featuring-uk-goth-rockers-fields-of-the-nephilim/
Robbie Maakestad is a Senior Features Editor for The Rumpus and an Assistant Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He is writing a biography of place about Jerusalem’s City of David archaeological site. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Boulevard, The Normal School, Essay Daily, Wigleaf, and Bad Pony, among others. Follow him @RobbieMaakestad.
amy rossi on “dance with me”
The term supergroup brings to my mind indulgence—indulgence to the point of miscalculation. This is maybe unfair, since the term technically encompasses the likes of Cream, the Highwaymen, the Traveling Wilburys, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
At its best, it’s still a spectacle. At its worst, a supergroup is a cash grab, is you loved us all separately so now you will love us together, is Sammy Hagar, is toothless versions of songs you remember made generic for a new millennium.
A goth-punk supergroup, though, must be something different. Fuckless but not feckless, as unconcerned with the sum of its parts as it is everything else.
Lords of the New Church is that very thing: a goth-punk supergroup. Members came from the Dead Boys, the Damned, Sham 69, the Barracudas—punk heavy-hitters on both sides of the Atlantic.
But reading about Lords of the New Church usually involves at least as much time spent reading about the fractures that led to their formation. Their music, as it strays further away from these roots, gets less attention.
A goth-punk supergroup is like the other kinds after all: close to what people want, but not it.
There is a live performance of “Dance with Me” on YouTube, frontman Stiv Bators and the rest of the band at the Marquee in London. Supergroup, maybe, but this is Stiv’s show. He slinks around the stage, his eyes rimmed Alice Cooper-black, his hair glam rock-big. He has one lace glove and his shirt is perfectly and enviably clawed down the back. He is not one music scene. He is them all.
Stiv was, by all accounts, a notorious performer. To watch him is to understand that he wasn’t concerned with the pretty side of things. In other performances, he falls into joint-defying backbends, stretches improbably from the drumkit to the mic stand, wraps the microphone cord around his neck—a stunt that was taken too far and led his being clinically dead for a non-zero amount of time at a 1983 show.
The “Dance With Me” part of the Marquee set is, by those standards, calm. Still, my first reaction to Stiv’s onstage persona is discomfort. The exaggeration of it all, like his feelings are so big they needed to be worn, displayed, twisted, not just felt. Too close to the surface, they might as well be unleashed, and it’s hard to watch at times.
That kind of desperation, that neediness to be seen -- it’s too supergroup, too literal. Too much like a mirror.
Lords of the New Church had one song that could be defined as a hit, and it’s not “Dance With Me.” “Dance With Me” reached only as high as 85 on the UK charts, and that’s as close as they would get to commercial success, after a promising start.
“Dance With Me” is not political like “Open Your Eyes,” or as rough as “Russian Roulette,” two singles from their first album. It’s not the Damned. It’s polished. It’s got keyboards. It doesn’t feel experimental, necessarily, but Stiv, as an uncredited speaker in a preview for a planned documentary about his life says, “was finding out different facets of his creativity...because the music of Lords of the New Church was very different than the Dead Boys, obviously.”
That quote is followed by Stiv saying, “Our music is a combination of the last thirty years of rock and roll.”
And so “Dance With Me” falls somewhere in between what people wanted Lords of the New Church to be and the truth.
The supergroup doesn’t just assume our love, our interest. It asks for us to hold fast to the original magic of a band and believe that it can be recreated, better.
Maybe that’s doable. Maybe the real issue comes with trading one subculture for another. What is music, other than belonging? And when you find your sound, the thing that makes you feel understood, the chorus that gives you somewhere to put those big dark feelings and the scene that gives you the look to finally make your outsides match your insides, that is no small moment.
To move from punk to a gothy New Waveish sound and to continue to reinvent, well, that becomes a betrayal of sorts.
If the skin you found yourself in is so easily shed, did you really find anything at all, or did you just get close?
Oh come on little stranger
There’s only one last dance
Soon the music’s over
Let’s give it one more chance
In some ways, the goth ethos—as I understood it in the Marilyn Manson/Hot Topic days of the ’90s and as I understand it now—seems to acknowledge that close is all you’re ever going to get and you might as well embody that to the fullest.
And in that way, “Dance With Me” might be a perfect goth song, and not just because it is sung by someone who briefly died onstage. What else are you supposed to do with the big bleak feelings but dance them out? The song invites you to move with it, to sing along. Lean into its darkness. It can cover the breadth of your yearning. There is no resolution, just the longing that comes from possibility. We know how to get close. We know how to live in the place of almost. “Dance With Me” is about wanting. There is nothing goth about getting it.
Stiv Bators died in 1990, after he had to take a break from performing with Lords of the New Church because of a back injury, after he found an ad they placed for a new singer, after he appeared onstage with the band to perform in a tee shirt that bore that text of that very same ad, after the band broke up for real. On a street in France, he was hit by a car and assumed he was not injured enough to warrant medical attention. He was, by this point, no stranger to pain. He died in his sleep.
According to John Waters, Stiv’s girlfriend Caroline snorted some of his ashes before they were scattered on Jim Morrison’s grave.
She wanted to be closer to him.
My friend Christina describes one aspect of goth culture as the embodiment of “I’m too angry/sad/strange for you.”
And maybe this is what is so appealing about the idea of a goth-punk supergroup. If a supergroup assumes a certain amount of love, is it not pretty punk to take that form in a genre of music that actively rejects the easiness of lovability?
Close to what people want, but not it. And maybe, as they sped through three albums and then started playing with musicians who’d become known with other bands, more fractures and more formations, not what Lords of the New Church wanted either.
In the video from the show at the Marquee, the camera glances over the crowd every now and then during “Dance With Me.” Restrained head bobbing and one wild fist waving around to the left. There’s a headbanger, a bopper, a few who ride the wave the sound against each other. There is no one right way to move to the music. The crowd dances with the band, doing what their bodies need in that moment, and together, with the right song and the right light, maybe they get close to what they need.
Maybe they find it.
Amy Rossi is a writer living in North Carolina. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in places such as Wigleaf, matchbook, and Pithead Chapel. Find out more at amyrossi.com.