REVELATIONS – Fields of the Nephilim & The Mission (Brixton Academy)


Six years of being a) broke and b) the sort of wazzock who’ll spend his spare money on toy soldiers despite a) have taken their toll: my beard and I haven’t been near a ‘proper gig’ that you have to pay money to get into since 2007, despite living just down the road from Manchester Academy for a year. This year, though… this year Fields of the Nephilim were playing half an hour’s Tube-and-walk from me in Brixton, within two weeks of my birthday, and the usual objections drifted away like Homepride on the breeze. The only downside, I thought, was that I’d have to sit through a Mission set…

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of The Mission, possibly because I’m a bit mental about The Sisters of Mercy and always saw the Mish as the mid-80s Sisters with their brains in their jockstraps, stringing together a lot of hippie nonsense and innuendo ’cause they couldn’t write decent lyrics: which is fair enough since that’s basically what the Mission are. Looking at the video for ‘Sometimes The Brightest Light Comes From The Darkest Place’, Wayne Hussey seems to think he’s Floyd Pinkerton – come to think of it, he looks a bit like a skinnier Roger Waters these days as well – and given his age and, shall we say, ‘cult appeal’ there’s a vague whiff of midlife crisis about that sort of thing.

The thing is, sneering aside, he’s not actually a bad guitarist. Or a bad singer. Or a bad frontman. I still maintain he’s not much of a wordsmith, but he does write a chorus that’ll have a half-full Academy’ worth of goths singing along, and the Mission do crank out a steady, foot-stomping, solid and unpretentious sound. There’s a continuity to them, traceable from the early twelve-string fiddly-diddly ‘Severina’ and ‘Deliverance’ (on form tonight as a slow-burning outro that ends with Hussey alone, gargoyle-squatting on the edge of the stage, alternately begging for salvation from/handing out the vino to the front row) to the newer stuff like ‘The Girl In The Furskin Rug’, a song about fancying Marianne Faithfull if I understood matters correctly.

Mr. Hussey certainly had a good old whinge in between tunes – apparently he’d been having one of those days that starts with being thrown off your tour bus and ends with having to play the Academy – but it didn’t seem to do the performance any harm, and to be honest, from the audience side, I can see his point about the Academy. All that Renaissance-towers-and-climbing-ivy stuff is a bit panto, really, and the slope in the floor is a nice idea but not too great if you are, for whatever reason, a bit unsteady on your feet. I’m putting that down to my recently-fractured ankle; nothing at all with having partaken of a certain liquid product of Tennessee on my way in, hoo no. At least you can actually see the band (or the arses of the people in the human pyramid) despite having some six-footed in a big hat doing the lightbulb dance in front of you (and I’d like to apologise to anyone who was behind me during the Neph’s encore… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?).

Anyway, The Mish were not pish and I’ve been forced to reappraise them somewhat. There followed an inexplicable assault from some wanker in a Santa suit and a fake belly, introduced as Bob Noxious, who came on and did a bit of swearing and queer-bashing and falling over to a dog’s-been-chewing-the-cassette Christmas medley.

Cue a room full of confused goths and a trip to the pisser and the bar for yours truly, then some elbow work to get down the front for the good bit. As predicted, there was a general drift forwards and backwards between bands, with the ‘stand at the back nodding along’ and ‘wave your arms about like you’re in a room full of cobwebs LET’S START A PYRAMID LADS’ folks basically changing places while Bob was doing his thing.


Now, it’s difficult for me to talk about Fields of the Nephilim without veering off into mind’s-eye gibberish, but I’ll do my level best. Unlike the Mish, who’ve mostly decided to grow old disgracefully, the Neph are standing athwart the passage of time and planting their spurred heels firmly in the dust; the chaps and the knackered Stetsons remain very much in evidence, and Carl McCoy lurks deep in the dry ice, a prowling blur of hair and bombast not inclined to much in the way of chit-chat or banter. Which is, again, fair enough; the Nephs’ brand of preposterously gloomy mysticism evaporates when you realise that he’s just a bloke from Brixton who’s read a bit too much Aleister Crowley.

Rather than rock-and-roll posing, the Neph resort to the synth and the choir and the strobe, looming in and out of the darkness, playing their way through most of The Nephilim at some point. The mood builds slowly, through a menacing ‘Moonchild’ into ‘Last Exit For The Lost’ and this is where your correspondent breaks down and starts using phrases like ‘stark, sepulchral spaghetti-Western grind’. The current Nephilim line-up is significantly more metal in its approach than the original, and McCoy’s vocal has strayed from pensive and mournful into coldly fucking furious at the collapse of his supernal world. Some will tell you that this is a bad thing, but I find it hard to find fault with this militant funeral march. A short set closes with a brooding ‘Celebrate’ and – is that it?

Nope, Carl and co. have gone off for a fresh packet of gravel and bag of self-raising, and they’re back on with ‘At The Gates of Silent Memory’, crawling out of the fog and coiling around every neck in the room. The room fills up with statues, arms held out, waiting for the Rapture, and it finally comes as ‘New Gold Dawn’ lurches into life and so does McCoy, the cagéd beast prowling around and baring its teeth. We even get ‘Mourning Sun’ as the last encore. Recollection turns somewhat blurry at this stage… there’s smoke, and lights, and a lovely girl with Cleopatra hair on the pyramid, a living statue, hands arcing through the air with malevolent grace, reaching out to the distant and unmoving point occupied by a man who understands that to reach back would be death to whatever his crew have conjured up. Remote, glacial and incomprehensible, believable only in the moment, ridiculous in the morning. Fields of the Nephilim. I loved every minute of it.

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About Jon

Jon is sententious, mercurial, and about as punk rock as a nice cup of milky tea. He likes sad, sleazy music for people who want to cop off in a swamp and then drown themselves, and plays undead in any game that has them.

1 thought on “REVELATIONS – Fields of the Nephilim & The Mission (Brixton Academy)

  1. Gutted I’d missed the Manchester date if there was one, or the Leeds one for that matter, where it’s still 1986. I didn’t even know they were still touring!

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