22 December 2017
Review by Demitri Levantis
Photography by Jo Moolenschot
In the modern day calendar the 22nd December holds a strong place in the hearts and minds of many. To Pagans and Witches or those who simply eschew the conventions of modern religion, it is the Winter Solstice. A time of change, a time for the new to begin, a time when the old year is finally put to rest and the new dawn is hailed.
Plenty gathered in the likes of Stonehenge on that beautiful morning to see in the new day, but that evening, a new type of celebration was afoot. In the city of London, appearing for their annual end-of-year ritual were the band who invented Gothic Metal: Fields of the Nephilim.
The band who put Stevenage on the Goth map and gave rise to some of the heavier sounds in the scene that has stood strong and firm over the test of time since its inception in the late 70s. And my friends and I could tell, as we piled into the venue that night, that Fields were not going to hang up their Stetson hats and trench coats anytime soon.
You could say it was a veteran’s night for the Goth Rock world. For up first on the bill were one of the lesser known but deeply battle-hardened bands who were among the first Goth musicians to come out of Leeds.
Salvation, formed in the northern city in 1983 and having been on the road ever since, making six studio albums and countless singles and compilation appearances took to the stage.
To begin with, I could feel a pretty upbeat and heart warming vibe, so these guys had it in the to make even the gloomiest of lyrics sound like those that will warm your insides on a cold winters night like the solstice.
As the songs progressed I was certainly reminded of Peter Murphy’s solo work, but this had a little more of a basic Rock N Roll jibe to it. Imagine if Murphy had employed classic musical arrangements like that of Buddy Holly and toured extensively with the first wave Punk groups who used classic Rhythm and Blues and you’d have Salvation.
A fine mix of classic Rock N Roll with a Gothic edge, setting them firmly in the Gothic canon. That’s Salvation for you. A band who have carried on regardless of however popular their music has faired and haven’t let themselves feel the need to change their output to please a crowd. Nice job boys.
The Answer/Diamond Child/Thunderbird/Pearl Necklace/The Shining/All and More/Listen to Her Heart/Why Lie?
Next to grace the stage and to remind the world that the world of Goth Rock is still alive and well with its founders still fighting fit were four souls who came about in West Yorkshire in 1982.
Skeletal Family – a group I’ve always found warming to the romantic melodies of my heart on a cold winter’s night when the mood swings of sorrow and self doubt need to be quashed with some of the finest modern rock tunes.
And I must say, with nearly 40 years on the road, frontwoman Anne Marie Hurst can still pack a good vocal punch with her mind blowing vocal range.
Not just that, but she looked like the test of time hadn’t faltered her image either. My friends and I commented on how she reminded us of Diane in the recent Twin Peaks revival. Even though image should never be everything it is admirable how little Hurst has been swayed by the flow of time.
Music wise, Skeletal Family were on point. Belts of whimsical gothic tales projected across the room giving a warm and hearty shine of joy to make the crowd see hope and pleasantness to come about in the new year.
Another reason the Goth world won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
So Sure/Celebrate/She Cries Alone/Far and Near/Hands on the Clock/Last Train/Promised Land
And what could I say for what followed? Once again, the forefathers of the occult side of the Goth Rock world and, arguably, the blokes who were playing Gothic Metal about 10 years before Paradise Lost gave the genre its name, walked on in their mist accompanied glory.
Fields of the Nephilim have always appeared as something more than just a band. They are a force, a force of power that makes the average onlooker writhe in a feeling of delight and occult driven power that only certain genres can muster.
In all the years I’ve seen this band perform, they’ve never disappointed to get a crowd going. Whipping them up into a silent frenzy of swaying and movement as if an outer worldly spirit has flown from the amps to possess each and every one of us.
As expected I saw the crowd form several human pyramids with the head participant raise their limbs in unison with Carl McCoy who growled and rasped like a dark pastor giving a sermon on the teachings of Crowley or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Being able to make the songs blend together into one long tirade of Gothic wonderment is a talent this band possesses beyond compare, so no other band has been able to grab my audible palate and keep it moistened to the degree that Fields have accomplished in all the years I’ve been going to concerts.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the band returned for not one, but two encores. The crowd really wanted more and more. Something else than a new dawn had been welcomed into the world through them men who put Stevenage on the Gothic map that night. And it won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
Here’s to a new day, and I hope some new Fields material in the coming months.
Magnificence all round.
(Dead but Dreaming)/At the Gates of Silent Memory/Dawnrazor/Love Under Will/Moonchild/Prophecy/Psychonaut/Zoon (part 3) (Wake World)/Mourning Sun/Vet for the Insane/Darkcell AD/Last Exit For The Lost/Celebrate