Fields of the Nephilim

It's no small dividend of evolution when a band is able to grow up and realize it no longer needs to cram its records full of the summer-stock trappings that got it where it is now. Early Fields of the Nephilim was a misunderstood, barely listenable post-Lemmy fetish targeting lonely metal-haters; here the group has emerged as the missing link between vampire-club synthsoft-kiddies and the advancing horde of hard-rock Spinal Tappers. Carl McCoy's vocals have improved in kind; he's dumped the parched-throat un-singing of the weird old days in favor of a torturously strained but melodic Macho Man Savage growl, an element that comes in especially handy during album opener "Shroud," a thing-in-the-fog-a-thon that intertwines Sisters of Mercy rumbling between hissed theatrical platitudes. Everything McCoy and his mysteriously uncredited bandmates touch turns to goth, owing to a maniacal cranking of the reverb (even the "Fire Woman"-rocking "New Gold Dawn"), and the tempest really tops out at the thunderclap-punctuated ballad "Requiem XIII," an opportunity for McCoy to visit an absinthe-poisoned Joe Cocker upon all platform-boot-dom.