London, Shepherd's Bush Empire, July 12 and 13 - Fields Of The Nephilim: Ceremonies 2008
July 12 and 13 in the year 2008 will be a weekend that will be remembered by the many Fields Of The Nephilim fans hungry for more live performances by Carl and his accompanying group of musicians. Now that it is all over, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Ceremonies 2008 will be recognized as one of the finest moments in the band's entire history. Nevertheless, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Shepherd's Bush Empire looked like a converted old opera/theatre house to me and was actually a deceptively small venue. The extremely high ceiling made it look impressive; however, the standing area in front of the stage was somewhat cramped, considering that FOTN fans from all over the world made it the aim of their pilgrimage for this event. The upstairs sitting areas were also filled to the brim. Besides the occasional Ministry, Bauhaus, Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission t-shirts, everybody was clearly just there for the Nephilim. With this said, even the devout Neph fanatics treated the support bands of the two nights with respect, even if only one of them deserved it.
At a niche show such as this, the support should really aim to do one thing only - to warm up the crowd. On July 12th, Inkubus Sukkubus was simply perfect at doing this. The very attractive Candia Riley was a veritable dynamo on stage, running around like crazy, falling to the floor and interacting with both the audience and the band members. So hyperactive was she that very soon the crowd was starting to move around noticeably more and the excitement level began to rise. Candia was not the only good thing about this performance though, since the band played an aggressive set of gothic rock songs that were catchy and memorable. In fact, the only problem I have with Inkubus Sukkubus' performance is that the low lighting and fast movements of the vocalist made it nearly impossible to photograph her properly...
Pythia was the support for the second night of the Ceremonies weekend and they were terrible. I don't know who had the brilliant idea of hiring one of those gothic/power metal, female fronted bands to play right before the mystical darkness that is the Nephilim; however, the premise was clearly completely flawed. To make matters even worse, Pythia used those terrible electronic kick drums that always destroy a metal band's sound, unless it happens to be called Nine Inch Nails. As the final insult, some of the vocals were played back from a pre-recorded source, nullifying even the appeal that operatic, female vocals have on some people. At one point, the singer said "Come on, make some noise, this is our town" to the obvious overwhelming lack of interest of the crowd. The only positive in Pythia's show was that hate, after all, also warms people up.
Fields Of The Nephilim
Either way, after the support bands finished doing their thing, it was time for the real reason why we all went to Shepherd's Bush Empire this weekend. The various gigs that the new Nephilim line-up played over the last year or so around Europe have already proved to the fans that the new band is quite good at performing live. Astoria, Helldone, Poland, Athens and the other shows all presented a tight band with a great sound and appropriate energy. The quality of the performance was therefore never in question for the Ceremonies show. Instead, it was the setlist that everybody had extremely high hopes for and finally, let me reveal that - it wasn't disappointing at all! Besides new songs such as "Mourning Sun", "Xiberia" and "Straight To The Light", Carl and his band brought back such fan favorites as "Endemoniada", the 1980s version of "Trees Come Down", "Psychonaut", "Preacherman", "The Sequel", "The Watchman", "Last Exit For The Lost", "Celebrate" and even the elusive "From The Fire", which up till this point everybody thought Carl disowned due to it being released without his permission on the album "Fallen"!
The first night, called "Ad Mortem" on the ticket, was the slightly less impressive of the two. We did get "Shine", "Trees Come Down", "For Her Light", the last two songs from "Elizium" and "Endemoniada"; however, the general mood of the show was not as overwhelmingly transcendental as such an excellent setlist should probably result in. This is not to say that it was disappointing in every way - in fact, the only reason why this night can be considered as slightly sub-par is because the next one was so incredibly powerful. With this said, the highlight of "Ad Mortem" was certainly the beautiful and trance inducing "Wail of Sumer / And There Will Your Heart Be Also" followed by "Psychonaut", a song that was the logical climax of the night with its chants that the audience readily contributed to. Nevertheless, it was "Ad Vitam", the next night of Ceremonies, that was a true showcase of the immense power of the Nephilim experience live.
"Ad Vitam" not only had an even more impressive setlist, it was also the night when the mood was precisely right to enjoy said setlist to the maximum. By the time the band kicked into "The Watchman", the audience was catatonic. One unique feature of Fields Of The Nephilim shows is a special kind of crowd surfing, where a person is lifted up by his pears and simply stands above all, as if on air, with arms spread and pointing to the sky, as if in some kind of meditative trance. Although this also happened the previous night, during "Ad Vitam", there were often as many as seven people doing it at the same time. The crowd even made a pyramid once, allowing for the elevated person to stand nearly 2 meters of the ground... Unlike the show in Poland that I have also been to, Carl acknowledged the existence of an audience this time around and even jokingly imitated their attempts to elevate themselves as high as possible.
What was started with "The Watchman", the band exploited and improved with "Last Exit", which I believe sent shivers down the spine of anyone at the show. "Celebrate", the last song of the entire event, was like a post-orgasmic chill, calming everybody down but still hinting that more is to come, at another occasion...
Ceremonies 2008 was probably the best show I have seen so far in my life. Talking to other people who were there, it seems I am not the only one who thinks this way. With the Nephilim touring more and another album being in the works, this is indication of great things to come for all fans of the legendary band.
12th July - Ad Mortem
Intro - The 24th Moment
Straight to the light
For her light
Trees Come Down (1980s live version)
Wail of Sumer / And there will be your heart also
From the Fire
13th July - Ad Vitam
Intro - Harmonica Man
From the fire
Zoon part 3
Last exit for the lost
The reviewer would like to thank R. Ferguson of TMG, R. Hyams of Workhard PR and the staff of Shepherd's Bush Empire for making this review possible. Further thanks go to Mark Quested from the Sumerland mailing group for confirming the setlist.
Written on 15.07.2008 by
With Metal Storm since 2002, jupitreas has been subjecting the masses to his reviews for quite a while now. Privately not actually an asshole, he lives in Warsaw, Poland, where he runs his small graphic and web design business.