Skyclad

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The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth

Skyclad - The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth ©1991 Noise Int.
1. The Sky Beneath My Feet
2. Trance Dance (A Dreamtime Walkabout)
3. A Minute's Piece
4. The Widdershine Jig
5. Our Dying Island
6. Intro: Pagan Man
7. The Cradle Will Fall
8. Skyclad
9. Moongleam And Meadowsweet
10. Terminus

Skyclad's somewhat shaky 1991 debut was a mixed bag of precision and slicing thrash mixed with a hint of their future, a blended sound of thrash, speed metal and folk influence. The band featured former Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier and based on that, coupled with The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth being on Noise Int. (at that time the famous record label had nearly every band I loved on their roster and I trusted their output), I picked this album up unheard back in 1991. Given that a good half of this record is somewhat tepid and featured a lot of unrealized ambition and ideas, it's a good thing that a handful of these songs are excellent.

"The Sky Beneath My Feet" acts as a nearly perfect introduction to the album and the band, showing off the band's sharply-honed guitar sound as well as Walkyier in prime thrash rasp form. From there, you might as proceed to the foreshadowing "The Widdershine Jig" as it features the band's interest in bouncy folk music. Though somewhat incomplete in execution, the song is definitely a mid-album ear catcher. "The Cradle Will Fall", paired with its spoken word "Intro: Pagan Man", summarizes much of the sociological and societal viewpoints Walkyier has displayed over the years, denouncing the materialistic ambitions of much of mankind. The final important track on the debut is "Moongleam and Meadowsweet", which is a very sweet sentiment and quiet number. Regardless of the lesser songs on the album, The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth at least never grows dull, even though the urge to skip past a couple songs is prevelant. For any fan of Skyclad throughout the 90s, the debut is a necessity for understanding the original point of takeoff for the band. The band has done nothing but improve over the course of a decade and this album serves as a reminder of how far.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol

Skyclad - A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol ©1992 Noise Int.
1. War And Disorder
2. A Broken Promised Land
3. Spinning Jenny
4. Salt On The Earth (Another Man's Poison)
5. Karmageddon (the Suffering Silence)
6. Ring Stone Round
7. Men Of Straw
8. Rvannith
9. The Declaration Of Indifference
10. Alone In Death's Shadow

During the pair of songs featuring a violin on The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, a little light bulb appeared over the collective heads of the Skyclad clan. "Say, why don't we incorporate one of those into our music on a fulltime basis?" they asked one another, hopping up and down in unrestrained excitement. And so it was written and so it was done and the result is A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol. The music was still firmly rooted in the high gloss thrash of the first album, but with the violin being grafted onto the music. To a large degree the album is not quite successful as if the band wasn't sure how to write for the extra instrument. I only say it's not successful because I've heard later albums from this band before listening to Burnt Offering... and know that Skyclad did indeed finally get the job done right. Burnt Offering... is still full of some pretty good thrash hybrid and of course Martin Walkyier's acidic voice. A few songs do leap out at the listener: "Rvaanith" and "Spinning Jenny", for instance. This album is one that is difficult to dislike but at the same time it's nothing more than an average listen from a band that has proven to be well above average.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Tracks From the Wilderness EP

Skyclad - Tracks From the Wilderness EP ©1992 Noise Int.
1. Emerald
2. A Room Next Door
3. When All Else Fails
4. The Declaration of Indifference
5. Spinning Jenny
6. Skyclad

The appropriately titled Tracks from the Wildnerness finds Skyclad during a time when heavy metal was on the disabled list. Moreover, Skyclad was already becoming the type of metal band that didn't neatly fit into the emerging subgenres of music (black metal and death metal, which had replaced the thrash metal of the 80s). By this point the folk elements were stronger than ever and this EP shows the band stretching their legs a bit more, but somewhat hesitantly. The fact that half of the EP features live songs from the band's first two albums suggests this release was just a stop-gap sort of thing.

The EP includes a cover of Thin Lizzy's "Emerald" and two other studio numbers that show a bit more of the progression Skyclad was developing. "When All Else Fails" fits a bit more into the band's initial thrashy style (which you can hear on the live version of "Skyclad"). The live songs on the EP are aptly performed, though hardly the type of thing that justifies the existence of all live releases in the history of music.

Although the title of the EP might refer to the band's pagan outlook on the world (ie: they like nature more than surburban sprawl), Tracks From the Wilderness finds the band releasing a somewhat superfluous EP while dwelling on the fringes of an already marginalized musical style. Though definitely not bad by any means, this EP is meant only solely for completist types.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2011

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Prince Of The Poverty Line

Skyclad - Prince Of The Poverty Line ©1994 Noise Int.
1. Civil War Dance
2. Cardboard City
3. Sins Of Emission
4. Land Of The Rising Slum
5. The One Piece Puzzle
6. A Bellyful Of Emptiness
7. A Dog In The Manger
8. Gammadion Seed
9. Womb Of The Worm
10. The Truth Famine
11. Emerald
12. A Room Next Door
13. When All Else Fails

If there is one Skyclad album that I will point to as being the most seminal of their recorded history, Prince of the Poverty Line is easily that record. The band hit a fantastic stride on this album, melding their heavy thrash tendencies with their signature folk sound perfectly. The collection of songs here among the best Skyclad ever wrote. Moreover, the depth of the songs made this CD a constant fixture in my stereo for months after I bought it. "Cardboard City" is probably the best song here, containing a very smooth but driving mid-tempo rhythm, great keyboard arrangement and memorable riffs up the ying-yang. This is the sort of song that you can put on endless repeat for a long time and not get weary. The best thing about the record is that they float seamlessly from a more folksy based song style where the fiddle takes the forefront ("Sins of Emission", "Civil War Dance") to the more traditional thrash metal ("Gammadion Seed", which has a subtle, but stirring guitar changeup). As always, singer Martin Walkyier's lyrics are something worth reading through, as his insight into the world is phenomenal, as well as his command of the written word. Many of his lyrics attack the human condition, such as the view of living in poverty in "Cardboard City" or simply analyzing one's lot in life in "A Bellyful of Emptiness". No matter what, Prince of the Poverty Line is easily the most definitive Skyclad album which runs the gamut of what the band can accomplish musically. Recommended like I would recommend a shower to a street vagrant.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea

Skyclad - The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea ©1995 Noise Int.
1. Still Spinning Shrapnel
2. Just What Nobody Wanted
3. Art-Nazi
4. Jeopardy
5. Brimstone Ballet
6. A Stranger In The Garden
7. Another Fine Mess
8. Turncoat Rebellioni
9. Halo Of Flies
10. Desperanto (A Song For Europe)
11. The Present Imperfect
12. Untitled Instrumental Track

The first challenge of The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea is to figure out the pun of the title. The next challenge is find more than a handful of truly worthy songs. The album has its good moments in the heavy thrash-folk attack that was so well done on Prince of the Poverty Line, but not enough to really warrant a fullscale recommendation over any other Skyclad album. The opening song, "Still Spinning Shrapnel" and the following "Just What Nobody Wanted" are both excellent, relying on energetic playing and neat little shuffles to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, the next few songs are a bit of a drag, sounding short on inspiration. "A Stranger in the Garden" is a quiet, somber number that is actually quite interesting. Afterwards, there aren't many great moments to be found. Skyclad sounded like they wrote this album to fulfill a contract obligation rather than throwing their complete selves into it. As usual, Martin Walkyier's lyrics have much to say on many subjects, including war, the music business and more. That nearly makes up for the moderately mediocre music, but not quite.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1999

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Oui Avant-Garde A Chance

Skyclad - Oui Avant-Garde A Chance ©1996 Century Media
1. If I Die Laughing, It'll Be An Act Of God
2. Great Blow For A Day Job
3. Constance Eternal
4. Postcard From Planet Earth
5. Jumping My Shadow
6. Bombjour!
7. History Lessens (The Final Examination)
8. A Badtime Story
9. Come On Eileen
10. Master Race
11. Bombed Out (Instru-mental)
12. Penny Dreadful (Full Shilling Mix)

For years now the Europeans have pretty much had it made when it comes to good, quality metal. While Americans keep flocking to flavor of the week, metal has thrived in Europe and only recent it seems have American record companies even attempted issuing import titles domestically. Skyclad is a great example of a fantastic band whose been releasing consistently good albums for nearly eight years without seeing much stateside distribution. Fortunately, the good folks at Century Media are finally making several Skyclad titles available, including this, their 1996 release.

My previous Skyclad experience was Silent Whales of Lunar Sea, which focused the band more on a power metal tangent than their new foray. While they've always included the folk element in their music throughout their career, this new release dives fully into traditional Gaelic and Celtic folk music. Of course, it's still done Skyclad-style. Heavy guitars are in the minority throughout the album, replaced by acoustics, Georgina Biddle's fiddle, and mellow keyboards. In comparison to their past material, Silent Whales "Secret Garden" probably is the closest to their new output. Martin Walkyier, who has always had one of the most cutting, razor-sharp vocals to ever grace a thrash metal album, uses a clean voice and it is remarkable tuneful and enjoyable. And of course, his literate lyrics (full of more wordplay than you can shake a comedian at) flesh out the excellent music. And yes, he's still pretty depressing. ("Now with hindsight I admit/I don't admire the humans' lot" from "Postcard from Planet Earth") For yucks, and to prove they still have that British sense of humor, they've remade the 80's song "Come on Eileen" and folked it all up.

Incidentally, this album could easily be recommended to people into lighter rock, power metal or every day rock and roll. Skyclad's appeal is blossoming with each new year.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1997

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Irrational Anthems

Skyclad - Irrational Anthems ©1996 Century Media
1. Inequality Street
2. The Wrong Song
3. Snake Charming
4. Penny Dreadful
5. The Sinful Ensemble
6. My Mother In Darkness
7. The Spiral Staircase
8. No Deposit, No Return
9. Sabre Dance
10. I Dubious
11. Science Never Sleeps
12. History Lessens
13. Quantity Time

Because I picked up this after Oui Avant-Garde a Chance (which chronologically came after this album), at first I was taken a little aback by the somewhat harder edged offering of music here. But then I slapped my head and said, "Duh." The first spin of this disc didn't really give me a good feel for what Skyclad had going on, but after listening with headphones, I can only say this rocks like no one's business.

After seeing Skyclad progress over the past few years, it's nice to see them really find a niche. The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea was a mish-mash of ideas almost there and mediocre songs. This time around they pulled it all together to be much more cohesive and expressive in their music. Basically, you could submit they finally figured out how to implement George Biddle's fiddle playing without sounding gimmicky or as an afterthought to the music. Her fiddle weaves in and out of Steve Ramsey's textural guitar playing well, enhancing that Celtic folk influence that has been building through the past couple albums. The other important quality on the album that I really dug was session drummer Paul Smith's very bouncy rhythms. Naturally, singer/lyricist/head cynic Martin Walkyier is still razor sharp with his lyrics. His mastery of word-play and keen insight into humanity are Skyclad's finest asset and this is one album whose lyrics sheet is a must-read. While there are some so-so moments in this album, catchy tracks like "Penny Dreadful" (which is a scathing and inspiring diatribe on the trendy one hit wonders the industry churns through...considering Skyclad's longevity, Martin fully has the right to speak his mind on the matter) and "The Wrong Song" make this yet another notch of quality on Skyclad's belt.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1998

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Vintage Whine

Skyclad - Vintage Whine ©1999 Massacre Records
1. Kiss My Sweet Brass
2. Vintage Whine
3. On With Their Heads!
4. The Silver Cloud's Dark Lining
5. A Well Beside The River
6. No Strings Attached
7. Bury Me
8. Cancer Of The Heart
9. Liss Miss Take
10. Something To Cling To
11. By George

Vintage Whine was one of the unfortunate Skyclad releases to toil in personal obscurity with me. Having no stateside distribution nor easy way to procure this release, it was quite awhile before I was actually given a copy and the subsequent listens since then have failed to allow the album to truly take hold. The sound of the album sounds a bit like an attempt to mix the folk and fiddle tendencies of later Skyclad with their earlier, thrashier sound. In fact, one could almost retitled this one, Oui Avant Garde a Poverty Line considering the fiddle takes as much presence as the heavy guitars, only with clashing results. The other main detraction from this album is that songwriting does not seem quite as crisp as earlier albums, particularly the band's mid-90s peak and Vintage Whine suffers measurably due to that. Often vocalist Martin Walkyier multitracks his vocals to include his newer "singing voice" with his thrash snarl and that also is an experiment that doesn't quite gel. It just seems apparent that the band's attempt to be heavier than previous releases was more forced than natural. In the scheme of things, a mediocre Skyclad album is still quite a stretch better than Joe Average Death Metal Band, but in the diorama of Skyclad, Vintage Whine is a bit more like a bottle of cheap swill.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2001

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Folkemon

Skyclad - Folkemon ©2000 Nuclear Blast
1. The Great Brain Robbery
2. Think Back And Lie Of England
3. Polkageist
4. Crux Of The Message
5. The Disenchanted Forest
6. The Antibody Politic
7. When God Logs Off
8. You Lost My Memory
9. Deja-vu Ain't What It Used To Be
10. Any Old Irony
11. Swords Of A Thousand Men (bonus Track)

After several years of fruitless searches for Skyclad releases in the United States, the British band is finally signed to a US record label (Nuclear Blast) which was recently consumed by the biggest fish in the sea (Century Media). The last release which saw any stateside distribution was Oui Avant-garde a Chance, so it's been awhile since a lot of people have heard what Skyclad is up to these days. Luckily, with the release of Folkemon (yeah, yeah, terrible pun, but what else do you expect from Skyclad?), lost fans can finally catch up with the band again at what turns out to be their best point in years. Simply put, Folkemon is the best record this band has made since Prince of the Poverty Line.

While the band is still fully within the sound they developed over the course of the 90s, Folkemon is a return to a heavier, more aggressive and slightly less folky approach. But what's most important is that guitarists Steve Ramsey and Kevin Ridley offer some very tasty riffs throughout that create instantly memorable songs. The fiddle and keyboards of George Biddle do take a bit of a backseat throughout, but they do add a nice flavor in how they are incorporated. Vocalist Martin Walkyier retains his unique style and seeminly blends it between his youthful thrash rasp and the more melodic strains he has developed since. While he may never be remembered as a great singer, his lyrics are still top notch and full of more wordplay than a Piers Anthony novel. The result is an album that truly sounds like a band effort with worthwhile input from each member.

It's hard to pick out favorites, but "Polkageist", "Crux of the Message" and "Think Back and Lie of England" all stand out. Folkemon is definitely an invigorating and satisfying album. Those who have been patiently awaiting for another great Skyclad album are certain to find it here.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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Another Fine Mess

Skyclad - Another Fine Mess ©2001 Demolition Records
1. Intro
2. Another Fine Mess
3. Cardboard City
4. Art-nazi
5. The Wickedest Man In The World
6. The One Piece Puzzle
7. Still Spinning Shrapnel
8. Just What Nobody Wanted
9. Sins Of Emission
10. Land Of The Rising Slum
11. Alone In Death's Shadow
12. Spinning Jenny

There may never have been a more apt title for an album release. Another Fine Mess, a live release issued not long after the departure of founding member and vocalist Martin Walkyier, is an oddity for a band who has made a career of oddness. To a degree, it celebrates the past of a fabulous band by choosing a live set from what is arguably their strongest era (around 1994-95) and pairing that with some acoustic studio numbers. However, for a band that has lost their most identifiable member, it seems unusual to put out a live album that should have been issued around perhaps 1996. Moreover, since the band has made it their business to continue on without Walkyier, it almost seems counterproductive to be dwelling on the past rather than focusing fans on the future.

Despite all those reservation, Another Fine Mess is actually a very solid live album that reinvigorates interest in Skyclad's music. Granted, the sound quality is average at best and it's obvious that there were few studio overdubs to enhance the music. Rather, the live portion of Another Fine Mess captures the band precisely how an audience member might have heard them at the time. Walkyier's voice is a tad rough around the edges, but that's what live performances deliver. But most importantly, the live performance captures the excitement the band could generate onstage and on the first listen, I was immediately wishing to hear both Prince of the Poverty Line and Silent Whales of Lunar Sea all over again. In that regard, Another Fine Mess is a raging success in reigniting interest in Skyclad's heyday. The acoustic numbers on this album are nothing more than unplugged renditions of some of the band's numbers. It is enjoyable, but doesn't completely enthrall me the way the live portion of the album does. Nevertheless, for fans who enjoyed Oui Avant Garde a Chance, these tracks will of course be of interest.

It will be interesting to hear the current lineup of Skyclad either performing new material or giving their new interpretations of the older material. Another Fine Mess is definitely a worthwhile bonus prize for longtime fans, but it still leaves nothing but curiosity about what the band's future holds.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2002

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No Daylights Nor Heeltaps

Skyclad - No Daylights Nor Heeltaps ©2002 Demolition Records
CD one:
1. Penny Dreadful
2. Inequality Street
3. Spinning Jenny
4. The Cry Of The Land
5. Another Fine Mess
6. Sins Of Emission
7. The Widdershins Jig
8. History Lessens
9. Land Of The Rising Slum
10. Single Phial
CD two:
11. No Deposit, No Return
12. A Great Blow For A Day Job
13. No Strings Attached
14. Building A Ruin
15. Loco-commotion

For a band that is going to be required to do much to re-establish themselves, Skyclad circa 2002 is certainly spending a serious amount of time dwelling in the past. Last year's live effort, Another Fine Mess, was actually a nice little package of older live songs but did little to encourage fans to look towards the future. This new release, No Daylights Nor Heeltaps, is the first to show off the new look Skyclad, featuring guitarist Kevin Ridley's attempt to fill the vast shoes of Martin Walkyier at the vocal position. It is fully understandable for a band to wish to continue when one person leaves the band to pursue other things, but when that departing member is highly identifiable and quite the character at that, it becomes a daunting challenge for the remaining members to establish a strong identity.

No Daylights Nor Heeltaps is not exactly a new release. Instead of simply coming out with a full album of brand new material, Skyclad has chosen to rework a bunch of older songs to demonstrate their "new" style, which is something the band has worked on since 1997. Similar to the feel of Oui Avant Garde a Chance, No Daylights is a bit more folky and boppy Celtic music. Acoustic guitar is considerably more prevalent. Musically, Skyclad is still running strong. However, Ridley is going to be receiving a considerable amount of criticism for his vocals. As I stated before, Walkyier was quite the character and his vocals are some of the most distinctive in the business. Ridley's vocals, however, are not. In fact, they're simply quite bland. His rendition of Walkyier's lyrics lack the spirit and drive of his predecessor. There isn't anything about them that is even remotely remarkable, except that his voice doesn't offend by being offkey or tuneless. He just simply doesn't sell the songs with his delivery. By the end of this collection of songs, one wishes for the band to start posting ads at their local music store to find a more entertaining vocalist to round out the band.

I really do want to enjoy this new version of Skyclad, but it is going to take some extensive improvement on Ridley's part to fulfill his position as a singer of note. Replacing a legendary figure is not exactly the easiest task and this new collection is going to make many believe it impossible.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2002

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In the...All Together

Skyclad - In the...All Together ©2009 Scarlet Records
1. Words Upon the Street
2. Still Small Beer
3. A Well-Travelled Man
4. Black Summer Rain
5. Babakoto
6. Hit List
7. Superculture
8. Which is Why
9. Modern Minds
10. In the...All Together

Although it's not exactly breaking news, Skyclad is still recording music without original vocalist Martin Walkyier, who would be a wealthy man if he got a quid for every time this fact is mentioned. I personally lost track of Skyclad after the disappointing rehash of No Daylights Nor Heeltaps, which at the time suggested that guitarist Kevin Ridley was going to have a pickle of a time trying to fill the vocalist slot. In the...All Together, the second studio effort with Ridley handing the singing, actually comes as a welcome surprise. This album finds Skyclad finally regaining their strengths and putting forth a solid effort. Since I'm bloviating about the vocal situation, my first impression should be duly noted: Kevin Ridley sounds like he finally summoned some inner grit and delivers the vocals with passion. This is such a major improvement for the band that it cannot be downplayed.

Aside from the vocals, the songs still retain the folkish elements, fiddle playing and lively tempos. For some fans, it might be a positive to also know that Skyclad has abandoned a lot of the cutesy wordplay that typlified the last few Walkyier outings. The band seems a bit more serious yet do not abandon the core sound that was being developed as they got older. This batch of songs are quite enjoyable, containing memorable melodies and a good sense of dynamics thoughout the record. And while this might escape the attention of many, Skyclad keeps the record just under forty minutes, which often is the ideal length for a rock or metal record. However, in today's world of excess and self-indulgence, few bands realize the importance of exiting before they wear out their welcome.

In the...All Together might fall short of some of Skyclad's best moments, it's certainly their best since Kevin Ridley took over vocals. He's singing like he means it, which greatly enhances the music. I'm finding this the most enjoyable Skyclad in this decade (not that the competition had been strong).

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2009

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