Review Summary: Heavy, Aggressive, Catchy, and Brilliant! Skyclad's Magnum Opus. My spray paint epitaph upon the wall it says...Here lies the bones of some poor homeless vagrant he died as he lived, in the *** on the pavement
With the goal to put together the "Ultimate Pagan Metal Band" former Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier and Satan/Pariah guitarist Steve Ramsey formed Skyclad in 1990. While trying to incoporate pagan influences the band started sounding more folkish and began fusing traditional Heavy Metal (as well as hints of Thrash) with the Folk influences. From Wayward Sons to Prince of the Poverty Line, Skyclad featured instruments not very common in Metal such as the Vio-lin, fiddle, piano, banjo, mandolin, and keyboards. This album is special in Skyclad's discography because the earlier and later albums are not perfectly balanced with metal and folk influences(although they were excellent nonetheless). Skyclad would neglected the folk influences for pure metal assault or vice versa, but on Prince of the Poverty Line Skyclad every song is perfectly blended with the heaviness and aggression of metal with the catchy and bouncing rhythms of folk. This is Skyclad's Magnum Opus because with this album they became the ultimate Pagan/Folk Metal band. All songs have a spectacular atmosphere and amazing lyrics focusing on urban and political unrest coupled with depression and existential angst.
(Throat/Lyricist) - A superb lyricist with a menacing bark to match. Martin's topics range from whatever he is feeling and observing in society. Martin believes that his duty as a singer and lyricist is to shout and write about personal struggles and problems within human society. A huge feature in Martin's writing is his use of clever wordplay to create interesting titles and lyrics. Martin has not lost a step from his departure from Sabbat. He sounds as amazing as ever and adds a unique twist to the music whether he is shouting or singing. He may not be a singer in the traditional sense of the word and that is not a problem. His performance here is a highlight of the album bringing a distraught, sad and angry feeling to the music.
Steve Ramsey and Dave Pugh
(Guitars) - The rhythm these two bring are fantastic. Both created a diversity of riffs that keep the songs interesting. From the speeding/thrashy riffing found in Civil War Dance, Gammadion Seed, and Sins of Emission to mid stomping numbers like Cardboard City, a Dog In The Manger, A Bellyful of Emptiness to slow punishing songs like Womb of the Worm, Truth Famine, and Land of the Rising Slum, even breaking out beautiful acoustic guitars on The One Piece Puzzle. The diversity of this album brought by these two is amazing.
(Bass) - Graeme is audible and contributes greatly to the albums heaviness. I love the sound of his bass on the intro of Civil War Dance, Dog in the Manger, and songs like Womb of the Worm,Bellyful of Emptiness, and Gammadion Seed where he provides a solid background to let the guitars go crazy. He is solid throughout the whole album and provides some fills and a solo over the guitars. He's a great addition to the team.
(R.I.P. 2008, Drums and Percussion) - excellent drummer! Keith provides great fills and solid drumming to drive the songs forward. I find him outstanding on songs like Civil War Dance, One Piece, Land Of, and Womb of the Worm where he drives the songs with groovy drumming and excellent percussions. He is a good drummer and does a great job on all the songs.
Cath Howell AKA new girl
(Vio-lin, Fiddle, Keyboards) - Catherine does an amazing job replacing Fritha Jenkins. She is responsible for the folk/pagan feeling of the band and she delivers. Hear her on Civil War Dance over the speedy riff on 1:21...amazing stuff! She serenes the listener and makes the music more enjoyable. Songs like Cardboard City, Sins of Emission, A Dog in the Manger shows her amazing ability to blend into the music and add great depth.
Civil War Dance
- Begins with the sounds of a crowd and then goes into an awesome chant of SHOCK THE SYSTEM SHOCK THE SYSTEM before hitting a powerful mid pace riff, exploding into a speed/thrash riff with Catherine playing over it. WOW! Excellent opener. My favorite line "Exchange inhuman wrongs for human rights, This underdog not only barks - it bites!"
- Starting with a bell toll bringing an ominous feeling. The song erupts into a catchy mid pace stomper with excellent use of sythns. The leads are tasteful and compliment the song well. The lyrics are poetic describing a city and its denizens ravaged by poverty.
Sins of Emissions
- Bursts open with a strong and catchy riff with a beautiful violin(fiddle?) over it. The chorus is brilliant, one of my favorites on the album.The vio-lin is a highlight and seems like it takes the duty of lead guitar.
Land Of The Rising Slum
- Beautiful intro.. The keyboards and percussions are perfect together on this track. Martin sounds great and his delivery makes the song have this sort of bounciness. The chorus is epic and I feel as I am being hypnotized. The whole chorus is a highlight. The song is a sort of heavy ballad. Catherine provides vocals towards the end.
The One Piece Puzzle
- Another beautiful intro with the vio-lin and acoustic guitars clashing together to form a lush and depressing mood. The lyrics deal with life and depression, exploring the mind of someone who did not live a happy genuine life. This is another well done heavy ballad. The solos are fantastic being very melodic and moody.
Check out the intro lyrics:
“Pick up the fragments and piece them together
Tell me do you like what you've found?
Are your thoughts like the earth spinning round?
Existence is pure pantomime
Why is life such a puzzle sometimes?”
A Bellyful of Emptiness
- This is a really catchy and fun song. It has a heavy bouncing riff and the sythns add to Martin's vocals. Graeme plays his bass very well here and you can hear good fills. He provides a strong foundation for the guitar to pull atmospheric solos. Lyrically Martin is very clever here and my favorite line is "In real-life fairy tales the frog stays a frog and the serving girl can't be the belle of the ball".
A Dog in the Manger
- Begins with strange sounds and eventually after a lengthy intro gets really heavy and thrashy. Catherine does a great job here and Martin's shouts are so catchy especially when he shouts the chorus. Another epic chorus from Martin. The chorus refers the album title and he sounds great saying "all he has is a ticket to ride on the poverty line"
- Metal pure ***in Metal! It goes back to their humble origins first seen on their debut. The solos and riffs are the best on this album. This song is unbelievably catchy and we even get a bass solo from Graeme. The pre chorus and chorus WOW! Martin is a true poet... "Hear the cries as freedom dies - the gods of war have woken, A Catherine wheel of fire and steel, the death machine in motion"
Womb of the Worm
- A punishing slugger with great lyrics and another amazing chorus from Martin. The song has a doomy and psychedelic feeling because of the sythns and riffs. The drums and bass provide a very strong background. The song eventually speed ups, well not really Martin's vocals do. He spits them out very quickly reminding me of his time with Sabbat. Great simple solos here.
The Truth Famine
- A strong folk driven song. It has great solos and the lyrics deal with urban problems and political hackery. Catherine does it again here, providing great leads. Graeme even shows off a little when the songs slows down a little. The section with power chords and vio-lin is beautiful. Every member of the band contributes here. The chorus well...its Great! I said it before, Martin is brilliant! Great song to end the album.
This is one of the greatest albums released in the Metal Genre. The band sought to create music that is unique but metal in its essences, and they achieved it on this album. This is my favorite Skyclad album because it has a solid blend of Metal and Folk. I hope you check it out if you had not done so. Thank you for reading, criticism and differing opinions are welcome.