Review Summary: The pioneers of folk metal, on their debut album, give a glimpse of what’s to come
Skyclad are considered as the band who invented folk metal. Even if this is not entirely true, we can admit that this is the band that made the genre a bit more accessible and attractive to a wider audience.
The elements that made this band famous (although they never got the recognition they deserved!) are all here...fast paced inspired riffs, Martin’s aggressive voice, lyrics that do have something to say and of course the unique combination of folk melodies and organs with metal music. It’s just that everything is rawer and less mature than the next albums.
Featuring ex-vocalist of legendary Sabbat, Martin Walkyier and ex-Satan members (Steve Ramsey and Graham English), one could expect a pure thrash metal album.
Although the album is closer to thrash as none other in the band’s history, the overall experimentation with violins and keyboards pave the way to a more “folkish” atmosphere. And nowhere in the album, this folkish atmosphere is more prominent than the greatest song of the album, “The Widdershins Jig”, a song that would define the band’s later offerings, with the strong presence of violin and mid paced rhythm. Without this song, probably we would be referring to The Wayward Sons, as another speedy thrash metal album with interesting riffs (and a talented lyricist with exceptional voice).
Other songs that stand out are “The sky beneath my feet”, a quite heavy and melodic opening, “Our Dying Island” with the truly remarkable lyrical works of Martin and of course the charming “Moongleam and Meadowsweet” – a slow paced ballad with Martin’s first attempts to offer clean vocals approach and generally a more romantic feeling. Still, the listener will feel tempted to skip a few songs that do not offer anything interesting in particular (as the song that bears the band’s name, and Terminus, a rather confused song).
Although the album attains a great merit overall, it suffers from lack of maturity and clear direction, while the songs are not so memorable. The overall talent, inspiration and approach in some songs leaves the listener eager of what’s to come next and clearly demonstrates the band’s capabilities of creating something unique in the heavy metal history.
Lyrically, Walkyier is already demonstrating his talent, and proving that he is one of the most inspired and intelligent metal artists of the 90’s. Very few metal acts have managed to reach the intellectual quality of this band, and Martin Walkyier has always been the driving force behind Skyclad’s unique quality. This album could not have been an exception.
Listeners who get to know the band from the later albums as “Prince of the Poverty Line” or “Irrational Anthems” might feel a bit confused (not to say shocked) with the sheer heaviness and direct speedy thrash metal riffs found in this album as well as the almost absence of violins and keyboards (who are used only in a very few cases only to deepen the already heavy atmosphere).
Overall, the album appears uneven as the band’s ideas obviously had yet to take shape still but its more than apparent a clear testament of Skyclad’s capabilities of delivering high quality brilliant music. Still, the best offerings were yet to come...