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If Skyclad must have released around one hundred and fifty songs (I’ve never cared for the exact number), only five of them are covers – nothing more, nothing less; and only one is worth a mention: the very first of those, Thin Lizzy’s Emerald, stuck at the head of the British band’s first EP. The fact is, it’s also the only really valuable track on said EP, but as I highly doubt anyone not specifically looking for it would accidentally stumble upon it, there’s consequently little chance anyone may waste some money there. To put it less whimsically, unless you’re an incurable ‘Clad fan just download Emerald.
That Skyclad covered a song from a well-known Irish band shouldn’t surprise anyone a tad familiar with this act, especially knowing the lyrics here deal with resistance to oppression and reconquest of the motherland. While this present version may not be better than the 1976 original, the guys nonetheless did a pretty good job turning a classic, great-though-still-a-tad-elementary hard-rock tune into a more powerful, metal number. The pace has been slightly sped up, the lengthy ending solo has been shortened, the drums have been emphasized and Martin Walkyier’s rough voice sounds of course far more aggressive than Lynott’s. However the most personal addition, the real stroke of genius, probably consists in having left this so-crushing riff, this main pillar of the song, to the violin, thus turning it into a genuine Skyclad work without losing anything from the original songwriting’s strength. Many years later, the band-supported History Lessens compilation won’t feature any song older than the Prince of the Poverty Line album (what is, by the way, a totally cretin decision), with the sole exception of Emerald, proof that the guys still held it in high esteem – as if it indeed were one of their very own products.
As already suggested the rest of this EP unfortunately doesn’t live up to its opener, even if it might still be of some interest to the completist given it features two tracks impossible to find anywhere else, A Room Next Door and When All Else Fails, probably two offcuts from the debut album given they’re both devoid of any violin or keyboard. The first one is mostly clean singing and acoustic guitars, with the exception of the heavier middle section, and sums up to a pretty bland semi-ballad like most of Skyclad’s slow tracks, while the second is a pure thrash song, again of average quality and limited imagination. Indeed, had Skyclad remained a thrash band, it’s highly dubious they would’ve lasted so long...
The last three tracks are live renditions of songs taken from the two first full-lengths and, while there’s of course nothing to say against monsters like Spinning Jenny or The Declaration of Indifference, both amongst the first ever true folk metal tunes, those versions are still far from mandatory as of a lesser quality than the studio recordings. Don’t get me wrong, the sound is good for a live take, and hearing Walkyier addressing the crowd in German with his broken voice undoubtedly bears its particular charm, but this again doesn’t justify tracking this record down (through the wilderness of course, to echo the band’s own pun). And finally about the “this song is for you motherfuckers who care more about money than about people” – alright we all know that’s what Skyclad’s eponymous song is all about, that’s what a lot of Skyclad songs are all about actually, but there were times you were a tad more subtle, right?