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I love Skyclad, it's a scientific fact. The originators of folk metal, the only "pure" folk metal band I've ever heard, Walkyier's intelligent wit and sarcastic bark, catchiness on par with AIDS, what's not to like? Well, there is one problem with Skyclad, they have never, EVER made an album that is wonderful from start to finish. Every last record they have ever produced has had AT LEAST two or three plodding throwaways. It baffles me how this band can write songs like Cardboard City and Civil War Dance, and yet on the very same album have The One Piece Puzzle and Land of the Rising Slum. I just don't get it. They have written some of the best songs metal has ever seen, but at the same time some really boring shit that ALWAYS seems to sneak into the record. Sorry to keep capitalizing so many words, but I must emphasize how they've never managed a single amazing record... always "Half perfect, half utter piss".
That said, Vintage Whine is one of my favorite Skyclad releases because the songs that are good, are fucking amazing. That's actually how it is with their entire discography, but I guess my personal favorites are all on this one. Really, it all comes to personal taste with Skyclad.
Vintage Whine begins with Kiss my Sweet Brass, a classic Walkyier approved pun that most listeners are already used to. New listeners might be put off the the rampant puns throughout the discography, but he usually applies them quite well when it comes to actually integrating them into the songs. Anyways, the intro is over quickly, which is good because I can't see it being interesting for more than half a minute, which leads us to the title track, and what may be my favorite Skyclad song. It's mid paced, but holy fuck is this song catchy. I mean it, it's catchy on a scale that only the Bubonic Plague can match. It also sports one of the catchiest choruses in the history of man, right next to Running Wild's White Masque or Iron Maiden's Run to the Hills. I found myself singing it for well over three months, no exaggeration. On With Their Heads!, The Silver Cloud's Dark Lining, Little Miss Take, and Something to Cling to are all speedy and catchy monsters that really make the album great. The first three tracks are really some of the best in heavy metal history, I'm willing to go that far. The Silver Cloud's Dark Lining is a great place to start if you are just discovering Skyclad. It was the first song I heard and it made me a fan instantly.
But if you look at the track listing, you may realize I completely skipped over tracks four through eight. That is because that is where the obligatory "this album is rocking too hard, we better drag it down a bit" section is. You'll notice that most of their albums work this way. There always a section of three or four songs in the middle or end that just drag the entire album down. Plodding riffs, boring drums, not catchy or memorable, and overlong. Even if it's a normal song length of about four or five minutes, it feels like much longer. They're never bad songs per se, but compared to the rest of the album, they just.... suck. A Well Beside the River isn't bad, but it's plodding and just goes on and on and on and on. It's the heaviest song on the album, but it's just boring. No Strings Attached is a straight up folk tune ala the days of Irrational Anthems, and I don't like it one bit. Bury Me sounds like it will bring the album back up to speed, but never manages it. It sounds similar to the title track, but it is severely missing the magic on the first one. Not to mention the chorus is boring as hell. And Cancer of the Heart is TOO LONG. It's only about five and a half minutes, but there's about two minutes worth of ideas. Thankfully, it is at least catchy in parts, something the last three songs missed.
Little Miss Take is SUCH a breath of fresh air after the last pool of stagnation. The album can best be described as the Grand Canyon. It's so high up, it's awesome... but then there is a very sudden dip, in fact a cliff, leading to a deep valley. You trudge across the valley floor, doing your best to stitch up your wounds from the fall as you cross. Then suddenly, you're at the other end, you're high up again, and all is right with the world. There is such a sudden dip in quality on this album it's staggering. I chose to review this album above all of the others because it starts the highest up, and almost reaches the center of the earth in the middle.
It really pains me to do this, but the album has earned a 77, a measly C+ for a band as great as Skyclad. It was really disheartening to see the calculator show up with a 77%, it really was. The songs on here that are on the ball, are fucking ON the ball, some of the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, the middle slump that EVERY Skyclad album has, drags it down from around a 98 to a 77. Well, that's life... just skip the middle and listen to the beginning and end. An album with a ton of potential. Tracks 2, 3, 4, 9, and 10 are all essential listening (I didn't include the intro/outro in my rating, or else it would be a tidbit higher, unfortunately they don't feel like full songs, so no rating). This could be one of the best albums ever.....