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something new is afoot - 82%

amelanchier, November 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Noise Records

Following the thrashy debut Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol is a transitional Skyclad album and could well be considered the first folk metal album ever. Burnt Offering oscillates between the grimly serious, white-knuckle thrash of tracks like "A Broken Promised Land" and parts of "Karmageddon" and "R'Vannith" and mid-tempo, eerie, hard-edged folk metal. The fiddle is more prominent than in the past and actually carries several melodies. Keyboards are also present, generally shading the edges of the music rather than taking a leading role.

Don't expect the jaunty, catchy folk tunes of later albums. The fiddle leads generally have a haunting aspect rather than a cheery one. Even the potentially playful "Spinning Jenny," the first of Skyclad's many songs about femmes fatales, has a brooding underside, emphasized by Martin's gravelly, dour vocalizations. On the album as a whole, the vocals are, like the first album, mixed a bit lower than on future albums, and the vocal lines don't really carry a melody very often.

While if you really like the catchy, folky side of later Skyclad, this album is unlikely to find its way into your favorites, it would be a real error to leave the analysis at that, or to dismiss the album as merely "historically important," but not enjoyable in its own right. Because it really is enjoyable most of the time. Beyond the infectious stomp of "Spinning Jenny" we have the badass breakdown riffs of "Karmageddon," the fist-pumping chorus of "The Declaration of Indifference" ("We pledge allegiance to pretence/Raise the white flag of indifference/You sought a grail forged of fool's gold/And on the quest your souls were sold/Sell-outs!"), the genuinely peaceful, palate-cleansing ballad "Ring Stone Round," a searing guitar solo on "Alone in Death's Shadow," and several other tasty nuggets. Though less than three minutes long, "Spinning Jenny" definitely belongs on a list of the top ten Skyclad tracks ever, and "The Declaration of Indifference" probably ought to make it onto, at the very least, a top 20 list.

Historically important, a bit mired in its own genre definition (still essentially thrash), not as honed and tight as later albums, but still not to be overlooked because of the gems it contains, A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol is an essential Skyclad album.

First Genuine Skyclad, Harsh-Style - 75%

Sean16, April 27th, 2009

Another year of existence for Skyclad, and already another album: the originators of folk metal were henceforth to keep this impressive pace until the end of the Walkyier era – meaning, nothing less than their first ten years of existence. The origin of their numerous fillers, which fortunately yet aren’t numerous enough to eclipse so many unforgettable moments, shouldn’t be looked for elsewhere. However let’s admit the second album of the British sextet is probably its most homogeneous alongside its last-to-date so far (A Semblance of Normality).

Not its best, though. A Burnt Offering... seems at first a rather harsh, unsexy and – why not saying it? – bland album. While the thrash vibe of the debut is still present this opus is already far less riff-centered, and on the other hand the guys still hadn’t perfected their unique style which was soon to receive the infamous folk metal tag. If it’s the first “real” Skyclad album, it nonetheless lacks of truly anthemic songs, of those little some-things which would stick in the listener’s head for hours and hours. However, though both releases have little in common I’d compare it to the later The Answer Machine – a first not-that-attractive album which is still worth be looked more in-depth.

So – the first real Skyclad, did you say? Indeed. The songwriting has gained in complexity, acoustic passages are more numerous and far better integrated to the songs (this incredible solo in the otherwise average Men of Straw for instance), and for the first time melodies appear which could be genuinely labeled as folk. Meanwhile, the band now boasts with Fritha Jenkins its first member fully dedicated to violin and keyboards and, while we’re still far from the omnipresent, uninterrupted fiddle lines of the later recordings (especially after the arrival of Georgie Biddle), there isn’t a single song where the instrument doesn’t gnash for at least a few bars (coming to keyboards, while they’re a bit less anecdotic than on the debut, they still remain a mere backing instrument).

Thrash influences haven’t disappeared though – and won’t totally disappear before another several years. In Martin Walkyier’s raspy voice first; in the fast, galloping pace of most of the tracks then, partly responsible for the apparent uniformity (in a slightly negative sense) of the album. Curiously, and contrary to most other Skyclad outputs, the fastest tracks (Salt on the Earth, Men of Straw) aren’t especially the most interesting. The thrashy ‘Clad had given its best on the debut: now the band is going its own, so far unexplored path, such parts sound a bit out-of-place. Well, this still doesn’t prevent them from being enjoyable anyway.

As it may be guessed on such an album everyone’s personal favourite is likely to be different. Apart from Ring Stone Round and its mellow, trickling acoustic guitars, each track has its own respective qualities. The Declaration of Indifference shows a pleasant rock-ish vibe closer to later albums a la Vintage Whine, alongside a cheerful violin tune, making it sound like a breeze of fresh air in an otherwise a tad too austere piece of work. As for R’vannith it’s probably the most ambitious track here, again pretty thrashy in some ways but with an additional epic twist as well as a large part devoted to violin and guitar solos – and of course heavily political and anti-religion lyrics. However, it’s with Spinning Jenny the ‘Clad really signed their first classic as well as the first chapter of their long series devoted to ever-horny, ever-hunting, never-satisfied modern days succubi; a track indeed progressing at the same medium pace the main character (Martin himself?), led by the ominous, slightly mocking violin, progresses into debauchery.

All in all A Burnt Offering... is a solid Skyclad album, not my favourite but there will surely be some listeners to disagree here. At least the original songwriting, the accentuated folk edge and the growing part allocated to the violin now allow ourselves to hold our heads up high to clearly state, in a both convinced and convincing tone: THIS IS SKYCLAD.

Highlights: Spinning Jenny, R’vannith, The Declaration of Indifference

Charming - 80%

Rainbow, June 1st, 2004

I'd always heard of this band, but never got to hear them. I knew they were folk metal and that lyrical madman Martin Walkyier from Sabbat was at the band's front. Now I like Sabbat a lot, but I was too sure about the whole folk thing. Luckily at a used cd store, some chump had returned his entire Skyclad collection. Remember hearing about "Spinning Jenny" I decided to pick this album out of the bunch.

Whoa. Good call.

This is unlike all the metal I usually listen to. It has traditional and thrash elements, with the usual themes, but the atmosphere and folk stuff makes it so much more fun. You can't help but listen to it and have a smile on your face. Granted, the overtly happy tones of the music may not mesh with Walkyier's darker ramblings, but something here just works. The lyrics are amazing for one. That main riff in "Spinning Jenny" is indeed the catchiest damn thing. The stone cold emotion in "Ring Stone Round" embodies the folk moodiness that Ritchie Blackmore and his blonde bimbo could only dream of.

"Karmageddon", "R'Vannith", all continue in this tradition, and though songs say they are long, they flow quickly through the ears. Everything here is just EXACTLY how folk and metal should be combined. I am now a Skyclad fan for sure, and will be returning to pick more of their cds.

All metal fans should hear this. Innovation in the scene is something few and far between these days. Umm, yeah. "these days". This cd came out 12 years ago....BAH...GO GET IT!

The lost Skyclad album - 95%

Hattori, February 18th, 2004

This is the only Skyclad release out of print. Why? Don't ask me, but Skyclad fans have become bitter enemies fighting for this album on eBay, with the winner usually paying upwards of $50 Canadian. Noise records refuses to re-release the album, saying that “the sales won’t justify it.” Well, the quality of this album certainly does.

A Burnt Offering retains much of the thrashiness of the previous disc, Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, but the fiddle is better incorporated into the music. This is Skyclad's first release with a full-time fiddle player, and the first Skyclad album you could really call folk-metal. The songs on A Burnt Offering are more melodic and better structured than on Wayward Sons. No longer are there pages of lyrics for each song, and Walkyier’s machine-gun bark has been slowed down, without losing any of its bite. Lyrically, the album is much more varied. Instead of songs about nature and its exploitation, we find lyrics about child abuse, AIDS, Saddam Hussein, and a track about a woman so seductive, even priests are helpless against her power.

"A Broken Promised Land" kicks things off in a typical heavy fashion, but the clean sung, violin-filled bridge showcases the band’s growth. Spinny Jenny just bounces along—Skyclad’s catchiest song to date—while the fiddle in "Salt on the Earth" provides the Eastern vibe the lyrics call for. "R’Vannith" (meaning Roman) sports great fiddle-work, and features one of the best riffs in metal (check out 1:02-1:24)—a Sabbat-like thrashfest this song ain’t. It’s much better.

"Alone in Death’s Shadow" and "Ring Stone Round" are the album’s only ballads, and the only songs that take getting used to. Up to this point, Walkyier has made a career of barking through albums, so his clean voice on both tracks is underdeveloped and flat. "Ring Stone Round" serves as a mellow opener to the heavy "Men of Straw," while the strong lyrics of "Alone in Death’s Shadow" and Walkyier’s screams at the end of the song (the best of his career) make the track an apt closer.

In terms of both quality and music, A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol bridges the gap between the very good Wayward Sons of Mother Earth and Jonah’s Ark: one of the best albums *ever* released.

Definitely worth tracking down.