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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.