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I got this album for a buck! - 80%

Babu, January 29th, 2006

And let me tell you, it's pretty great. Now, I hadn't heard any actual Skyclad music prior to the purchase, but I had heard of them and kind of lumped them in with the power/folk metal crowd (thus I wasn't really that interested but I figured what the heck). Well anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered they don't have much in common with those clowns, because here they sound much more like a slightly beefed-up version of Thin Lizzy on Live And Dangerous with kinda guttural vocals and some nice folkish fiddle here and there. I especially enjoy the modest guitar sound; none of that inappropriately heavy post-Pantera-crunch which seems to have found it's way into any album released after 1990.

One of the best things about this release is that while not every single one of these twelve songs are all that interesting (I mostly listen to about 3/4ths of it) not one of them comes off as pretentious or forced either. This is partially because the music is refreshingly straightforward and technically simple and partially because main man Martin Walkyier pens some helluva smart and amusing lyrics; not only are they very witty and tongue-in-cheek, overladen with puns and wordgames, they also happen to revolve around everyday subjects like uhm I guess fascist music critics and being poor and stuff. Anyway, so I'm not quite sure what they are about 100% of the time, but they often make for a good read or listen, and Walkyier is never hiding his messages behind stupid hobbit stories or something.

"I think that life has got it in for me,
can you please tell me who's to blame
for all the bills upon my mat
they breed and grow then eat the cat.
Where they come from I don't know,
I stare at them but they won't go!"

That's from Just What Nobody Wanted, one of the highlights here - its pretty fiddle-to-speed rocker dynamics work very well. Now, I'm not gonna tell you my opinion on every one of these songs, but the closer, Spinning Jenny, is probably the most precious performance on here; a bouncy, compact pop-tune telling the tale of a mystic woman, it just delivers such a folky punch (particularly the pre-chorus) within it's three-minute running time that it's impossible to resist tapping your toe or bobbing your head approvingly. Strong, classy song-writing. They even try their hand at a power-ballad in The One Piece Puzzle, and it works out well, what with that yearning fiddle in the intro and such, if not spectacularly. Other than that, the songs are mostly catchy up-tempo rockers, with the three first songs (not counting the intro track) being the best of these.

The only Skyclad release I have aside from this is the controversial Walkyier-less A Semblance Of Normality which I don't like all that much so I'm not sure how this measures up to the studio efforts. But I really, really like this album and I never get annoyed with it or anything since it's so unassuming.

"Every day is a death-ride when I hold the throttle!!!"