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Skyclad > No Daylights nor Heeltaps > Reviews
Skyclad - No Daylights nor Heeltaps

Subway to Sally will do it better - 55%

Sean16, April 21st, 2009

It just seems the “acoustic album” has to be a mandatory step for every folk/viking metal band in existence. Finntroll’s done it. Borknagar’s done it. Subway to Sally’s done it. A countless others have done it. No wonder thus Skyclad, as the self-dubbed forefathers of folk metal (what isn’t entirely false, by the way), had to do it as well. The departure of legendary singer and lyricist Martin Walkyier was indeed the best moment for it, a welcomed opportunity to have his successor Kevin Ridley sing a bunch of old ‘Clad tunes. So far, so good.

Now what begins to bug me, even before having heard a single note, is the too obvious commercial edge given to this release. It’s mainly targeted to the fan: alright, no problem, I’m one. The fan usually won’t mind being fucked-up a little: he indeed won’t, but provided it doesn’t hurt too much. 37 minutes of music is quite short to begin with, but the potential buyer is offered to order a second CD with five extra songs for something like 5€ - five songs which, of course, would have perfectly fit on the first one. Does it need any further comment? That Skyclad, or at least their successive labels, have always had a taste for money, is hardly surprising when you consider their no less than four best-ofs in fifteen years of existence – that’s as many as a notorious sell-out band like Nightwish. Quite ironical when you know they’ll open this opus with once again their anti-sellouts classic, Penny Dreadful.

However, that wouldn’t be much of a concern if the music was of significant quality. It isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s Skyclad, so it can’t be genuinely bad, all the more I happen to really love Kevin Ridley on vocals, holding A Semblance of Normality as a top-tier Skyclad album – in any case far better than the last work featuring Walkyier, the half-assed Folkemon. Here Ridley does all but trying to mimic his raucous predecessor, instead giving the songs a novel and interesting melodic edge with his ever-polished, ever on-tune, ever-charming vocals. His integration is just perfect, and never would you suspect these tracks had been written for someone else. Compare this, for instance, to Eduardo Falaschi singing on those old Angra tracks initially designed for Andre Matos (discarding all the esteem I have for Falaschi singing on his own material), and you’ll understand Ridley is all but the black sheep.

The biggest mistake consisted, in fact, in reworking these songs as if they were folk-rock tunes played by a bunch of drunktards. And no, this isn’t some pejorative comment from a disappointed listener, this was the deliberate goal of the band – read the booklet if you need to be convinced. Alas, Skyclad tunes aren’t Finntroll tunes, thus such a concept is doomed to failure. The guys may all play their instruments the finest way, there may be good fun listening to this album, but it doesn’t do justice to the songs anymore. Skyclad “the same, but different”? Indeed, like a pale ghost who’s lost his spirit. Works as different as Penny Dreadful, Spinning Jenny or Land of the Rising Slum, each with its own particular atmosphere, here end up all sounding like the same sing-along pub anthem, while new versions of originally boring tracks aren’t less boring (let’s say, Sins of Emission). In the same vein several songs have been amputated from their creepy mood-setting intros, again obviously to better fit the new format: I’m thinking about Another Fine Mess and Single Phial – though, for the latter, in the remaining part the alternative fiddle lines are for once better than the original ones.

Concerning the choice of specific tunes there’s little to be said. Most Skyclad songs would suit an acoustic-heavy interpretation anyway (this album isn’t totally acoustic, though), so I guess they chose those more or less dubbed as classics. Very few recent tracks thus – no Folkemon track, and the only Vintage Whine track is on the second CD – and a preference for the Irrational Anthems album. Of course every Skyclad specialist may address a couple of objections (no Still Spinning Shrapnel? no Isle of Jura?) but again, the main concern isn’t here.

The comparison with Subway to Sally’s 2006 Nackt album is tempting. The British and German acts know each other very well, and have both been playing folk metal long before most of nowadays bands. Subway to Sally’s reworked old songs just shine wonderfully, with far better sound and unequalled sharpness. Here, contrariwise, most tracks sound inferior to the original (Inequality Street might be the exception). Just a chance A Semblance of Normality was coming next.

How uncanny! - 80%

HealthySonicDiet, December 17th, 2003

Ok, so I had read that Skyclad is folk metal, that they're one of the best bands of the 90s, blah blah blah, so I decided to buy this album, which is allegedly a greatest hits/ compilation album. Since I have no clue as to which songs are the best of their repertoire and should be included on this album, I just listened to each song individually, not judging its worth for inclusion on this album. I must say I'm quite disappointed. First off, the distinct sound I'm gathering from this record is more that of Celtic punk/Peter, Paul, and Mary-style folk, rather than folk metal, and it's much lighter than I expected. It's not that I'm necessarily against those styles--it's just that I was expecting to hear something that more properly utilized metal and folk, especially since I'm on a huge metal kick right now and have been for a very long while. If I wanted to buy a Celtic punk album, I would go buy another Flogging Molly CD. No Daylights Nor Heeltaps has its share of expressive, metallic soloing, but it's basically held to a minimum.
Another bone I have to pick with this album is that it's advertised as a 2-disc album, yet there's NO second disc! What the fuck! There's a little slip that you can fill out where you can get other Skyclad releases, newsletters, the second disc for five bucks, etc., but I was expecting a fucking double album. This is equivalent to me having to purchase the second disc of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence separately! That would REALLY piss me off.
Anyhow, maybe this album will grow on me, but for now it's hard to think of it as more than Celtic punk/folk that I'm less inclined to listen to regularly due to my metal kick. For now I'll stick to Suidakra's Emprise to Avalon and Moonsorrow's Voimasta Ja Kunniasta.

The same, but different - 70%

sand, January 22nd, 2003

First off, this is not a "Best of/Compilation"-type of thing per se.
Rather, it is a transition (or if you prefer; filler) release with recordings of old 'clad tunes sung by their new singer Kevin Ridley and, if I am not mistaken, several of them are semi-acoustic versions as opposed to the original versions (most of which I haven't heard -that's why I'm in doubt, not because I can't recognize an acoustic guitar when I hear one, thank you very much).

Let me start the review off by saying that Kevin Ridley is, technically at least, a better singer than Martin Walkyier, though he does not have quite the same dramatic delivery. Ridley, incidentally is both the best and worst thing about the album.
The good news is that he lends a more "folky" atmosphere to Skyclad's already folky brand of metal, the bad is that he takes away a lot of the metal and leads the 'claddies in a more folk-rock direction (though this may of course also be due to the semi-acoustic nature of many of the songs).

The music and lyrics are classic Skyclad and, as such, great (though I fear for their next album, where Walkyier's lyrics will be absent). There is little to complain about as far as musicianship goes, but as i haven't heard all the originals I can't rightly say whether these renditions do them justice or not.
Of those I have heard, however, the new versions are either equally great (Spinning Jenny), slightly inferior (Single Phial, where I prefer Martin's vocals and the longer instrumental passages), or actually -in one instance at least- blow away the originals! (The Widdershins Jig, which becomes an utter masterpiece, though admittedly less metal).

The worst thing I can say about this album is that it is a great shame that Walkyier and Skyclad have parted ways, since his lyrics and voice were, to me at least, a huge part of Skyclad's appeal. But then again, if a new singer hadn't been brought aboard there would really have been very little point to this release.

All in all the album is a very enjoyable listen, especially if you happen to like folky rock/metal with great lyrics, that are also well sung.