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The albatross has flown the nest - 88%

robotiq, May 5th, 2020

"Prince of the Poverty Line" is Skyclad's best album and their definitive artistic statement. This is where Skyclad learnt how to write great rock songs (along with great thrash songs, and great folk metal jigs). This is also where Skyclad managed to capture a mood. That mood is one of John Major's England in 1994 (grey streets, drizzle, urban decay, graffiti, widening inequality). Skyclad realised that there was more to 'folk metal' than violins and rustic neo-paganism. The British folk revival of the 50s and 60s was also about class struggle and protest. The pastoral freedom of "Jonah's Ark" is nowhere to be seen here. "Prince of the Poverty Line" is a document of hard times. It is better to see it as a concept album, where the concept is 'poverty' and the interconnected tapestry of homelessness, abuse, corruption, drugs and unemployment.

You could make a strong case for any of the songs here. There is no filler. The opening triplet is astonishing. "Civil War Dance" is fast and vicious, a perfect metal protest anthem. "Cardboard City" is the album's catchiest and best-known song. "Sins of Emission" is a brief, crushing power-jig, a worthy follow up to "Spinning Jenny" from the band's second album. The song writing is brilliant and efficient, simple verse-bridge-chorus structures are used to perfection amid crashing power-chords, with violins threading in and out. This is the best one-two-three punch of any Skyclad record.

The middle of the album stretches things out a little. "Land of the Rising Slum" is led by a drum/keyboard combination that should sound ridiculous but works brilliantly because of the awesome chorus. I must admit that I skip "The One Piece Puzzle" these days, I don’t doubt the emotional content of this song but it feels a bit overwrought. Still, I can see why others might see it as a highlight, and it is probably the closest Skyclad ever got to a true 'power ballad'. "Bellyful of Emptiness" is a fine song, but certainly not my favourite here, and was somewhat ruined for me once I realised how similar it sounds to Status Quo's version of "Rockin' All Over the World".

Things get considerably darker from this point on. The final third of the album is gloomy, depressing and harrowing (especially if you are paying attention to the lyrics). "Dog in a Manger" juxtaposes the album's heaviest riffs with the most overt violin. The song seems to be about a child fleeing an abusive home and ending up on the streets. The thrashing speed returns with the anti-nationalist "Gammadion Seed", before segueing into the drug-addled haze of "Womb of the Worm" (the grimiest song in Skyclad's history). The atmosphere fizzles before the final song arises from the chaos, "The Truth Famine" rounding things out in epic fashion. This is the greatest song on the album, and the most blatantly political of all their songs. By the end of it all, Skyclad have realised their vision.

There is one line-up change from the previous album and it might have impacted the stylistic difference here. Fritha Jenkins is replaced by Cath Howell, who has a similar 'roaming' approach to the violin, but she isn't given the same freedom that Jenkins had. The songs are denser, darker and heavier this time, there is less sonic space for Howell to work and she therefore weaves her lines in where she can. Unlike Jenkins, she doesn't play the mandolin (there are hardly any acoustic instruments on this album), but she does get much more scope on the keyboards. I'm not sure if this was a conscious musical direction but it does affect the sound. It worked well in any case.

"Prince of the Poverty Line" is the obvious place to start with Skyclad. Many of these songs have a timeless feel despite being rooted in a time and place. These lyrical themes are as relevant now as they were at the time, perhaps more relevant. Unsurprisingly, Skyclad found this album difficult to follow.

Not much folk here - 78%

Felix 1666, June 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Noise Records

After a brilliant debut with some outstanding songs and a strong second album, Skyclad had shown first signs of weariness on their pretty feeble third output. Therefore it was time for the band to redeem itself with "Prince of the Poverty Line" and Walkyier and his comrades did not hesitate to convince the audience of their regained strength.

Right from the beginning, the band makes clear that it does not intend to offer another somewhat weak album. Already the opener is more lively than most parts of "Jonah's Ark". "Civil War Dance" sounds powerful, coherent and gains momentum. The violin does not stop the wild ride, it rather supports the flow of the song. The next surprise is not long in coming. "Cardboard City" houses a very good keyboard solo; honestly speaking, I never thought I would connect the words "very good" with "keyboard solo", but that's just my moody note. And by the way, another actually solid tune is (naturally!) ruined by its keyboards. The instrumental part of "Land of the Rising Slum" sounds like funfair music in its worst form.

Anyway, let's focus on the big picture. Skyclad score with robust and heavy songs. Even the melancholic sections have a reliable fundament of steel. It is surprising and pleasing to see that there is no track like "Moongleam and Meadowsweet". The guitars dominate the sound and Steve Ramsey and Dave Pugh celebrate some edgy riffs that lend the whole album a vigorous touch. I don't say that the full-length shows the rebirth of the thrashing elements of their debut. However, it is also far away from a folk metal work and this is not only because of the production. The guitars and, of course, Walkyier's voice play the main roles and this approach results in comparatively aggressive songs. Just listen to the strict and straight "The Gammadion Seed". It does not only score with its melody lines, but also with a powerful bridge and the craggy chorus.

It is probably impossible for a non-native speaker to figure out each and every pun in Walkier's lyrics. Thank God, already the song titles serve as an indication. "The One Piece Puzzle" or "A Bellyful of Emptiness" - the linguistic talent is completely in his element. Speaking of "A Bellyful of Emptiness", it is among the highlights. Its catchy chorus with the concise background vocals is pretty strong, but the staccato riffing of the verses have their charm too. I always see Joe Cocker before my inner eye doing his strange, somewhat robotic moves when listening to the verses (no nice picture, by the way). Either way, a great song - and the same applies to "Womb of the Worm" with its quite extraordinary atmosphere. The worm is creeping slowly and a female background voice supports the evil announcing aura of the song effectively. (The booklet also lists Venom's Abaddon as additional voice, but I have no clue where he shows up. Nobody screams in the background words like Bloodlust or Manitou and honestly speaking, we can be glad that it is this way.)

All in all, Skyclad's fourth album is more or less free from fillers and holds some tracks real metalheads should not miss. They cannot attack the status of their own first album, but the poor prince does not need to fear the comparison with the bone idol. So start the "Civil War Dance" and enjoy that there is not much folk here.

A catherine wheel of fire and steel - 88%

autothrall, November 9th, 2009

Skyclad was the perfect rebound vehicle for Martin Walkyier after his departure from the legendary Sabbat. Combining his lyrical pun and wit with a hybrid of folk and thrash/speed metal courtesy of Steve Ramsey and Graeme English (themselves veterans of great UK bands like Pariah, Blind Fury and Satan), the band produced a string of five good albums before eventually allowing their folk/pub influence and silly puns overcome the metal balance, resulting in the mediocre, latter half of their career. Prince of the Poverty Line was their 4th full-length and arguably their best.

Essentially, this album was spot on where the band needed to be: a hybrid of Walkyier's past work with Sabbat (speed/thrash metal with quality riffing and his unmistakeable vocals) and the blue blood/pagan/folk aesthetic delivered through Cath Howell's fiddle and violin. "Civil War Dance" is a nice lead-in with some percussive, swaggering folk doused in metal leads and chords. Skyclad were always a fairly political band, and the majority of this album reflects their finer attempts at the lyrical craft.

Walkyier had lost none of his edge from Sabbat, and the vocals here are quite the same. "Cardboard City" is a scorcher with tasteful synthesizers providing a progressive edge. "Sins of Emission" features a fine use of thrashing folk jig, the violins emit a somber note to the flow of verse and chorus. "Land of the Rising Slum" makes a great use of percussion and piano, a powerful mid-paced number with Walkyier at his finest during the hypnotic chorus. "The One Piece Puzzle" is a folk ballad with acoustic guitars until the electrics pound forth for some slowly driving chords. "A Bellyful of Emptiness" is a fun thrasher with a rocking verse using some synths to accent the vocal pattern. "A Dog in the Manger" yet again meshes the thrash with violin highlights and a killer bridge. "Gammadion Seed" erupts forth with blistering speed and an arsenal of excellent riffs and leads, one of the best of Skyclad's entire career, and the most purely 'metal' song for this album.

"Womb of the Worm" is a powerful, slower track with another epic chorus, Walkyier's unforgettable vocals slathered in chords, synth and some brief female vocals. "The Truth Famine" ends the album with another slow pace, with some great folk riffing.

The mix of the album is dense and balanced, the most effective of their career. None of the myriad of the band's merging styles outshone the others. While this hybrid was already in place with previous works like Jonah's Ark and the A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol, it was never as effective. Prince of the Poverty Line was one of the most potent works of folk metal in the 90s, and largely because of its unique thematic approach. The lyrics reflect political and urban unrest and a hint of multicultural strife (which is becoming more urgent these days in England), rather than rooting in the folklore and myth of other ethnic European folk metal acts (something Skyclad themselves fancied on earlier albums). It's a great album from a once great band, Walkyier's best material post-Sabbat, and I'd highly recommend picking up all their early work but ignoring anything after Silent Whales of Lunar Sea.


Land of the Twisted Sun - 78%

Sean16, April 25th, 2009

Is it just me, or is Prince of the Poverty Line really the gloomiest, weirdest, sickest album those bitter onlookers of mankind Skyclad are ever pulled out? As soon as the suspiciously frantic opening drumbeat of Civil War Dance begins it seems like everything here is going to show some bizarre, uneasy twist, as one may get by beholding the world through ill-designed glasses. Meanwhile on the cover the wild, shaggy jack of clubs keeps on contemplating his own deadly reflection. Most Skyclad covers are weak; this one could hardly be more accurate.

The simple fact this album features this monstrous, creepy, psychedelic track called The Womb of the Worm, with its thick guitar wall, slow tempo, and ending thirty seconds of hypnotizing mumblings The Beatles in their later years wouldn’t have disapproved of, should be enough to prove at this time the most British of British bands must have been in a particular, altered state of mind (not to say this song is a masterpiece by any mean, as someone not particularly into this psychedelic trip is likely to find it more boring than anything else). If the overall work may still qualify as folk metal, that’s an ambiguous kind of folk metal where disturbing little details are scattered here and there. Like, for instance, the uncommon use of extended samples (not less than one minute at the beginning of A Dog in the Manger), unclassifiable choruses like in Gammadion Seed, the occasional focus on bass guitar and, of course, the particular use of keyboards.

Singling out keyboards on a Skyclad album could seem at first glance silly. This is all but novel, Skyclad songs with keyboards or piano are all but uncommon, and even on their previous release Jonah’s Ark there was already at least one track where keys played a predominant, atmosphere-building part (A Word to the Wise). Furthermore, compared to bands like Moonsorrow and their numerous followers of the nowadays folk metal scene keyboards on this album are a joke – they aren’t even mixed up or whatever. However, no Skyclad song had, and no Skyclad song will ever sound like the two gems that are Cardboard City and Land of the Rising Slum, and why? Hell, this is mainly due to their out-of-nowhere keyboard, between harpsichord and electro – both tracks even featuring even more unusual keyboard and Hammond organ solos, respectively. Farther the less spectacular A Bellyful of Emptiness also relies on the same wicked electro sound which could almost be labelled as the trademark of this album, so does Gammadion Seed, though in this last case it’s the whole songwriting which seems wicked in some way. The aforementioned Womb of the Worm completes the list of keyboardized tracks.

This new part allocated to keys will have another consequence. Outside from the Steve Ramsey/ Graeme English core Skyclad’s lineup underwent so many changes through years discussing them in detail would be of little interest for the casual listener; however the member in charge of keyboards, whoever she may be (yeah, it’s a girly job), has always been in charge of the violin as well. Thus if there are very few ‘Clad songs featuring none of these instruments, there are also very few featuring both, meaning on our present album there will be less fiddle and violin than on any other Walkyier-era album – apart from the thrashy debut, and (maybe) Folkemon. Now no one knowing this band a single bit would deny the essential part the violin has always played in Skyclad’s sound, and that an album suffering from severe violin deficit will necessarily have a different vibe. Amusing coincidence, this album will be the only contribution of then music student Catherine Howell not only to Skyclad, but also (as it seems) to the whole metal world.

The derelict feeling of the release will only get worse when one pays some attention to lyrics. Granted, Skyclad has never been the funniest circus band ever but, at least, there’s usually some slice of bitter humour to be expected. Not there. From social distress in run-down urban areas (Cardboard City, Land of the Rising Slum, A Dog in the Manger) to depression (Sins of Emission, The One-Piece Puzzle) or wicked politics (Gammadion Seed, The Truth Famine) offering revolution as the only alternative (Civil War Dance), there really isn’t anything laughable, all the more texts are explicit to the point they sometimes border on bad taste (a line like I ask my doctor his advice, this is what he says/ "Get yourself some cancer boy, before you die of AIDS." ... well...). Scary.

It’s thus not very surprising the most “standard Skyclad” moments are for once also the least interesting. They just don’t fit into the concept. As soon as the listener has more or less consciously accepted the fact this album has a nasty twist, perfectly sane songs look weak. The Truth Famine is a pretty flat closing track, all the more it’s completely crushed by the immediately preceding Womb of the Worm which would have worked far better at its place. Sins of Emission is the shortest, but also the least original piece of work here, while The One Piece Puzzle only serves to remind us the ‘Clad should avoid writing ballads altogether, as one would have enough of a single hand to count those of genuine interest (let me guess... Constance Eternal, Isle of Jura... and there must be a couple of others).

Beware. Prince of the Poverty Line is a poisonous album. There’s no real Skyclad anthem here, but some of the most haunting tracks the guys ever recorded. And if I sometimes feel like I really love this work – it’s of a sickly, twisted, tainted love.

Highlights: Cardboard City, Land of the Rising Slum, Gammadion Seed

One of the least interesting Walkyier-era albums - 65%

morbert, October 10th, 2007

As said, I’ve been a Walkyier-era Skyclad fan from the beginning but this album is really one of my least favourite ones together with ‘The Answer Machine’. The reason for this is simple. Even though the album proceeds in a decent way from start to finish there are actually only two songs I can really appreciate individually. This has been going on for years now each time I play this album. I have to be honest there are a lot of fillers here that do not annoy me but also never really grab the attention. Lyrically there’s nothing to complain here I must add, but in the end it’s the music that counts.

First really good song is ‘Sins Of Emission’ which continues the Widdeshins Jig-Spinning Jenny style but is slightly heavier. The other highlight is the best power folkmetal ballad Skyclad has ever written. I am of course talking about ‘The One Piece Puzzle’. The good production does the job as well I must admit, for the heavy guitars that enter the song after one and a half minute are extremely powerful and are the icing on the cake concerning this marvellous composition.

All the other songs just go on in a decent way but none of these songs would individually make it to a top 25 list of favourite Skyclad tracks. “Prince of the Poverty Line” is not a bad Skyclad album it’s just that almost all other Walkyier-era albums are far better. If you’re collecting their albums, save this one for last (together with ‘The Answer Machine’ that is).

Essential folk metal release - 95%

kapitankraut, September 15th, 2007

Skyclad's "Prince of the Poverty Line" is one of the strongest albums by a group credited as one of the originators of folk metal. That in itself should justify a 95% rating, but there's so much more on offer here than one simple sentence can sum up.

The first thing I noticed on hearing this album was the seamless integration of the folk and metal aspects. So many bands out there play what can be described as "folk metal" and arrive at their sound by replacing a guitar riff here with a bagpipe tune there or by playing old folk standards at a frenetic pace and with a deliberate choice of the more offensive variants of the lyrics. Sure, that's folk metal if you do it for long enough, but it frequently ends up as a one-trick pony. Skyclad doesn't do that at all.

What we have here, instead, is an honest-to-goodness metal outfit in something of a thrash tradition who just happen to feature a violin every so often and have their songs played in jig-time into the bargain. Additionally, the songs they perform are original compositions but written from a folk perspective. The best folk music, as we know, is heavily political and always looking out for the little man. That's what these songs tend to be about.

Musically, this album can stand with the best of them. There are catchy melodies and tasty guitar riffs almost everywhere you listen, and just like the folk songs they're inspired by you'll be humming them or whistling them every chance you get. The aggression of the thrash tradition is also present in spades, as the band seems just able to control itself before bursting forth into some kind of wild rage.

Of course, no review of a Skyclad album in their early golden period would be complete without mentioning the genius of Martin Walkyier. Without his distinctive vocal presence, this would still be a strong album, but without his uncanny ear for lyrics, the band would be as nothing here. From the moment he delivers his bile-filled lyrics on the opener, "Civil War Dance", through to his working-man's perspective on things on "The Truth Famine", his presence is utterly spellbinding. For me, one of the real standouts is "A Dog In The Manger", with its cheeky description of "A ticket to ride on the poverty line", but I'm sure every listener will find their own favourite lyrical gem buried somewhere in this album. Unlike so many other albums out there, where the lyrics approach the level of brilliance every so often, this one features brilliance as a given.

Overall, an utterly superb release. A pleasure to listen to, and an album which yields more each time it's played. I can't wait to get my hands on more of the Walkyier-era work of this band.

That is not an angel, merely a monkey with wings! - 94%

Yyzlin, November 2nd, 2003

One of the most consistent and best, IMO, metal bands of the 90's, this little heard, yet highly praised band hailing from England churned out a classic with their fourth full release. Provided with the brilliance of Martin Walkyier, the music is sharp, agressive, and catchy with that unique folk sound, accented by the use of the fiddle, that Skyclad has mastered. Lyrics are as always top notch and intelligent, full of puns and word play that highlight the witty satire directed at social and political issues. From the first song, Civil War Dance, alone, fantastic lyrics are abound. "Exchange inhuman wrongs for human rights. This underdog not only barks - it bites!...This system cultivates our lust and greed with anti-social insecurity." The rest of the album continues in similar fashion. Musically, there are no weakspots in the albums, only absolutely amazing songs compared to very very good songs. Top cuts include Cardboard City, Land of the Rising Slum,Gammadion Seed, and Womb of the Worm. Highly recommended, for metal fans and rock fans in general looking for something new and different.

Angry, brilliant, intelligent, catchy and metal - 95%

yeentrancemperium, September 19th, 2003

My review will be biased, since I consider Skyclad to be one of the premiere metal bands in the 90s, in the top 3 for me.

This album is just a clinic on how to write intelligent lyrics, with catchy songs, but with agression. It's full of puns, plays on words and the like all courtesy of Martin Walkyier, who is pretty much a unanimous choice for best lyricist in heavy metal. The lyrics are challenging social issues, mocking politics, with little regards to country or fame. Yet, it's done in a witty way, and particularly with the catchiness of the songs it comes across as an interesting mix.

There is more to the album than lyrics, though. This album has great hooks, some aggressive guitar playing by Steve Ramsey, some really nice fviolin work(Sins of Emission comes to mind in particular) and overall just really good songs. Feel free to sing along to it.

Personal favorites would be Civil War Dance, Cardboard City, Land of the Rising Slum and The One Piece Puzzle, but basically the first 6-7 songs are all flawless.

Folk-metal really doesn't do justice for this band, band of the 90s probably does.

A good one from the Claddies - 95%

CliffBizkit336, June 13th, 2003

Well here it is. The best album from what I consider to the best band of the nineties. Prince of the Poverty Line by Skyclad offers up some of the most inventive and interesting metal ever.

The guitar riffs are nothing fancy just basic catchy stuff. What really makes this album stand out is Matin Walkyier. His vocals fit the music perfectly and his lyrics are wonderful. Socially aware poetic bitter smart would all be words to describe Walkyiers lyrics. The songs are all different. Structured in different ways that keep things VERY interesting. The folk elements add alot. The violins give the album a really cool "renaissance" feel to things.

Top tracks are Civil War Dance, Gammadion Seed, and Womb of the Worm.

All I can say is that this is one interesting release and a personal favorite of mine. I encourage everyone to pick it up if for nothing else than the cool lyrics.