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Most Valuable Diamonds Are Flawed - 88%

Sean16, April 28th, 2009

Most valuable diamonds are flawed... and so is what is probably Skyclad’s most valuable release. But would have perfection made it better? That’s all but certain. First, because no-one knows what is a perfect Skyclad album; that one still has to be recorded. Then, because to fully appreciate the gems concealed here you probably have to compare them to both the electronic nonsense of Jeopardy and the liquid cheese of A Stranger in the Garden. Guys, what are you trying to prove with these keyboards and flutes anyway? After five albums you should well know you don’t need any flute, pipe or mouth harp to sound folk-ish - all you need are those damn folk rhythmic lines, this little touch of acoustic guitars to top the electric ones and, of course, a violin.

Well, speaking of this infamous violin... Kate Howell had departed almost as soon as she’d arrived, and will anyway be remembered more for her atypical performance on keyboards than for her fiddling abilities. Now as a replacement has already entered Georgie Biddle, Miss Skyclad herself, and with her not only the so called classic Skyclad core lineup which had to least for another six albums will henceforth be complete, but the violin will acquire a then unmatched importance in the shape of long, uninterrupted lines doubling or competing with the guitars (though there will always be a couple of fiddle-lacking tracks in this and every subsequent ‘Clad album). Besides, even when soloing, Skyclad’s violin has never especially sounded like a funny after-taste of a late Irish pub evening, but far more like a medium-pitched plaintive cry, in perfect harmony with the darkly, satirical lyrics.

Every ingredient was thus here for the British band to record some of their most unforgettable anthems ever. The overall pace of the album is pretty fast and lively, leaning towards rock in some places like the misanthropic Just What Nobody Wanted, and even totally falling into punk in the (what a coincidence) politically-heavy Desperanto (A Song for Europe). Some other songs like Brimstone Ballet, Another Fine Mess or the short-but-intense Turncoat Rebellion are more in the slower marching tune fashion while, odd exception, The Present Imperfect is an acoustic-heavy, keyboards-heavy, almost atmospheric track.

The number of catchy songs here is just incredible, and the word shouldn’t be understood in a bad sense as their interest doesn’t lessen a single bit even after numerous listens. It’s just impossible to resist Martin Walkyier’s raspy, half-drunk voice he’ll keep in most of the album for what is probably his best performance in the whole ‘Clad history, to resist the chorus of Still Spinning Shrapnel (oh, and the rest of the song as well), to resist the disillusioned litany of just what nobody wanted I’m just what nobody wanted I’m just what nobody wanted, the medievalizing main riff of Brimstone Ballet, or the immortal shouts of HE’S AN ART-NAZI! which punctuate the song of the same name – that’s just to highlight a few.

Indeed, in comparison to some other Skyclad works this one is rather simple, even simplistic. Another Fine Mess, Walkyier’s semi-autobiographical account of touring, disillusioned, penniless musicians’ hardships, may feature a quiet, slightly awkward piano intro before suddenly unveiling its hidden metal qualities, but it’s an exception. Still Spinning Shrapnel, Art-Nazi or Turncoat Rebellion (the list could go on) all abruptly, almost too abruptly begin in full metal fashion and power, to sometimes equally abruptly end (Turncoat Rebellion). No, this is definitely not what I’d call a subtle album. But it works so efficiently one could hardly blame the band for it. Folk music isn’t subtle. Folk metal doesn’t have to be subtle. What doesn’t mean it has to be totally cretin, of that this album is the living proof – until the last two minutes.

Because if sparks of genius are glowing all along its fifty minutes, the ultimate one might well be looked for in its very end. While Skyclad could easily release a best-of by simply compiling all their opening tracks, the vast majority of their closing tracks are on the other hand amongst the worst they’ve ever written, but ladies and gentlemen here’s the exception: the infamous Dance of the Dandy Hound! If this tune could be objectively described as an instrumental polka, it just has to be the most stupid, most grotesque, most lunatic polka ever written. Why the hell did they choose to end their masterpiece on this brilliantly executed piece of idiocy instead of the previous sad, melancholic, tragically ethereal The Present Imperfect? Given the overall message the band has been carrying over the years it’s pretty clear: we’re nothing but lobotomized morons dancing to the sound of politicians, military instructors, preachers and (art-)Nazis of all kind. In other words this work’s last statement is nothing but a big: FUCK YOU!

Indeed. Fuck you Finntroll, you’ve made my day more than once but you’re just too goofy. Fuck you Mägo de Oz, with all your flutes and keys you just forgot how to write a proper metal song. Fuck you In Extremo, Rammstein at least doesn’t need three pipers to play approximately the same shit. Fuck you Korpiklaani, I just wish you’ll all drown yourselves in your damn beloved beer one of these days. Half of what has to be known about folk metal is on The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea. The other half is on Subway to Sally’s Bannkreis.

Highlights: Still Spinning Shrapnel, Just What Nobody Wanted, Art-Nazi, Another Fine Mess, The Present Imperfect

Another Skyclad classic - 90%

morbert, October 10th, 2007

Of all their more metal based albums, this is one of Skyclad’s finest. The diversity of the material presented here does wonders. If only the production of this album would have been as good as their previous effort ‘Prince Of The Poverty line’. Especially the guitars.

The jazzy chorus together with the groovy punk verses of ‘Just What Nobody Wanted’ make it a refreshing song. The sing-a-long tune ‘Art Nazi’ however is a song I can only play in a certain mood but I cannot deny its quality. ‘Jeopardy’ has a lot of things going on and I consider this a another highlight on the album since I do like the arpeggio digital keyboard details and the ‘Left right Left right’ military vocal bits. It gives song an eerie atmosphere which suits the lyrics about war.

‘Brimstone Ballet’ is a catchy folk tune with a nice waltzing chorus. ‘A Stranger In The Garden’ is a very strong slow paced song with a great intro, beautiful verses and heavy chorus. Other highlights include the pounding ‘Halo Of Flies’ which has some strong doom metal riffing over mid paced drums and the ‘Tell me who am I, what am I and why am I here’ section is stuck in my mind forever since. Not forgetting to mention the fastest Skyclad song ever ‘Desperanto (A Song for Europe)’ which is almost thrash metal in the most classic way, including punk inspired drums.

Of course there are a few fillers here and the production is not as good as their previous album, but still ‘The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea’ remains a true Skyclad classic!

The Best Folk Metal Album Ever! - 85%

Warpig, August 14th, 2007

Well, at least parts of it…

This could have been a (near) perfect album, if Skyclad had concentrated on the good songs, i.e. if they had left off the fillers and had released an EP or a pretty short album instead.

Fact is, that the good songs on here represent the best that has ever been released under the Folk Metal banner, especially the choruses of the respective songs are brilliant, the best example being “Halo Of Flies”.

The highlights of this album include “Still Spinning Shrapnel”, the probably fastest Skyclad song “Desperanto”, “The Present Imperfect”, “Another Fine Mess” and the already mentioned “Halo Of Flies”. Although these five songs are standout tracks, “Just What Nobody Wanted” and “Art Nazi” manage to shine even more, which makes them probably two of the best Metal songs ever recorded. Apart from the music, though these songs also show that Martin Walkyier is one of the best lyricists out there. When in top form like here, I think it would be even appropriate to call him the Bob Dylan of Heavy Metal.

Sadly, this album also contains a few fillers that diminish the score quite substantially: “Jeopardy” basically is pure and utter shit. From start to finish, everything they did in this song was terrible - the child(ren) at the beginning, the “left, right” part, well, the complete song. “Brimstone Ballet” has a great opening riff, and especially the break is interesting (every time I hear that break though, I have to think of Mike Oldfield’s “To France”…), but sadly the rest is pretty forgettable, just like (the at least very short) “Turncoat Rebellion”. Last but not least “A Stranger In The Garden” is actually a really good song and therefore I will never understand why they tried to ruin it by including this long, useless interlude.

Skyclad is one of the best Folk Metal bands of all time and their discography is pretty impressive, but if you’re looking for the best songs this band has ever written, this album contains most of them. Yes, the good songs on here are better than nearly everything on their best ofs! Apart from the fillers, “The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea” may be the best Folk Metal album ever, because the highlights on here are perfect examples of excellent song writing completed by Martin Walkyier’s raspy voice and fantastic lyrics.

Humpty-FUCKING-dumpty. - 8%

Bash, July 27th, 2007

Well this is crap. I know I know, I'm giving away the ending, but I guess you already looked at the rating (or, alternatively, listened to the album yourself) so I might as well get straight to the point. Skyclad seems to show up whenever folk metal is discussed. Having, regretfully, finally caved in and checked them out I find that odd because I hear hardly any folk here, just some tired heavy metal mixed with ”oh look how weird I am” avant-garde passages and a few string instruments every now and then in the background. Perhaps I have the wrong album, maybe they're more folk on their other releases, but on this one they simply do not qualify, despite how many different flutes they randomly throw in. To be honest, I probably would hardly even notice the few folk influences if people didn't keep calling them folk. In any case, ”crap” will suffice as a genre description for me.

Okay I might've been a bit harsh there since this album isn't completely void of good ideas, it's just that there are just about enough to carry maybe two or three songs and they're all mashed between masses of horrible ideas and filler to make the album last a whopping 50 minutes. Like for example in ”Just What Nobody Wanted” there's an unusual, almost avant-garde rhythm that seems very refreshing for the genre, but other than that the song is completely worthless, from the boring as hell guitarwork to the terribly misplaced whiny lyrics. Same goes for ”Brimstone Bullet”, a song that is otherwise ripe full of head-splitting retardation (see: the chorus), where there's a short break in the middle of the song and it's continued with some nice ”marching” passage, only to be continued with more things of minimal interest. I'm not complaining because there aren't enough superficially interesting quirks like described above, they aren't really necessary even though they do certainly help, but because everything else is so damn bland and boring and heard before, there's nothing remotely original to be found here. By far the worst offender here is the vocalist.

Martin Walkyier basically has no voice at all, so instead of actually producing sounds that resemble singing he barks monotonously into the mic. There are a few attempts at clean vocals here and there which only work to prove that he indeed sounds like total shit even when not trying to sound like an ogre or a fat barkeep or a pirate or what-the-hell-ever he is going for. It's just the same ”BLARG BLARG BLARG BLARG” all the way through the album, it's just so goddamn ridiculous and at the same time infuriating. I'd rather listen to a lawnmower. Whenever there's something remotely interesting happening then all of a sudden, oops, there are the damned awful vocals again to ruin it. I doubt I could get past the vocals even if rest of the music was any good. That is not the case though, as there is not a single good riff on the entire album. The guitar is just uninteresting from the generic tone of it to the forgettable leads which don't even appear that often as the guitarists seem to mostly just play some dull rhythm stuff as if the vocalist could carry the music alone (though I suppose he manages to do just that if their goal was to piss me off as much as possible, which I'm starting to believe is the case). There's really nothing to say about the drums as they aren't good or bad, and don't even ask about the bass. To summarize the efforts of the rhythm section: boring. There's no use in going in depth on this because there is not much to go in depth about.

Almost everything about this album is so flamboyantly annoying it leaves me stunned at how flat-out angry it makes me. It's not even the good kind of angry, the kind that you might get from listening to some grindcore or death metal, that cathartic kind that leaves you a little tired but satisfied and calm. The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea makes my eye twitch and my hands tremble in wanting to strangle whoever is responsible for producing this piece of garbage. The song ”Jeopardy” for example incorporates such ”fun” things as an acapella intro of a kid reciting the humpty dumpty rhyme. While the kid is no doubt vastly more talented than whoever wrote the rest of the song, it really leaves me wondering what the hell they were thinking when they decided something like this would be a good thing to add to a metal song? Not that the song is any good otherwise or void of other annoying elements (Do we really need the ”Right, left, right, left” thing too? Wasn't this band gimmicky enough as it is?). While were at it I'd like to hear what the line of reasoning that resulted in the conclusion that singing about Jeopardy was a good idea was. I never thought I'd get so wound up by music but here I am, angry as fuck at this album.

”A Stranger In The Garden” is the only attempt made (apart from the first half of ”Another Fine Mess”) to break away from the formula of fast-paced rockers they seem to aim for, but in doing so Skyclad decided to go totally overboard and make a song that is not even metal at all. This is, to put it bluntly, tree-hugging hippie crap. Seriously, listening to this song separately you could easily mistake this song to be a fruit of the hippie movement. Well, apart from the chorus, in which we descend right back into the usual vocals. There's actually a pretty good line in the chorus too which positively stuck in my head, ”This is the Old God's country -, You can bring me here to die.”, but immidiately after that lies this gem: ”It's a thinking mans Valhalla -”. Yeah, completely ruined, after this everything else is irrelevant. That is the lamest lyric I have ever heard and when talking about metal that is saying a lot. Lyrics in general on this album appear to be pretty good but properly studying them would require also listening to the singer, which I find to be an inhuman task I would not wish upon my worst enemy.

In conclusion, if you ever come across a copy of this release (like for example while rummaging through the garbage cans behind that brothel in Thailand), smash it into atoms and bury it. This album simply does not have the right to exist in the same universe as people with ears. I kind of feel sorry for Skyclad, they tried to make a quirky, folky heavy metal album with loads of energetic songs galloping forward in a captivating manner, but instead they've created a runaway train of utter annoyance. Scratch that, I don't feel sorry for Skyclad, in fact I wish death upon them, I feel sorry for myself for being exposed to this musical equivalent of a thousand crying babies in the seat next to you on an airplane ride from Cape Town to Reykjavik and back again. All I can do now is hope I can put this experience behind me and that writing this review has helped to keep someone from ever opening this can of worms and getting scarred for life like I fear I might've been.

The Quintessential Skyclad - 93%

FuzzyLogic, July 5th, 2005

Well, I must confess that I do NOT like early Skyclad albums. "Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" and "A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol" are too noisy, muddy and dull. Moreover, there seems to be a serious lack of musical virtuosity. The REAL Skyclad begins with the "Jonah`s Ark" and reaches its highest point on "The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea." Maybe it`s not their purest and clearest record, but it is definitely the most powerful, the most energetic, the most "Skycladdish" album they released to date. If "The Answer Machine?" is more folk than metal, then "The Silent Whales" with its heavy, distorted guitar sound tends to be much more metal than folk. This is the first strength of this album.

The second strength of "The Silent Whales" is lyrics by Martin Walkyier. Frankly speaking, I don`t share his aspiration for writing about social issues, but I can not deny the talent. He creates the brilliant mixtures of word-playing, sarcasm, irony and bitterness. I suppose Martin to be one of the best (if not THE best) rock/metal lyricists along with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

The third strength of this record is that almost all compositions are classy. Unfortunately, arrangements are not so good as they will become on later albums. That is keeping me from rating "The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea" as 100%.

The album starts with Still Spinning Shrapnel. In my opinion, it is rather boring song, but others tend to rate it very high. Maybe I just don`t understand something?

The second track, Just What Nobody Wanted, is awfully beautiful with its very unusual intro and catchy rhythm, let alone wonderful lyrics. (When I say 'catchy' here, I mean that this one is REALLY catchy.)

Art - Nazi is another one 'heavy' song featuring unusual melodic structure.

Fourth track, Jeopardy, is the best of the best. Very strange melody, untrivial arrangement, cool guitar solo, Martin`s voice constantly moving from left to right and vice versa... I especialliy like the moments when Martin sings: "Left, right, left, right, left, right, left... Right, left, right, left, right, left, right..."

The next song - Brimstone Ballet - is not one of my favourites, but is also very notable not only because of lyrics but also because of memorable melody, complex rhythm, and descent folkish arrangement.

A Stranger In The Garden has beautiful acoustic intro and heavy chorus. This is a very good song, too.

The next two tracks - Another Fine Mess and Turncoat Rebellion - show even more good folkish riffing. To my mind, they both belong to Skyclad's Top-20.

Halo of Flies is my personal favourite here. It is the heaviest song on the album and the most memorable one. Heavy guitar riffs after the words "Tell me who am I, what am I and why am I here" make me absolutely happy.

Desperanto (A Song for Europe) is very satirical. It explains perspectives of the united Europe from sceptic`s point of view and features very intense guitars. Words "we`re all Eurosexual" really make me laugh every time I listen through it.

The Present Imperfect is anthemic song dedicated to social inequality. It features the latin chorus "Panis angelicus" by Cesar Frack.

"The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea" ends with Dance Of The Dandy Hound - instrumental bonus track. It serves the purpose to wipe away bombast of The Present Imperfect.

Resume: "The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea" is one of the best Skyclad albums . If you didn't hear it then go and buy it. It`s worth it.

One of Skyclad's finest albums - 95%

yeentrancemperium, May 12th, 2003

This 1995 Skyclad album, came after the great Prince of the Poverty Line. As usual, the lyrics are witty, bitter, and brilliant, courtesy of Martin. In fact, this is probably single the best metal album lyrics-wise.

The album starts out with one of the standout tracks, Still Spinning Shrapnel. "All I hear are peace talks and battle cries" It is a pretty intense song, while remaining very catchy as well.

Just What Nobody Wanted is the personal favorite here, depicting Martin's bitterness about life in a witty, kind of tongue in cheek way. "If life's sweet then I'm diabetic, The future looks rosy, I just went colorblind" If you don't like this song, chances are there is something wrong with you. :)

Art - Nazi is another great song, "more tongue in cheek than a french kiss from Judas Iscariot" no, not the USBM band, in case you were wondering.

Jeopardy is about a series of chemical experiments, in England with young men, conducted by the military. The play of words on left, right, left in the right, etc is genius.

Brimstone Ballet is another solid song, talking about welfare, rights, pros and contras against the issues of poverty. It also talks about a recurring theme, that is the sort of pagan disenchantment with the Christian God, that Skyclad express throughout their albums.

A Stranger in the Garden is very melodic, starts out with acoustic stuff. It's probably one of the weaker tracks on here.

Another Fine Mess starts out with a kind of spoken/sung intro part, but picks up towards the chorus, with some good catchy, folky riffing. A good song, overall.

Turncoat Rebellion is one of the better songs on the album, especially the chorus. The fiddle parts are above average in this song. Overall, an excellent song.

Halo of Flies has some great lyrics again, and a good chorus as well.

Desperanto (A Song for Europe) starts out with some pretty fast and intense guitar and fiddle work. The song describes the skepticism of the band with the current state of Europe. "No comprendo, I don't understand" and "we're all Eurosexual" enough said. One of the better songs on here.

The Present Imperfect is a slower, kind of laid back track, with a Latin Chorus from Cesar Frack.

The last track is an untitled instrumental track, and it's pretty good.