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Whispers into battlecries - 87%

robotiq, May 5th, 2020

Skyclad are one of those enigmatic and contradictory bands who make little sense to those outside of their core fanbase. Looking at their career will reveal idiosyncrasies, brilliance, and plenty of 'what the fuck?!' moments. They were experimental, progressive and ground-breaking, but their discography is long, confusing and deliberately inconsistent. Their best moments are as enlightening as anything else in metal, their worst moments are embarrassing. Their career is difficult to fathom without an experienced guide. Many people, metalheads and otherwise, ignore them completely or think of them as a folk metal novelty act. These people are missing out.

To some extent, understanding Skyclad requires an understanding of the two predecessor bands; thrash legends Sabbat and NWOBHM legends Satan (or Blind Fury, Pariah, or whatever you want to call them). Sabbat were the finest UK thrash band of all, the proving ground for vocalist/lyricist Martin Walkyier to show his mercurial talent. He brings the same intense, poetic diatribes into Skyclad. From Satan, guitarist Steve Ramsey brings years of experience, technical precision, flowing melodies and sharp song writing. The relationship between Walkyier and Ramsey was the creative nexus of Skyclad. There seemed to be a mutual understanding and respect between them, each letting the other take charge of their chosen domain (slightly different to the machismo that defined the Walkyier/Sneap axis in Sabbat).

Skyclad's debut album "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" is a great place to begin exploring their discography. This is their leanest, heaviest and most thrashing record. A thrash band would have to do something special in (late) 1991 to stand out, given how irrelevant thrash had become. Luckily, this is a special record. There are hints of progressive metal here and there, bits of NWOBHM (and Maiden especially), some keyboards and a session violinist on some of the tracks (the band would hire a full-time violinist from their second album onward). The musicians can play. Ramsey is one hell of a guitarist. His fellow ex-Satan band-mate Graeme English is a subtle but distinctive presence. Drummer Keith Baxter beats the living shit out of the kit; he is much more of a powerhouse than Simon Negus was in Sabbat.

Walkyier is in fine form, picking up from where "Dreamweaver" left off. His voice is not quite as screechy as it was in Sabbat, it is deeper and more barked. His lyrics are more political and rooted in the evils of the modern world. He tackles topics like environmental damage ("Our Dying Island"), anthropocentrism ("Cradle Will Fall") and the folly of materialism ("Skyclad"). Lyrically this is a brilliant album, vicious and scathing but poetic enough to avoid sounding preachy. You don't need to listen to too much of Walkyier to realise that his genius is rooted in a restless, troubled and hyperactive mind. Skyclad makes more sense once you realise this.

Most of the songs are great. Opener, "The Sky Beneath My Feet" is among Skyclad's best, beginning with an audacious spoken-word poem before launching into tense thrashing madness. "Trance Dance" follows up with a mysterious vibe and some thunderous drumming. "Cradle Will Fall" is a thrash metal masterpiece, from the opening solo to the final fade out of "I AM HUMAN!". As for the so-called 'folk metal' they invented, that only applies to one song here ("The Widdershins Jig"). This is Skyclad's most historically important song, though this version is too sluggish to be an album highlight (a faster, definitive version appears on a rare BBC Radio session from 1992). There are a couple of lesser tracks at the end, but they don't interrupt the flow. "Moongleam and Meadowsweet" is a tame ballad that pushes Walkyier beyond his singing ability, whilst album closer "Terminus" feels contrived.

The production is interesting. It doesn't sound anything like the Bay Area or German thrash bands, but it still sounds old school. The drums sound great. The bass is more prominent in the mix than you might expect for a thrash record. The guitars sound as heavy and melodic. I like the rough and ready mix, it gets crowded at times (particularly when the occasional keyboards and violins join in), but this adds to the intensity. Skyclad’s debut is a maze of ideas, an exceptional late thrash record in every respect. They were also on the cusp of some metal innovations which became more obvious on their next album.

Great lyrics, great songs - 86%

Felix 1666, May 15th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1991, 12" vinyl, Noise Records

The story of classic British thrash metal is a tragic one. So many promising bands - Slammer, Xentrix, Onslaught, Deathwish, Pariah - and so little outcome. Stamina was definitely no friend of these formations and compared with the long-lasting lives of their German competitors, almost each and every thrash band from the UK draws the short straw. And I haven't mentioned the most promising horde so far. Sabbat, the band of a dude called Andy Sneap and a lead vocalist namely Martin Walkyier, catapulted themselves into a top position with their first two full-lengths, even on a global scale. But what happened? Walkyier left the band, their third album became their last one, probably inter alia due to a partially modified style and pretty harsh reviews. Skyclad became the new playground of the renegade, but this band soon made clear that it was interested in a broader portfolio. To play "only" thrash metal was not enough for them, but "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" is still mostly based on thrashing elements - and that's a good reason to like this debut.

All highlights of the album from 1991 rely on a thrash metal foundation. "Cradle Will Fall" is kicked off by an inspired guitar solo that leads to rasping guitars and intense melody lines. Dynamic tempo changes increase the lively overall impression and the band finds the perfect balance between harmonies and harshness. But it is Walkyier who crowns the song with his excessive lyrics about the arrogance of mankind. His excellent lines deserve the highest praise..."But the time has come for us to realise / That the animal instincts we deeply despise / Are far more civilised than humanity ". I agree. The elegantly titled opener "The Sky Beneath My Feet" starts with smooth guitars that do not lack sharpness simultaneously. An aggressive piece with pinpoint riffs expresses the most vigorous facet of the formation, not only due to the comparatively high velocity of this number. Needless to say that the lyrics reflect Walkyier's thoughtfulness once again. The less furious yet still heavy and robust "Trance Dance (A Dreamtime Walkabout)" also hits the mark, especially due to its overflowing instrumental part at the beginning.

The remaining material cannot maintain that superb level of quality, but it indicates the high degree of Skyclad's individuality. Songs with a folkloric touch and unusual instrumentation, piccolo, violin and tambourine, if I am not mistaken, do not celebrate the pure thrash dogma. But apart from stylistic drawers, they have good melody lines, are coherently designed and do not kowtow to any commercial considerations, while a rather strict and attacking track like "Our Dying Island" does not find the optimal flow. Anyway, I don't want to be too picky; generally speaking, "The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth" is a fascinating first statement. By the way, this title marks a good description of the band, especially in its early days. Anyway, individuality is good, but good songs are better and therefore it is just great that Skyclad win on all fronts. Only the overly reserved and calm "Moongleam and Meadowsweet" falls through the cracks, but that's forgivable. The positive facets clearly dominate, even the production with its great guitar tone and the slightly dark touch during the thrash-oriented titles contributes to the success of the album in a remarkable manner, albeit it does not score with an overdose of transparency. So what, the overall impression is still very strong. Doubtlessly, the story of British thrash almost makes me cry, but the here reviewed debut tells very good tales. No wonder as long as you know the one of the best lyricists on your side.

No Folk Here Yet, Folks - 96%

bayern, October 20th, 2018

From Satan, to Blind Fury, to Pariah… to Skyclad; and back to God… sorry, Satan from where it all began; tales of creation, with a tinge of destruction, narrated by the Graeme English/Steve Ramsey duo who were traversing the metal scene with different, both line-up and stylistic, configurations, producing admirable results in the process, covering a wide range of styles, from classic heavy metal to thrash. Their longest-lasting stint remains the collaboration with the ex-Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier, Skyclad that is, one of the most impressive chapters from metal lore, and one that still goes on (without Walkyier’s participation, though) alongside the new entries from the rejuvenated Satan saga.

One can only make uneducated guesses as to how many fans were left enraged once Walkyier left Sabbat at the beginning of the 90’s as that outfit by all means had a few more things to say/play within the unique pagan thrash roster; it’s not that they split up after his departure, the third instalment “Mourning Has Broken” was a really fine farewell gesture, but it was obvious that the pagan magick was gone with the man, and the band wouldn’t last very long without it…

Said magick continued producing miracles in the newly-formed Skyclad camp since apparently it was Walkyier that was the prime weaver of it, and the album reviewed here is arguably its most shining product. And not only, but the towering presence of Walkyier makes sure this opus is by-and-large a logical continuation of the interrupted Sabbat saga as style-wise it’s quite close to that act’s first two entries. Yes, English and Ramsey have given the pagan leader quite a bit of freedom here as there aren’t too many overt musical references to the Satan/Blind Fury/Pariah heritage.

In other words, the guys have (dream) woven a marvellous slab of intricate classic thrashisms which remains one of British thrash’s highest achievements. Folk metal, the band’s “offspring”, is not exactly a figment of their imagination at this early stage as the short frolic “The Widdershins Jig” is a sure harbinger of the future stylistic metamorphoses, with the optimistic playful jolts and the incorporated violin tunes. However, this cut can’t be anything more than just a slight, even involuntary if you like, hint at things to come surrounded by the lashing epic intricacy of the rest with “The Sky Beneath My Feet” luring the listener with gorgeous melodic fireworks initially before the rapid-fire riffage and Walkyier’s traditional spiteful venomous, intimidatingly authoritative vocals start drawing a more nefarious scheme, one that would by no means find even a tiny spot for the emerging groove/grunge/industrial wave. Yes, the pagan magick rituals will keep those at bay with ease, the formidable steel gallops of “Trance Dance (A Dreamtime Walkabout)” greatly helping the cause the guys’ lofty endeavours culminating on the extraordinary “Our Dying Island”, a multifarious progressive thrashterpiece, a perennial delight for the metal fan who will mosh around jubilant for over 7-min, following all the great twists and turns those ranging from addictive melodic licks to inspired virtuoso lead sections, to some seriously belligerent shredding. The compelling, entangled plot receives another strong boost by the shape-shifting speed/thrashing roller-coaster “Cradle Will Fall”, an unpredictable thrilling ride the steelclad veneer of the sinister mid-pacer “Skyclad” retaining the boisterous spirit all over before the atmospheric wonder “Moongleam and Meadowsweet” pacifies the proceedings with its mellower balladic/doomy layout.

There isn’t a single dull moment here; even the seemingly meaningless very short instrumentals, including the strangely placed in the middle “Intro: Pagan Man”, have their rightful place in this grand pagan puzzle which also raises mankind’s awareness with the ecologically-oriented texts, with a strong emphasis on nature’s preservation and protection, the first metal act to direct the audience’s attention towards this pressing issue. It was quite clear that it was Walkyier who dictated the guidelines all over, both music and lyrics-wise, but with him in the director’s chair one had no doubts whatsoever that the band were vehemently destined for greatness from the get-go, and for nothing else. The classic thrash fanbase got another great entry into the very strong 1991 pool, a sheer highlight on the UK front and also worldwide, a most fruitful partnership that worked like a charm, with no bumps along the way, the future of classic metal not looking so dark with the sky brightened by these superb “sunny” pagan tactics.

It only remained to be seen how long these tactics would be kept at the forefront before the guys look askance at other possibilities to explore; not that that was absolutely necessary, but in consideration of what was going on around the music industry all kinds of stylistic deviations seemed more and more like the norm in the 90’s. The sophomore was still thrashclad, but the further utilization of the violin as an important instrument didn’t spell “aggression” that prominently anymore, with the first signs of a more radical shedding of skin boldly looming on the horizon. “Jonah's Ark” embraced these new sounds whole-heartedly and the folk metal movement was spawned, quite splendidly at that, also established by a lengthy string of high-quality albums, all the way to the start of the new millennium when Walkyier left the Skyclad camp after the release of “Folkemon”.

There’s no detailed information as to what caused the separation, but it seems as though this mustn’t have happened under the most amicable circumstances as Walkyier is intent on referring to the Skyclad legacy, thus keeping his former colleagues on the tip of their toes, both with the project The Clan Destined and with the more recently founded Martin Walkyier's Skyclad, and not only name-wise since this latter formation’s repertoire is largely based on an old Skyclad material. The man continues spreading, not that frequently anymore though, his pagan beliefs while the Skyclad freighter carries on almost unabated without him… the pagan magick tactics didn’t prove so crucial for one’s survival, after all; one can surely live without them, but it’s always comforting to know that they’re just an arm’s stretch if one needs a respite from the dragging, formularized daily music routine.

The birth of a legend. - 92%

Goldblaze, September 9th, 2012

Folk metal is one of my favorite metal genres. Nothing like a good pint of beer or some other kind of alcohol, and a bunch of happy jolly drinking songs, eh? Well, certainly so. There are days when I could just sit, drink, and listen to a bunch of happy finnish, swedish, swiss, or any other body painted lunatics singing about drinking, women, forests, pagans and all the usual folk metal tripe. And, while Korpiklaani helped me get into it (and get well into it, I was into it like hypnotized), there were also bands like Moonsorrow that showed me the more serious and better composed side of it. Needless to say, those 2 are still among my favorites, but this album here is nothing like any of the bands you will get thrown at your face when you ask someone for a recommendation regarding folk metal.

Indeed, this is where it all started, Skyclad was born one day in Newcastle, and with them, an idea was born aswell. Let's get one thing straight right here. As already stated, this sounds NOTHING like folk metal you most probably know. It's questionable whether this is folk metal at all. This is basically pretty thrashy heavy metal with a violin performed by a session musician and placed pretty scarcely throughout an album. Still, it has never been done before, and hence, Skyclad are credited with creating an entire genre. It has never been their intention to reinvent the wheel or do anything like creating the new genre, as these musical ideas are Martin's ideas back from his Sabbat days. But surprise surprise, this has been recorded, and I can only be grateful, for it indeed spawned one of the best things created, and that is folk metal, aswell as composed 10 tracks (8 proper ones actually) which not only kick some serious amounts of ass, it skyrocketed Martin up as being one of the metal's best lyricists, if you haven't been assured of that from Sabbat songs.

The album itself contains 10 tracks, 2 of which are short interludes, that surprisingly work fantastic. A Minute's Piece placed between Trance Dance and The Widdershins Jig does it's job perfectly, a calm bass intro merging right into the world's first folk metal song (which also starts with a perfect bass line, in case you were wondering). Pagan Man is a spoken intro to A Cradle Will Fall, one of the stronger and heavier tracks in Skyclad's catalogue, which isn't bad, but may have been done a bit better. The opener deserves a special mention, lead guitar passage and keyboards backed up by Martin's always recognizable serpent hiss style vocals, and the opening riff with gentle violin part. Our Dying Island has a killer violin break in between the riff onslaught, as the song itself is a total thrash monster, and Terminus has some weird vocals after the intro, which do sound a bit awkward the first time you listen to it, but this album is genuinely a very strange experience in itself, as I'm sure any thrasher would have the 'what-the-hell-am-I-listening' face expression upon listening to this album for the first time, despite it having a fair number of fast and thrashy riffs.

The special paragraph goes to the fourth, eight and ninth track. The band's self titled track is, along with The Widdershins' Jig, the catchiest of the bunch, with a very lively chorus that should catch any crowd's attention. It opens with a nice fade-in, before merging into a kickass riff with some haunting 'skyyyclaaaad' whispers in background. This is so damned original and effective. Who could forget the legendary Dynamo '92 intro where Martin dedicates this song 'to all the motherfuckers who care more about the money, than human beings!'? The only thing unexpected in this track would probably be it's end with an acoustic guitar that plays something unconnected to the song, but it nevertheless sounds great. The ninth track, Moongleam And Meadowsweet is a ballad, and a pretty straightforward one, and it features Martin's general clean vocals debut (if you don't count Dreamweaver interlude). The track is as emotional as it gets, with patriotical lyrics that really sound touching, and probably the most charming guitar solo on the album.

See her face shine in the moonlight,
Soft as silk and white as cream,
Silently I watch her slumber, gently kiss her cheek,
Then I lay my weary head beside hers, close my eyes and dream.

This ode to England gets me every single time, it sounds so beautiful, it would be wrong not to mention it, and Martin, hats down for this one. But of course, this album wouldn't really be even half complete without it's star, the song around which everything here spins. It's The Widdershins Jig, of course, and it's widely regarded as the first folk metal song. I tend to agree, as I have never ever heard anything like this before. It begins with an excellent bass line, moving into one of the most innovative riffs, which trade with the violin, and is an only song on the album where the violin has the full role (on every other song where it's featured, it appears only momentarily). The lyrics sound like some sort of a fairy tale, but of course it's another one of Martin's very intelligent metaphoric lyrics about life through the story of 'A wiseman's son' and a 'Wednesday's child'. Pure genius.

Lyrically, Martin moved from an anti-religion and paganism promoter, to a more environmentalistic and patriotic fella, and it certainly sounds refreshing from his Sabbat days. Frankly, I can't even comprehend sometimes what the hell he wanted to say. I'd like sometimes to have Walkyier-dictionary, if such thing even exists. Also, none of the classic folk metal tripe is present here, no drinking songs, no forest dwelling, no valhallas, and no fighting and dancing till the morning (not that folk metal tripe is bad, mind you). But don't let it discourage you, any person with a taste in music even without any comprehension of English language should enjoy this no matter what.

This album was bound to be a metal classic, but since Skyclad got ignored by most of the labels, and got little to no promotion, it quickly got forgotten and buried. Even the band themselves rarely played anything of this except for the fourth track, even in the days with Martin behind the mic. But, it doesn't matter if you like folk metal or not, this album is a mandatory listen, as it's not drenched in folk, but rather it's a heavy metal and occasionally thrash metal album with some scarce folk moments, and one folk metal song. Recommended to everyone, really, and once again to folk metal fans, this is where it all started!

Favorite moments: Transition between A Minute's Piece and The Widdershins Jig, the violin breakdown in Our Dying Island, the chorus of Skyclad, the guitar solo of Moongleam And Meadowsweet.

A prodigal classic - 95%

naverhtrad, August 11th, 2011

No point in not being straight-up here in my own review. A few years ago, the Wayward Sons crossed my path at a point where I had not yet acquired a taste for thrash metal; as a result, when I first listened to Skyclad’s debut (introduced to me as a must-listen metal classic), I felt it was disjointed, schizophrenic and hard to listen to. And now, as a more well-listened and (I hope) more erudite metalhead… well, I still think it sounds disjointed and schizophrenic at points, but I’ve come to a solid appreciation both of how much arse it truly kicks, and of how groundbreaking it truly was; now it certainly ranks among my favourite metal albums.

The first thing that strikes one about this album is that, unlike the broad swath of the rest of its contemporary thrash metal work, the instrumentation is not generally there to throw a barrage of aggressive downtuned riffs in your face and let the headbanging commence – not just yet, anyway! – but rather to provide atmosphere. This strikes one from the very opening notes of ‘The Sky Beneath My Feet’ – the deceptively-simple falling guitar rondo backed by gentle cymbal strokes, joined in harmony by the bass, provides a sense of breadth to the music, like stepping into a mist-filled grove, that hints at an epic undertaking in the making; once Martin Walkyier begins singing, it becomes clear – Skyclad is daring to state outright the hinted aspirations of metal going all the way back to its roots, hearkening back to a past that never was. Martin sings in the voice of the Pied Piper, of the Pagan Man, of the King under the Mountain:

I'll sing to you of days departed,
Times when men proud and stout-hearted
Carved their names on history’s bloody page;
The corpse of chivalry long-dead
Is turning in his loamy bed,
Indignant at your new ‘enlightened’ age!

The difficulty, though, is that with a few notable exceptions Martin’s own performance often finds itself at odds with the ancient immensity of the message it is attempting to convey, the prophet in an imagined bygone England’s green wilderness railing at the self-destruction, the greed, the hubris and the shallow philosophical dualisms of the Forces of Progress. The very few and far-between places on this album where he uses clean vocals or even spoken words in place of his habitual gruff then come off as that much more powerful: as in ‘Intro: Pagan Man’, ‘Moongleam and Meadowsweet’ and even in a few stretches of spoken-word musing and clean-vocal lamentation on ‘Terminus’. That said, even in gruff vocals the mastery of verse demonstrated amply at every turn was able (even on my lukewarm first listening of this album) to induce my awe.

Actually, this album takes several startling turns throughout – the first being between the driving, distorted-to-proper-effect rhythms of ‘The Sky Beneath My Feet’ and ‘Trance Dance (a Dreamtime Walkabout)’ and the acoustic serenade ‘A Minute’s Piece’, followed by the only true folk-metal song on this album (‘The Widdershins Jig’)… before going straight back into full-bore thrash with ‘Our Dying Island’ (complete with gang shouts). It can be confusing for a listener unfamiliar with them, but there is still, all the same, that otherworldly thread binding them all together.

There is one final break, though, before ‘The Cradle Will Fall’, which is certainly one of the high points of the album (along with ‘The Widdershins Jig’ and ‘Moongleam and Meadowsweet’, though obviously for highly different reasons). This song is the crunchingly-heavy, breakneck and outraged apex of the jeremiad which is The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, which ought in its own right to be considered a thrash classic. Steve (particularly with that Out of Reach-worthy guitar solo five minutes in!) and Graeme are at the tops of their games here, as is Martin, to tell the truth – highly disciplined verse lyrics (complete with Walkyier’s signature puns which would become part-and-parcel of Skyclad’s image) delivered with machine-gun force atop a wicked bass riff, punctuated with roars of ‘I am human!’ This same brilliant runaway momentum is carried through into ‘Skyclad’, which manages to transition into another sweet-and-peaceful interlude with a mournful mandolin coda… that interlude being, of course, the patriotic ballad ‘Moongleam and Meadowsweet’. This song really reminds me of Ralph McTell – the slow, melancholy acoustic instrumentation, the echoing vocals evoking a lost past… I note that this love-song to England has some interesting parallels with ‘The Girl from the Hiring Fair’.

‘Terminus’ is an incredibly odd song, for lack of a better word; I rather consider it to be a microcosm of The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth as a whole: starting with deceptively-simple atmospheric guitar-work, rapid transitions between calm and frenzy, mournful and enraged by turns, given to sudden stops and reversals… but there are some truly epic moments in the thrashier segments – ‘I hear sirens screaming; see lightning rip the sky!’

I tend to think of The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth as a deep river, running over some very uneven terrain. The sheer talent Skyclad have running here is unfathomable; at times, it is put to use in some rich and understated ways, and one might easily mistake the calm of the river for lack of movement. But as the river approaches its waterfalls, it picks up speed and comes crashing down with an inexorable, thundering force. The result is something that, indeed, sounds very inconsistent, but which at the same time had a unique direction and aim. As we have seen over these past one-and-a-half decades, the influence of Skyclad hasn’t dried up yet, or anything close to it. Folk metal has flourished, and Skyclad themselves are still going strong, such that even their weaker albums (like Folkémon) are listenable and enjoyable.

Myself, though, I enjoy hiking upstream back to the source. My initial judgment of The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth sadly lacked perspective; despite its inconsistencies – or perhaps because of them – it is an album that very much deserves its place among the must-listen metal classics.

19 / 20

And let there be... FOLK METAL? (hardly...) - 70%

Sean16, April 26th, 2009

Truth isn’t usually as poetic as people would like it to be. Just for one moment I’d like to imagine, back in 1990, a gloomy, drizzly night in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. The small hours. The last open pub, all filled with sweat and smoke (t’was at the time it was still allowed to smoke inside, y’know), with three shabby, shaggy, hairy men around a small, wobbly table.
- What we gonna do now, would’ve sighed Steve in a tired, atonal voice.
- Thrash, would’ve yawned Graeme.
- Drink, would’ve grunted Martin.
- Listen! would’ve suddenly exclaimed Steve. Let’s just play good ol’ heavy-thrash metal, but let’s stick a fuckin’ fiddle upon it. We’ll call the shit “folk metal” and in fifteen years, this will be all hype and trend!
- Hell, ye’re drunk.
- In fifteen years I’ll most probably have left this cretin band anyway. You guys are already pissing me off like fuck! (guess who’d have pronounced this last sentence)


In fact, Skyclad’s debut not only has little to nothing to do with the all hyped and trendy folk metal from nowadays, it also has little to nothing to do with anything folk-related. Had the band split up after this only release, it would have left nothing but the taste of a honest thrash metal act, which only originality consisted in environment-concerned lyrics and the novel idea of introducing a violin on a couple of tracks. Not to say this album has no interest whatsoever. To the Skyclad fan it at least serves to prove Rome wasn’t built in a single day and, more generally, it features a handful of solid tracks most metalheads should be content with.

Granted, for a thrash album the riffs aren’t the most unforgettable ever written. I’m not that familiar with Ramsey’s and English’s former band Pariah, but I happened to listen to their Blaze of Obscurity album once and, as far as I can remember, on a pure thrash perspective that latter one was more interesting, and better – but I’ll leave the case to specialists. The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth remains nonetheless the only ‘Clad album with real headbanging moments, especially in the eponymous track. If the British band will later record a good load of lively, punchy tracks, none of them are headbanging-inducing by any mean, as for this purpose nothing will ever beat a good thrash/speed riff. Trance Dance, Our Dying Island, The Cradle Will Fall, Skyclad: four good ways of get rid of some ill-welcomed neck rigidity, in wait of something better.

Actually, everything seems like Skyclad was at that time already willing to mix some folk elements with metal, but pretty insecure about the right way to do so. For instance to go back to the soon-to-be iconic violin, the only track where it plays a more-than-nominal part is The Widdershins Jig – the only genuine “folk” moment here – and this song is totally devoid of any thrash influence. The same goes with Our Dying Island, a pure thrash track until 4:45 where the unexpected arrival of the violin (the second and only other moment it will appear on the album) induces a complete change in pace and rhythm before at 5:30 the guys switch back to pure thrash again. The closer Terminus alternates thrashy parts with bizarre, muffled down, plodding bass-and-drums-driven parts which don’t really get well with each other and, as for the eponymous track, it surprisingly ends on a totally incongruous acoustic arpeggio.

Precisely, talking about acoustic instruments they, of course, are scarce as well, and carefully circumscribed to definite areas – no way of mixing them with electric guitars, as the ‘Clad will do so often (and, often, successfully) on their ulterior releases! There’s the gentle, but not very original to say the least, interlude A Minute Piece, and the charming ballad Moongleam and Meadowsweet with its lute solo and Martin Walkyier’s first attempt at totally clean vocals. If it’s no Isle of Jura it’s nonetheless one of the best ballads the guys ever crafted, but given the overall sea-level of their ballads this isn’t stunning performance. Lyrics to the glory of England could sound surprising at first coming from someone who’ll later write such texts as Civil War Dance or Think Back And Lie Off England but, given the high pagan-oriented mood of the album it’s obvious Walkyier is here addressing Britannia as his personified motherland rather than the people happening to rule it.

The slight use of keyboards might be mentioned as well even if it’s nothing special, as there are only punctually used as an orchestral, background instrument to add a bit more density to some strategic moments (it’s not before Jonah’s Ark the ‘Clad will begin considering keys as a genuine contribution to the music anyway). But would the immortal, timeless, haunting arpeggios opening The Sky Beneath my Feet have sounded exactly the same without the chanting backing keyboard? Would have the very first line in the so-lengthy Skyclad catalog already sounded like one of its most glorious moments ever? Just listen, this is where everything begins -

O come ye young of Hamlyn – you who know my tune so well,
Where it beckons you must follow – be it Heaven (be it Hell).
Forget your mothers grieving as I pipe you down the street,
With a shilling in my pocket – and the sky beneath my feet.

The rest is History.

Highlights: The Sky Beneath my Feet, The Widdershins Jig, Moongleam and Meadowsweet

Clandestine Pagans of Mother Nature - 92%

elmet, September 23rd, 2008

At the dawn of the final decade of the twentieth century the pagan world must have stood still to bear witness to the birth of the greatest folk-metal band ever to play on this earth. Reading the first sentence it may sound like it’s going to be a biased review, but you should first hear some of their music of sheer brilliance which I consider to be definitely some of the best metal ever. Skyclad is one of those rare few bands that doesn’t go with the stream, but instead goes where there is no path and leaves a trail, a track in the wilderness. (“Only dead fish float with the stream”)

“The Wayward Sons of Mother Erath” is truly a trail blazer, a torch burning like a never-ending flame saluting from an era when the whole metal scene was stupefied by a fledgling new direction of music called grunge totally devoid of any artistic value. While being the least diverse of their entire back catalogue and probably one of the weakest Skyclad offering, this debut album is still the most special one for me. It’s not a flawless album, even suffering a tad from immaturity, the addition of the fiddle yet to become omnipresent, the choruses not as memorable as they are on later efforts, but it sure has its shining moments overall. It may not be a good starting point for a new Skyclad listener, as it is quite different from its successors in many respects. But this is an innovative album that stands alone as a beacon for myriads of followers not only in the folk-metal genre but generally in the whole metal scene for many years to come. Great bands from different walks of metal music like Elvenking, Falconer, Korpiklaani, Mago De Oz, Cruachan, Ensiferum, Turisas and many more must have drawn certain inspiration from Skyclad in some way or another.

When I first got hold of this album in 1992, a year after its release, knowing the legendary legacy Martin Walkyier left behind with the British masters Sabbat, which had put out two legendary masterpieces, “History Of A Time To Come -1987” and “Dreamweaver - Reflection Of Our Yesterday -1989”, that were then highly acclaimed as ground breaking records and now desperately mourned after by many intelligent metal music lovers all over the world, I was in great anticipation of what was in store for me. At that time I wasn’t familiar with Steve Ramsey’s virtuous past with the band called Satan (by the way, he is the genius behind “Trail By Fire” covered by Blind Guardian). As I would later find out, it seems they took the best from their former bands just to come up with amalgam of material distincly uncommon in their previous endevours. An amalgam that was going to be my cup of tea in the following years as Skyclad persistently continued to release quality albums in succession almost every year changing like chameleon, but getting better and better.

This 47” long masterpiece kicks off with the mighty beginner “The Sky Beneath My Feet” showing us what this album is all about. For some untamed ears this piece of music may sound like speed metal with certain thrash elements thrown in, but this would do no justice at all as it is a harbinger of a totally new direction in metal music that can be defined only as Skyclad’s own. With its most controlled and masterfully woven riffs this song paves the way brilliantly, both musically and lyrically. No reviewer of any Skyclad album can do without mentioning the ingenious poetry of the lyrics; you just can’t stand indifferent to the pure art they convey. Needless to say that prolific Martin’s master of poetic English is no less than Steve’s music played with deft touches. His words can be sharper than the sharpest knife, sweeter than a gorgeous wife, giving you feelings as old as time yet eternally new. This symbiotic marriage of music and words is always prevalent in the rich fabric of this band’s very existence executed by an extremely careful weaver.

Track two, “Trance Dance (A Dreamtime Walkabout)”, comes as if a sequel to the first one where you can almost miss the interval in between, despite the gently sliding drum intro. It continues more or less in the same vein as the precious one with a classic Green-Peace motto ‘Man is just a part of nature--not the other way around.’ As for Martin’s voice, a charming roughness from Sabbat years penetrates our ears throughout the song.

“A Minute's Piece” is a nice interlude serving as a preparation for the forthcoming fourth track “The Widdershins Jig” where from the very first start to the end you can almost picture the most inconceivable creatures strolling and dancing through the dark of the night in the pagan forest. Here the dominance of the violin is much stronger than anywhere else in the whole record. This is something which was later going to be the most ingredient part of Skyclad’s musical definition and the group’s unique sound as the band released gem after the other.

The next one “Our Dying Island”, as the title suggests, is one of the two songs whose lyrics are penned out of Martin’s concern about England. Musically not much different from the first two tracks where they do what they set out to do.

Hearing the pagan man’s spoken words of the track “Intro: Pagan Man” makes you feel the force to peer into the faith matters that made the pagan Martin wrote those words, which for me are more savage and terrifying than the pagan Christianity of the Dark Ages ever was: “I am the Pagan Man--I speak for all my kind, When I criticize your point of view--your hollow state of mind. You say that I'm an animal--well this at least is true, I’m a thinking breathing human being--what the hell are you?” And right after this short intro comes “The Cradle Will Fall”. A plethora of galloping riffs is what you will get here. Thematically, anywhere in the world nature is always an enemy until subdued by the hand and intelligence of man is the gist: “…But like a child who tries to run before it learns to crawl--he'll go crying to his 'Mother' when he sees the cradle fall.”, words that make you feel the undeniable truth that in the end nature will always win.

The next one is the s/t “Skyclad”. This one takes us to a time of chivalry that’s gone forever in history’s bloody pages drawing comparison with all the mother-fuckers who care more about money than human beings. To be honest I’d expect a better composition for an eponymous track, but it is in perfect flow with the rest of the album and does its job with a military precision.

The second last track “Moongleam and Meadowsweet” deals with Martin’s love for his Green England in a way like a new born child loves its mother’s heartbeat. It starts with a balladesque mellowness eventually bringing up the tension where Martin declares his love “Everything I'd sacrifice--If my lady you would favour me. Far brighter than the stars your smile, You hold the richest sunset in those eyes--You are England.”

The last track “Terminus” starts with an intro called 'Megeddo's Gateway', which sounds quite promising at the beginning till it sinks into a pointless funeral march-like sluggishness, moving on at snail’s pace before it all rages again. For me, it’s the only track that doesn’t fit the picture perfectly and not a good closing track, either.

Digressing a bit from reviewing the album there are some other things I’d like to reflect upon. Quite often I used to wonder how on earth a band like Skyclad, after having put a quality album almost every year, haven’t achieved a huge international success selling hundreds of thousand records. Where has all the good music gone? Who else cares and craves about the art that makes us see beyond the unseen? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t…But then again wasn’t it the philosopher Martin who wrote the satirical lyrics of Penny Dreadful going like: ‘If we'd played this riff more punk, than may be we'd have had a million seller. But this piper's tune is not for sale, (I'm glad to say I'm not that kind of fella)…’ It doesn’t take a genius to discover Skyclad’s exceptionally intellectual approach to music but sure it takes to appreciate its value

As I put an end to my review there is one last thing I’d like to say; after all these absolutely amazing and clever albums the amicable separation of Mr. Martin Walkyier back in 2002, the only person all the metal scene can unanimously bow that he is a shinning intellectual next to the rest of the lyricists, made me feel like Skyclad is the last example of something beautiful which will soon be gone from the world because there is no longer any time or place for it. And now in 2008 I’m still sad about Martin’s departure but at the same time glad to see this band still drugged by the urge to fight to the bitter end, driven by pure love for the grace of music. And then if fate defeats their English doggedness it deserves to win.

'They are as sick that surfeit with too much,
As they that starve with nothing.'
William Shakespeare

Not folk-metal yet but folk-thrash - 95%

morbert, October 10th, 2007

I consider myself a Walkyier-era Skyclad fan from day one. I’ve had the hots for folk as well as metal all my life. Skyclad were one of the first to really combine these styles and must be considered groundbreaking when the released their first album in 1991.

As a fan I must however admit that Skyclad didn’t often release an album that was marvellous from start to finish. I’ve always had the feeling they took too little time between albums which resulted in every album having some fillers. There are however two albums in their large discography that are almost perfect from start to finish. I am talking about ‘Vintage Whine’ and this album, their 1991 debut ‘The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth’.

A lot of the songs here do in fact have more to do with the thrash metal we were used to from the Sabbat and Pariah days than the ‘regular’ metal which would emerge on later album. This thrash combined with folk results in a masterpiece which is both melodic as well as very heavy and has some fast moments as well from time to time.

Opener ‘Sky Beneath My Feet’ has a superb melodic opening and sets the mood in almost a perfect way for the album before plunging into a high quality pounding thrasher with Walkyiers characteristic vocals and lengthy lyrics. ‘Trance Dance’ continues this folky thrash metal approach.

The first song that really shows the folkmetal mixture we would get used to from future albums is ‘The Widdershins Jig’ which is danceable, heavy and catchy. Truly a classic Skyclad composition. But before I go on talking about all the songs here I will now restrain myself and mention but a few.

‘Moongleam and Meadowsweet’ is a powerballad with a beautiful acoustic intro and one of the best melodic vocal performances in Walkyiers entrire career. Closing song ‘Terminus’ is a thrasher with again a beautiful opening before going into a real laid back but eerie section on which Walkyier sings over ‘terminus’ chanting back vocals. From that point on continuing as an extremely powerful slow paced pounder. One of my favourite tracks on the album by far.

Best songs: ‘Sky Beneath My Feet, ‘The Widdershins Jig’, ‘Moongleam & Meadowsweet’ and ‘Terminus’.

Heavy Skyclad - 79%

PowerMetalGuardian, July 12th, 2004

Skyclad's first album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth, happens to be one of the heaviest Skyclad albums. The band would soon go into a more folk based band, and they tended to lean away from heaviness . Over all this album is pretty good, but not the best Skyclad album because of certain reasons.

Lets discuss the music first. Guitar wise, the riffs are pretty good. In fact most of the songs have a pretty cool or decent riff. Not for sure what you would consider it. At times the riffs sound like thrash metal, while at other times they are very melodic. Actually if you told me this album was considered folk metal, I might not believe you. Especially if the song The Widdershins Jig, was not on the album, which is really the only folk sounding song. Yes, this song even has the use of violins and is very folk-ish like. The only other thing that makes this album folk-ish is the occasional mandolin piece, like on Moongleam and Meadowsweet.

So on this album, the music is well executed, with decent guitar riffs, and bass and drum work. The singing is also decent, but not really good. I wouldn't consider it death metal vocals, but it is very gruff like. This is all cool and stuff, but on some of the melodic songs....well it just doesn't mix. It is like this; here is a song that you can do a little dance to, yet you have this mean growled vocals. The only soft vocals come on Moongleam and Meadowsweet, which mentioned before has a mandolin piece in it.

This album is a decent Skyclad album, especially for the first one. It is more heavier than folk metal. The lyrics are very dark, which some of the music can be at times. Most of the lyrics are folk-ish and Pagan like. If you like Skyclad's folk side, then you might not like this album, but if you like Skyclad to be more heavier, then here is your answer.