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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.