Rating: 90/100

Reviewed by: Thomas Nielsen, January '05
Demolition Records
Style: Skyclad Folk Metal Rock

A Semblance Of Normality

When Martin Walkyier left Skyclad four years ago, I was convinced that this was the end of one of the most original and talented British bands around. The reason stated for Walkyier’s departure was the lack of financial success. Very understandable, although I’m not sure that the vocalist’s current venture with The Clan Destined earns him more bread than before.

Anyway, my worries were soon put to shame when Skyclad producer Kevin Ridley stepped in as the new singer and the band soon released the single “Swords of a Thousand Men” in 2001, and the album “No Daylight Nor Heeltaps” (+ a bonus CD) followed in 2002. Interestingly, both contained covers of Skyclad songs. These fine releases introduced Ridley and assured us that Skyclad was still alive, slightly different, but nevertheless still Skyclad.

Now, “A Semblance of Normality” is the first proper release post-Walkyier. And what is different? Quite a few things, as a matter of fact. First of all, the introduction of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a welcome addition to Skyclad’s raw folk metal sound tapestry. All in all, the musical variation on this album is greater than before, and the sound is somehow deeper and heavier than it used to be. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Skyclad has turned to a more warm, basic folk rock sound than the colder thrash metal sound.

Although the band will probably think me an arse for saying this (see the song “Do They Mean Us”), Skyclad seems even more British than before, not so much lyrically (because in that sense they always were a British band), but more in sound. If you listen to the beginning of the tune “Good Day To Bury Bad News” you might as well have listened to something from “Momentary Lapse of Reason” by Pink Floyd. Georgina Biddle’s fiddle adds that Celtic touch to the songs and the Hammond organ on “NTRWB” adds a bit of Deep Purple flavour. The bag pipe solo that begins the show is of course also part of it.

Ridley is not the greatest singer the world has seen, admittedly, but unlike so many other metal/rock singers today, he’s not buried in studio effects and comes over real. The aggressive barking of Martin Walkyier is no longer Skyclad’s trademark – Kevin Ridley’s more mature voice and a deeper musical profoundness is.

And the lyrical assaults have not lost their sting over the past years, if anyone should wonder. Skyclad still has a verbal fight to pick with the rulers of the land – and it is such an enjoyable fight to witness!

Recommended tracks: All.

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