METAL DIGGER 1: SKYCLAD
Reviewing the discography of legendary bands, we thought of opening Metal Digger, a new section to remember those glories that contributed to the past sounds and that for various circumstances have been forgotten or were not so popularly known in some places on the planet. Big bandS with excellent musicians, who one day came to the top or not so much and our memory has forgotten. So, if our readers also want to collaborate in the construction of this thread of articles with their memories, they are welcome.
It is also an attempt to bring curiosity on "new" metalheads, or at least make them raise an eyebrow for a while, when they listen to these amazing groups. In front of each album´s name you will see a rating number according to our opinion.
By: Atahualpa- Hummingbird Press Greece
Immerse yourself in the past... In this first article we will remember SKYCLAD.
Coutry: United Kingdom
Original Year: 1990
Genre: Thrash/ Folk Metal
SKYCLAD is a band that has been set by Martin Walkyier, ex member of thrasher SABBAT, and Steve Ramsey and Graeme English, ex memers of SATAN , in Newcastle upon Tyne. Their first line up was :
Martin Walkyier - vocals
Steve Ramsey - guitars
Graeme English - bass guitar
Keith Baxter - drums
The first try they made was with a split single in Noise records, together with Lemming Project, in 1991. At the same year and same label, they released their first album "The wayward sons of Mother Earth" (6). It's a Heavy/Thrash album, obviously influenced by their leaders' previous bands(SABBAT and SATAN). But even in this first album the violin, a "strange" instrument for such a style appears and actually it showed the "path" SKYCLAD is about to " walk on”.
The next year follows with an EP (Tracks from the wilderness) and a THIN LIZZY's cover (Emerald). Same year, 1992, they recorded one of their best albums: "A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol" (8). The band remained the same, adding Dave Pugh in guitars and, as a full - band member, Fritha Jenkins in violin, mandolin, keyboards and backing vocals. Their Folk influences were more and more obvious and they turn from a "Thrash" band into a "Folk Metal" band. Their lyrics became more and more political, opposing to capitalism, greed and destruction of nature. In 1993 recording one more single (Thinking allowed) which was followed, at summertime by a full-length album: "Jonah's Ark"(7).
The band kept their high level of composing music but their big advantage was Walkyier's writing. Recording once more, they introduced a very good album, which showed, clearly to the genre they wanted to serve. The Folk wasn't an "influence" anymore but it was part of their music. From then on, they could be called as a "Folk metal" band.
They made a "gap" recording a split album together with GAMMA RAY, RAGE, CONCEPTION and HELION (Melodic Metal strikes back) and in 1993 recording their next album released in 1994 "Prince of the poverty line" (8, 5), it was called the "masterpiece" of the band.
The band kept their original form and made just one change at the position of violinist (Cath Howell replaced Fritha Jenkins), having a strong line up. Mostly Ramsey and a bit less English and Pugh composing the music while Walkyier keept writing the lyrics. The albums was a 100% political manifest talking about the post-Thatcher decay. From then on, they also "engaged" with Kevin Ridley in production.
SKYCLAD, full of ideas and very productive came in 1995 with one more album. "The Silent Whales of the Lunar Sea" (7, 5). Their music moved from Thrash to very Folk paths. Once more they changed the violinist (Georgina Biddle). Their lyrics became more and more political. With titles like (Art-nazi, Turncoat Rebellion, The present imperfect) it made clear their political statement. Being very popular and playing in many big festivals, they continued with "high speed".
At the beginning of 1996 they recorded "Irrational anthems" (8), with the same line up and in November of the same year "Oui Avant-garde á Chance" (7, 5). At that time two changes took place. The first one was the drummer, Paul A. T. Kinson replaced Keith Baxter and the band finished their contract with Noise records and signed with Massacre. In "Oui avant-garde a chance" the band, except of the 8 original tracks, recorded 2 remixes (Bombed Out, Penny Dreadul) and 2 covers. One by Dexys midnight runners (Come on Eilleen) and the other by New Model Army (Master Race).
1997 opened with a compilation and follows with an LP "The Answer Machine" (8). The band kept the line - up and their lyrics became better and deep. They looked more and more "true" and sure about their direction after they recorded 8 full length albums. These "dressed with rags" replicas of Robin Hood (pictures shows them dressed in costumes of the 16th and 17th centuries), seemed to represent the "poor" of this world. Writing about the unfair system, the dirty politicians and the corruption of the world, they became the "voice of the working class people".
In 1999 the album of the band was called "Vintage whine" (7). The band "removed" Kevin Ridley from the position of producer and became a guitar player. They also hired Jay Graham to the position of drummer. The album moved to the same high level and thematic of the band. Violin, Folk melodies and feeling, and hard guitars to the background with Walkyier's vocals to "spit" the lyrics. Soon conflicts between the band and Walkyier started. At 2000 they recorded their last album with Walkyier as their lead singer and song writer. The album was signed under Nuclear Blast record label and even had the title "Folkemon"(6). It was called so as one of band's member read at the newspaper that more kids used to recognize PiKachu than the prime minister of England. Using this information they "built" their album based on this. Politics, environmentalism and spirituality were still here. The album was a little bit more "Metal" than Folk. This time the level wasn't so high. After 10, really good and great albums, they deserved a "bad moment". Maybe it had to do with the fact that the members were really "cold" because of their conflicts, which is led to the exit of Martin Walkyier.
The next two years passed recording a live album "Another Fine Mess" (2001) , released a compilation "Poetic Wisdom" and a re-recording compilation "No Daylights, Nor Heeltaps". Ridley, except of guitars was their lead singer and their main lyrics writer.
They recorded one more live album at 2002 "Live in Dynamo" and at 2004, they recorded their first album to Demolition Records, at the "after-Walkyier" era, "A Semblance of Normality" (7). Even if the album starts with a Folk tune, the whole album turns into a clearly 'Metal" album. Ridley's vocals tried to "mimic" the sound of Walkyier, something which was easy for listeners to get, as he was the 'heart and soul" of the band. His spirit was "all around", about the voice. But the rest of the members tried to "escape from the "classical Folk" sound of the band and made "something else". The members were still the same. Greame and English continued since the first day, Georgina Biddle never left since she got the position of violinist and the only new member was the drummer, Aaron Walton.
Things slowed down. It took 5 years to record their next album. In between they released a box set and an Ep ("Jig-a-Jig", 2006). Finally at 2009 they had their new album, "In The....All Together" (7). The voice of Ridley had a more "personal color". The violin returned to a "basic position" and guitars seemed to have many more solos than before. The "Folk", was somehow back close to "Metal". A very descent album, close to the "roots" but also with as many as "personal influences" or "freedom" someone could have. They tried to combine the past with their "willing future". The new direction.
It took more than 8 years for their next album. Only this year, 2017 they have released their latest album "Forward in the Past" (8). Dave Pugh was back on guitars (they had 3 guitarists then) and the rest of the lineup remained the same. The sound was still "folkish" but more "Metal" too. Somehow it returned back to their "thrashy" 90's sound. The quality of the compositions were the best since "Folkemon". The band, after so many years seemed more "united" than ever. And the album was exactly what it said to be. The "classic, Folk/ Thrash" sound of SKYCLAD, played in a more powerful way and into a much more modern way.
SKYCLAD was the band which led a lot of other British/Irish or even Scandinavian bands to get influences by their folk music, and allowed instruments like violin, flute, fiddle or even trumpets to appear at their recordings. Also, they influenced them with their political and enviromentalist lyrics. For sure "pioneers". A "MUST" classic band.