In The...All Together
posted on 8/2009 By:
I’ll admit it. Skyclad have been dead to me since 2001, when Martin Walkyier acrimoniously left, leaving then producer/guitarist Kevin Ridley to take over vocal and lyrical duties. I basically ignored everything the band released including the various do overs, best of's and compilations and the band's 11th album, 2004's A Semblance of Normalcy, an album form I gather from internet research, dropped some of the band's folk legacy.
However, like a good metal journalist, I decided it was time to revisit one of metal's most iconic British bands, who arguably invented the whole folk metal thing. Though I’ll have to admit, diving into a Walkyier-less Skyclad felt a little like looking at porn without boobs - a little bit unnatural.
The thing is, I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Not thrilled, shocked or bowled over, but certainly not as hateful as I had anticipated. Sure, Ridley is no Walkiyer when it comes to the biting social political satire and thought provoking wit, but he tries. His vocal style, while certainly cleaner than Walkyier, does at times veer into Walkier territory, notably in the album's more up tempo, thrashier moments (“Still Small Beer,” “A Well Traveled Man”). But at times he also sounds a bit forced and underwhelming as a singer (the awful rock track “Black Summer Rain”). The core of Steve Ramsey (guitars) and Graeme English (bass) who have been in the band since the 1991 debut, helps keep the familiar Skyclad sound somewhat intact, and of course the violins, (now played by Georgian Biddle since 1994), add to the sound, if albeit a sound that’s lost some of its bite both lyrically and musically.
Admittedly, after the first three enjoyable almost classic sounding tracks, when the violin-less “Black Summer Rain” kicks off as well as “Babakoto,” I’m starting to cringe a little and realize why I have ignored the band for a better part of a decade, but the somber “Hit List” and up tempo, more metallic duo of “Superculture,” “Modern Minds” and the closing title track bring me back somewhat with a more traditional Skyclad tone, albeit slightly watered down and more rock/pop based.
However, despite my lack of expected disdain, post Walkyier Skyclad (I would love to hear what musings he would have to say about the current state of affairs in the UK, Europe and the world) just isn’t the same, and despite not hating In The…All Together, it still remains the red headed step child of my Skyclad collection.
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