Skyclad - A Semblance of Normality
Dreamcatcher Records
Folk Metal
13 songs (47:12)
Release year: 2004
Skyclad, Dreamcatcher Records
Reviewed by Jay
Album of the month

I had only heard of Skyclad before this release dropped into my hands. Not knowing anything about it, their music blasted from my speakers and I got lost in it. They play a perfectly balanced combination of folk, acoustic rock and metal. Many Celtic instruments figure prominently in their music and the musicians playing them are masters. This is discerned from their great usage of the timbre each instrument provides. How could we top this off? Well provide a well-executed album concept with brilliant lyrics and superb implementation.

The album opens with a pipes solo and the ass-kickery starts right away with "Do They Mean Us?" Using non-standard timings, high fiddle parts and a rolling guitar melody, I am reminded of Skyfire and Cruachan at the same time. That is probably the first time those bands have been used in the same sentence before. Martin Walkyier, formerly of Sabbat, has a dignified and powerful voice which he uses amazingly well. This album is themed around terror attacks and the responses by the western governments. His message is poignant and sly, based deep within British dry wit. It is bitingly sarcastic while showing the fear inherent in most people over future terrorist acts. A brilliant statement by a gifted lyricist. Many of the classical instruments were played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, only adding to the quality of this album. Some songs feature instruments that are more unexpected like tabla and banjo.

Skyclad is certainly a metal band and they prove it several times on this album. "Ten Little Kingdoms" is an up-tempo rock track steeped deep in drinking song melodies and traditional Irish/English folk music. The short solo could be a bit longer but certainly makes you want to break out into a jig. While not as fast, "A Good Day to Bury Bad News" makes a superb mark with thick, crunching Iced Earth style guitar accented by the orchestra. This track also features a masterful breakdown that’s as soulful as it’s folky. Walkyier proves song after song that he is an exceptional composer. Speaking of folk, wait until you wrap your ears around "Another Drinking Song." I can see getting wasted to this one very soon. The band has managed to capture the energy and liveliness of local pub and encode it in a four-minute song on a CD. Right next to Moonsorrow’s "Tulkappa Aijat" this song makes you want to swing a frosty beer stein with your chums.

There is a marked quasi-political message on some of the tracks like "The Song of Non-Involvement" and "Parliament of Fools." What is so genius about these tracks is that they manage to examine the psychological effects of fear without seeming to slanted towards one political cause or other. While bands often contribute their political opinions to popular media, this band brings a significantly more sophisticated exploration of the general situation in the world. Even the title of this album shows the remarkable grasp the band has of their topic. It describes the way people in places which are war-torn must live their daily lives. One can only hope for a semblance of normality to get through the days.

Three spectacular tracks close out the album. Each is a departure from the other and shows a true character and depth to this band. Honestly, I have not heard another album this year in which one band presented so many interesting sides in such a refined way. Is this album of the year? No. However, it is an extraordinarily elegant album. I have had this promo for a while and after giving it some seriously listening, I am dismayed that many lackluster albums from bigger bands got precedence over this gem.

Killing Songs :
This whole concept album should be enjoyed as a whole but Another Drinking Song, Do They Mean Us?, A Good Day to Bury Bad News, and Ten Little Kingdoms are spectacular.
Jay quoted 94 / 100
Jeff quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Skyclad that we have reviewed:
Skyclad - Vintage Whine reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Skyclad - The Answer Machine reviewed by Goat and quoted 76 / 100
Skyclad - Oui Avant-Garde A Chance reviewed by Goat and quoted 58 / 100
Skyclad - Irrational Anthems reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
Skyclad - The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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