Skyclad - Vintage Whine
Massacre Records
Folk Metal
11 songs (43:49)
Release year: 1999
Skyclad, Massacre Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

And so I come to the last entry in my run-through of the Skyclad discography, and it’s a great point to exit. Returning to Metal after the melodic experiment that was 1997’s The Answer Machine, this is, quite simply, Skyclad at their best. Striking the perfect balance between Metallic stomp and Folk melody, it can be said to be Skyclad’s last true album before the beginning of the end – the end in this case being the departure of vocalist extraordinaire Martin Walkyier not long after 2000’s Folkémon. Considering that it was Walkyier’s unique vocals that got me into Skyclad in the first place, I have a hard time listening to the albums he’s absent from, to the point where at the time of writing I still haven’t listened to the band’s latest, In The... All Together. Normally I find such fanboyishness little short of detestable, but Walkyier is one of my favourite Metal vocalists, his sarcastic delivery giving his wonderful bittersweet lyrics that extra bit of quality, and although I did appreciate 2004’s A Sense Of Normality for what it was, I’m happy to go on record as believing that Skyclad should have split on the fateful day that their vocalist and beating heart left.

Fortunately, Walkyier-fronted Skyclad has more than enough killer material to make my position worthy of defence, and Vintage Whine is a great album that more than deserves to go up there with the band’s best. By now (nine albums into their career) Skyclad had their formula down perfectly and could have released any old rubbish, yet they refused to rest on their laurels and so the songwriting here is simply killer. The title track is a driving, powerful anthem, as at home on a stage at Wacken as it would be in a pub, whilst the downtuned groove of On With Their Heads! continues the band's experimental approach to songwriting with an Alt Metal opening that soon turns Skycladdish as the fiddle comes in - like so many songs from the band, it's enjoyable on several levels, as a bouncy Folk-imbued Metal song or as a genuinely progressive piece of music.

The sheer diversity in the tracklisting is amazing, from the dark intensity of A Well Beside The River, shifting grumpily between types of Thrash as it progresses, through the acoustic wistfulness of No Strings Attached, to the bittersweet Bury Me. It's pretty near impossible to mark a track out as filler - although there's nothing as instantly catchy as some of Skyclad's better-known songs, each has something to recommend it that becomes more apparent the more you listen to the album - this whine is certainly best tasted with age. One thing that marks it out from other Skyclad releases (for each has its own subtle difference) is that Martin's vocals seem especially passionate, and it's not hard to see why when you read the likes of Bury Me as he rails at the woman he loved ('it seems your lies were like those thighs - spread easier than butter!'). Of course, the rest of the band are on fine form, and there's little I can say about the instrumentation other than to praise its non-technical yet passionate expertise.

I wouldn't say that Vintage Whine was the absolute best place to start with Skyclad - as mentioned, the following album, 2000's Folkémon, was Walkyier's last and perhaps sensing this the band stripped the progressive elements in favour of Thrash-backed catchiness. It was the first thing I heard from the band, an impulse purchase attracted by the title and artwork, and although it's still highly enjoyable and a great entry into the Skyclad world it's far from my favourite of theirs. A lot of Skyclad albums hide their complexities in plain view, and it does take dedication to unearth in some cases - in my look back over the band's discography I hope it's obvious that each is worthy in its own little way. One day some enterprising label will engage in a series of remasters for the Skyclad discography and the band will receive the praise it deserves - for creating the Folk Metal genre that so many have capitalised on as much for simply being pretty fucking excellent all around - but for the moment this is the very definition of a cult band, appreciated by fans and shamefully ignored by everyone else.

Killing Songs :
Vintage Whine, On With Their Heads!, A Well Beside The River, Bury Me, Cancer Of The Heart
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Skyclad that we have reviewed:
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
Skyclad - In The... All Together reviewed by Elias and quoted 80 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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