If you want to hear folkmetal’s true starting point – and why wouldn’t you? – listen to The Widdershins Jig from Skyclad’s 1991 debut album The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth. There it is, the birth of a genre. And yet these daddies of the whole thing remain weirdly overlooked in the pantheon of acknowledged British metal legends. Along with the current Skyclad line-up’s excellent new album Forward Into The Past, these classy reissues should go some way towards setting the record straight.
Firmly rooted in the thrash of vocalist Martin Walkyier’s former band Sabbat but undeniably dancing to a different, more euphoric tune, The Wayward Sons (8⁄10) remains an indecently thrilling debut album, full of great songs, wickedly intricate lyrics and mad-eyed bite. A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (1992, 8⁄10) and Jonah’s Ark (1993, 8⁄10) offered a more overtly folked-up and sophisticated take on that original blueprint, while 1994’s Prince Of The Poverty Line (9⁄10) and the following year’s The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea (9⁄10) are the true gems here. Unsung British heavy metal classics that haven’t aged a day, they represent a giddy peak in Walkyier’s songwriting partnership with guitarist Steve Ramsey and hammering home what a truly great band Skyclad had become.