Skyclad are a British heavy metal band with heavy folk influences in their music. They are considered one of the pioneers of folk metal. The etymology behind the term "skyclad" comes from a pagan/wiccan term for ritual nudity, in which rituals are performed with the participants metaphorically clad only by the sky, as a sign of equality. The name alludes both to the bands' religious leanings and to their social beliefs, as set out in the song "Skyclad" on their first album.
The band was founded in 1990 by then former Sabbat vocalist Martin Walkyier and Satan/Pariah guitarist Steve Ramsey, after Walkyier left Sabbat over an argument with guitarist Andy Sneap as to the direction of the music. The two's aim was to put together the 'ultimate pagan metal band' (initial ideas for the band included such extravagances as traditional Robin Hood costumes, though these concepts were soon dropped). Rounding out the group with another ex-member of Pariah, bassist Graeme English, as well as drummer Keith Baxter, they penned a deal with German record label Noise International and recorded and released The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth in 1991. The album cover was designed by Garry Sharpe-Young.
After a tour with Overkill they added Fritha Jenkins on violin and keyboard and a second guitarist in the shape of baxter's friend Dave Pugh, allowing for a more Folk-based sound on their follow-up release A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol in 1992. The groups early output was following in 1993 and Prince of the Poverty Line a year later in 1994 with Cath Howell replacing Jenkins.
Howell would return to her studies and was replaced by Georgina Biddle for 1995's The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea, after which both Baxter and Pugh left the group. Having a deficit of band-members the band was generally unable to tour, although they replaced, at short-notice, Tiamat on the Black Sabbath "Forbidden" UK tour in 1995. This was whilst recording Irrational Anthems, which was released early the following year.
Oui Avant-Garde á Chance was recorded within the space of a year and, like "Irrational Anthems" used a studio/ session drummer. The Answer Machine? followed in 1997 with the band still lacking a permanent drummer, but drummer Jay Graham and guitarist Kevin "Riddler the Fiddler" Ridley (who had previously been the band's producer and singer / guitarist in the punk band Forgodsake) signed on in 1998, in time to record Vintage Whine for a 1999 release.
The lineup remained stable for the recording of 2000's Folkémon, but founding member Walkyier left the band in 2001, citing various reasons, such as financial difficulties or the bands unwillingness to tour in South America owing to security concerns as the final straw, though other band members have commented that his somewhat acerbic personality was one of the major contributing factors to the group's lineup instability. Walkyier went on to form The Clan Destined. For many fans, Walkyier's lyrics and delivery style were one of the band's central attractions, and there were fears that his departure spelled the end of the band. After replacing drummer Jay Graham (who left shortly after Walkyier) with drummer Arron Walton, and moving Kevin Ridley onto vocals, the group sprang into action to remedy these fears with 2002's No Daylights... Nor Heel Taps which featured studio recordings of "Irish Pub versions" of Skyclad classics by the new line-up, proceeded by a single, 2001's "Swords of a Thousand Men". The single's title track, a cover tune (originally recorded by Tenpole Tudor), also appeared on Folkémon as a bonus track, although in a different version. The single featured two recordings of the track, one of them with Ridley on vocals and one with Ridley sharing the microphone with Ten Pole Tudor's vocalist Edward Tudor-Pole. The single/album release was accompanied by the 'The Same...But Different' tour, the largest Skyclad had undertaken for many years. Also in 2001 the band's former record label released Another Fine Mess, which featured live recordings from 1995 and the contents of the Outrageous Fourtunes EP.
After some unpleasantness between Walkyier and the other band members over copyrights and royalties for his lyrics, as well as the release of tracks featuring him, 2004's A Semblance of Normality marked the band's first new material post-Walkyier. Its style is very much in the vein of previous releases, with Ridley's lyrics making an obvious effort to follow similar themes and styles to Walkyier's whilst retaining an individual identity. The album has probably been the most widely received of their releases, probably due to better distribution and word-of-mouth advertising, and has received much critical acclaim, especially in the English-speaking world, where, ironically (given the use of inventive wordplay in their titles and lyrics, much of it aimed at native English speakers), the band is almost unknown. However, in South America and mainland Europe they have been extremely popular for many years, especially in Germany and Greece.
Skyclad self-released an EP, Jig-a-Jig, in 2006. A new album had been planned for the same year but Black Lotus Records went out of business just a few months after Skyclad had signed to it.
The band's twelfth studio album In The... All Together was released in spring 2009 via Scarlet Records.
Skyclad could very nearly be described as a protest band. Their lyrics deal with a wide variety of real-world themes (as well as more personal issues, though this was mainly under Walkyier) including poverty, drugs, environmentalism, politics, urban decay, paganism, society and commercialism. The band's polemics are often based on real experiences: In an interview, Walkyier recalled a point in the band's early days where his electricity meter reached 19 pence, and he was reduced to sharing cold baked bean sandwiches with guitarist Steve Ramsey. Skyclad's politics are generally left wing, with a strong working-class bent. Walkyier's writings for the band also show a particular fascination with sexually predatory women ("My Mother in Darkness", "Polkageist!", "Little Miss Take").
The band is noted for concealing the message of its songs somewhat in allusion and wordplay ("Womb of the Worm", "Vintage Whine"), though this has become less pronounced in later albums written by Ridley, who favours a slightly more straightforward style. Puns and wordplay, however, have become for many an integral part of the band, and there is no evidence that they have been entirely excluded.
Skyclad began their career on their first album playing a form of thrash metal with some folk music influences, especially on certain tracks: though superficially similar in many ways to a combination of the members' previous musical projects, there are many aspects of the instrumental work, and Martin Walkyier's more naturalistic singing style (as opposed to the nasal snarls that characterised his work with Sabbat). The addition of the violin, and eventually keyboard, allowed Skyclad to become progressively more folk-influenced over the course of their albums, with the other major shift being the lessening of thrash metal as a major influence and the emerging of a style more similar to pre-NWOBHM hard rock and heavy metal bands such as Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep and Thin Lizzy. The band's musical style has begun to fluctuate more with recent releases: Outrageous Fourtunes and No Daylights... Nor Heeltaps are both entirely acoustic, almost qualifying as traditional British folk music, whilst Folkémon and A Semblance of Normality are far more rock-influenced than the albums immediately preceding them.
One interesting feature of many Skyclad albums are short tracks, often intros or outros, that experiment with different styles of music, or different instruments. These include spoken word tracks (such as 'Tunnel Visionaries', which parodies the famous opening paragraph of The War of the Worlds), and tracks using instruments such as the bagpipes, trumpet and a bodhran not normally found within the bands repertoire.
* Steve Ramsey (Guitar) since 1990 (Also in: Satan, Pariah, Blind Fury)
* Graeme "Bean" English (Bass, acoustic guitar) since 1990 (Also in: Satan, Pariah, Blind Fury)
* Georgina Biddle (Violin) since 1994
* Kevin Ridley (Vocals since 2001, Guitar since 1998, Producer since 1990)
* Arron Walton (drums) since 2001
* Jay Graham (drums) 1998-2001
* Martin Walkyier (Vocals, lyrics) 1990-2000 (Also in: The Clan Destined, Sabbat)
* Nick Acons (Guitar, Violin) 1997
* John Leonard (Flute, Mandolin, ...) 1997
* Mitch Oldham (drums) 1997
* Dave Moore (Session-Guitar) 1996 (Ex-Velvet Viper)
* Paul A.T. Kinson. http://www.pillarboxmedia.co.uk/kinson (drums) 1996
* Paul Smith (drums) 1996
* Dave Ray (Guitar) 1995
* Jed Dawkins (drums) 1995
* Keith Baxter (drums) 1990-1995
* Dave Pugh (Guitar) 1991-1995
* Fritha Jenkins (Violin) 1991-1993
* Cath Howell (Violin) 1993-1994
* Danny Porter (Session-Guitar) 1991
Official Website: http://skycladmusic.co.uk/
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/officialskyclad