These Moshville gigs tend to be firsts for me. This time took me out of my usual stomping ground of Glasgow to Scotland’s capital Edinburgh. It was rather exciting for me since I hadn’t been there since I was a child, maybe 10 years ago if not more. I was really excited for this gig since Skyclad have eluded me a couple of times already. I really wanted to go and see original singer and founding member (also legend of UK thrashers Sabbat) Martin Walkyier’s version before they had to pull the tour due to financial issues, and I only managed to catch the last couple of songs of the official version of the band from their set at Bloodstock last year.
The wait was definitely worth it, I can assure you! It certainly was a fun night! The change of scenery coupled with an awesome folk metal party from both Skyclad and relative newcomers Skiltron made for a great break from the norm for me. Lets look forward to more travelling gigs in the future because should opportunities arise, I certainly won’t be saying “no”!
First up, rather surprisingly was Skyclad. It took me a little by surprise as I expected them as the more established act to be playing second. No matter, they rocked it (put simply). The set contained a lot of variety from throughout the band’s career, including a lot of my personal favourites making for an overall triumph of a show in my opinion. They wasted no time in getting fired into their set beginning with the thunderous drum intro for “Earth Mother, the Sun and the Furious Host” from their 1993 classic, Jonah’s Ark, which immediately got heads banging and bodies moving. Following this was another crowd favourite “Spinning Jenny” (from 1992’s A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol) with it’s catchy, bouncy riffs and rhythms making the crowd act accordingly with plenty of jumping to sink through Bannerman’s floor to the depths below Edinburgh. Next up was another classic slice of Skyclad with “Another Fine Mess” (from 1995’s The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea) minus the more mellow first section of the song, with the band going straight for the more upbeat anthemic folk melody that defines the song.
Only three songs into the set and it’s fair to say there was no shortage of energy in the room. Guitarists Steve Ramsey and Dave Pugh along with bassist Graeme English, and frontman Kevin Ridley were rocking out on the stage with headbanging a plenty and drinks in hand between songs, notably Ridley’s well drank bottle of red wine. Drummer Arron Walton never let up throughout the show, smashing the hell of his prized kit that Ridley had mentioned never went on tour with them. M0st notable is of course remaining member, fiddler Georgina Biddle. Man that woman rocks the fiddle is all I can say! I was looking forward to seeing her perform after my brief encounter with Skyclad at Bloodstock. I’ve never seen someone make folk instruments more rock ‘n’ roll than Skyclad that’s for sure!
The set was only marred by one problem which came to light in the fourth song. What was supposed to be “Land of the Rising Slum” (from 1994’s classic Prince of the Poverty Line) didn’t happen due to technical difficulties. It seemed there was an issue with the MIDI sequencer for the famous percussion intro. It wasn’t a big issue for Skyclad or the fans who enjoyed a performance of another 1994 representative in the form of “Cardboard City” with it’s driving pace and synth overtones adding depth to it’s main riff. The band later solved the MIDI sequencer problem and played “Land of the Rising Slum” further on into the set.
Following this was what Ridley jokingly announced as the “Blues” section of the set (and that Skyclad were actually a blues band the whole time) beginning with a definite personal favourite of mine – “Just What Nobody Wanted”. I’m not entirely sure what was meant as “blues” with this song – maybe it’s the scale used for the song’s main melody? It doesn’t sound very bluesy to me but no matter, it’s an awesome song. There had been times when it really spoke to me so naturally I screamed the words out loud at the top of my lungs. It seems there was a couple of crowd members beside me who shared my sentiments and rocked out in unison.
The next two songs were a little more unfamiliar to me being from the more recent material, 2004’s A Semblance of Normality, which I rather shamefully admit I haven’t heard yet. Still I was won over, especially with folk metal party anthem that is “Anotherdrinkingsong”. With it’s fast-paced acoustic lead verses, melodic fiddle aesthetics and singalong “la la las” in the outro passage, it’s definitely getting played at my next party thats for sure. The crowd certainly went wild in drunken (naturally) ecstasy for this one making it a definite winner. Following this was a trip right back to the start of Skyclad with the only representative from the classic debut “The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth”. Arguably the first ever folk metal song, “The Widdershin’s Jig” is a true classic. With it’s bouncy 6/8 bass driven rhythm and catchy guitar/fiddle melody, it always seems to prove to be a winner.
Approaching the end of the set, Skyclad went through two true singalong classics (and two of my favourites) representing 1996’s Irrational Anthems – “Inequality Street” and “Penny Dreadful”. Ridley invited the crowd to introduce “Inequality Street” with it’s a capella intro and of course we followed suit, sang along and headbanged accordingly. Same again for “Penny Dreadful” which is always a crowd-pleaser. I love this song, especially playing it at any opportunity and in any place (especially my work) where the lyric “Djs, Vjs, pimps and trollops – never mind music, this is bollocks!” needs to be heard. Of course I screamed my lungs out to “Penny Dreadful”, joined by a wee lassie to my right and none other by a kilted Skiltron guitarist/main man Emilio Souto to my left, rocking out in unison.
The final stretch included another trip to 1992 with more of a punky/NWOBHM-esque thrasher in “The Declaration of Indifference” through to a triumphant ending in Jonah’s Ark’s classic introduction “Thinking Allowed?”. Revealing the main reason he was down the front of the crowd in addition to enjoying “Penny Dreadful”, it seemed that Souto was there to join Skyclad onstage to play the famous mandolin intro and provide guest vocals to “Thinking Allowed?”.
Skyclad’s return to Scotland (the first time since 1994 apparently!) was a definite success and a lot of fun – a welcome break from the monotony of my working life, and a much needed change of scenery in Edinburgh as opposed to Glasgow. Here’s hoping Skyclad return sooner rather than later and hopefully play an even longer set. I’d love to see the inclusion of some more of my favourites (hopefully other fans share them with me) in songs like “The Sky Beneath My Feet”, “R’vannith”, “Eirenarch”, “Vintage Whine”, “Polkageist!” and “Crux of the Message”.
Whenever Skyclad go on tour again, you can bet I’ll be there for another Moshville Times review. I’d thoroughly recommend anyone to go and see them for a guaranteed good time and if any readers are new to Skyclad, go and check them out. There’s plenty of references in my review pointing you to the right places. Hopefully they’ll gain some new fans – their music is awesome and they deserve it.
Following Skyclad was of course the mighty Skiltron. As a Scot, I always feel a sense of pride when I hear the soaring bagpipe melodies on top of their driving power metal riffing. It seems that the crowd in Bannerman’s that night felt the same. Beginning with the pounding drums of the lead song, “Lion Rampant”, from their latest album, 2013’s Into the Battleground, the crowd certainly kept the party going with bodies moving and voices singing along to the rousing chorus. Next up was another Skiltron anthem, “By Sword and Shield” from their debut, The Clans Have United, which again had the crowd headbanging, fist-pumping and more with it’s catchy pipe riffing and upbeat power metal chords.
It must be mentioned that Skiltron have had a fair few lineup changes over the years, and the lineup in Bannerman’s seemed to be a first to my knowledge. Adding to the core of guitarist Emilio Souto and drummer Matias Pena, Skiltron welcomed John Clark Patterson from Glasgow based “Blood-Metal” band Achren on the bass, Celtica piper Duncan Knight and up-and-comping singer Martin McManus. McManus was certainly a charismatic frontman that’s for sure. Jumping around and posturing like a man possessed, he certainly had to be seen to be believed. He certainly has the lung capacity to carry off the Dio-esque vocals of Skiltron’s past singer Diego Valdez, that’s for sure!
Following “By Sword and Shield”, Skiltron performed a variety of songs from their 4 album-strong back catalogue playing through bagpipe power metal epics like “The Vision of Blind Harry” from (2008’s Beheading the Liars) and “Stirling Bridge” and “This Crusade” from The Clans Have United respectively. The epic-feeling anthems of Scottish history coupled with the thrashing guitars, soaring vocals, folk accompaniments and pounding drums definitely resonated with the crowd – leaving not a single body down the front of the audience not in motion.
Going into the next song, “The Brave’s Revenge”, a fiddle made it’s way down to the front of the audience to join a bouncing group in front of me enjoying the metal merriment – it was Skyclad’s Georgina Biddle! I must say, it was a joy to see her joining in with the crowd fun. Following “The Brave’s Revenge”, McManus announced that he was going to take back seat allowing for the rest of the band to enjoy treating the audience with an instrumental section comprised of a medley “The Gael”, “Hate Dance” and “St Patrick’s Death”. Taking turns centre stage, Souto and Knight rocked the folk melodies and the crowd loved it. This also proved to be the reason why Biddle made her way down to the front, to join Skiltron in a collaborative folk jam on these traditional masterpieces like Souto did with Skyclad’s “Thinking Allowed?”. The audienced most definitely enjoyed Biddle’s return to stage to rock out with the Skiltron guys, drinking and dancing to folk metal party that filled the hall that night.
Going into the second half of their set, Skiltron continued the folk metal party with the bouncy 6/8 jigging melodies and power chords of “Signs, Symbols and the Marks of Man” and the more epic “One Way Journey” which notably features some more mellow Celtic sections and intricate bass work amongst the powerful guitar chords and bagpipe melodies. After this it was rather unfortunate for me that I could only stay for one more song before having to catch my last bus back to Glasgow. It’s a shame since the band announced they were having an afterparty in Edinburgh’s rock club Opium which I wish I could have stayed for. However the last song I managed to catch couldn’t have been much better – The Highland Way‘s (2010) epic opener “Bagpipes of War”. It’s admittedly a little cheesy but still, it’s a great rocking power metal song continuing the party atmosphere in Bannerman’s and of course the moshing, singing, drinking crowd were loving every minute of it.
Again like with Skyclad, go and see Skiltron and get their albums (the first two – The Clans Have United and Beheading the Liars – are available for free on www.dontpaymusic.com/skiltron). I believe they’re based in Edinburgh now so I reckon there’ll be plenty of UK dates in the future and certainly shows in Scotland. You can bet that whenever there’s another Scottish show, someone from Moshville will be there – guaranteed.
A few side notes:
First of all, thanks to Lara, Moshville’s official photographer since the Kreator gig I believe, for helping me during my time in Edinburgh. Check out her stuff at ishootmetal.com.
Also cheers to her other half Martin – check out his Dio tribute band Dio Apostles! There’s a show in Edinburgh soon – if I can have the time off work I’ll definitely be there!
Finally, I was supposed to get an interview with both bands at the gig but unfortunately events didn’t allow for that to happen. I’ve been speaking to Emilio from Skiltron about setting up an interview for the Moshville Times another way, either by e-mail or Skype, so hopefully we can get a wee chat with him soon.