General of the Dark Army
I'd have given the higher marks to Close To The Edge. Lovely fluid composition, and possibly second only to Awaken in my Yeschart.
My birthday seems to be the day before yours!Released on my birthday
That, and the 'ethereal' vibe that the whole band have; absolutely no grit whatsoever. Every time I listen to The Gates Of Delirium, I end up turning it off halfway through and playing Paschendale instead.Could it be the sugar sweet voice of Jon Anderson?
Oh, this is excellent - I've been wanting to listen to Yes for a while now, but most of their songs never quite grip me. @The Dissident has a good point - Yes could have been a little bit heavier. They way their music is now, it's like cotton candy for the ears; far too sweet for my liking.
They're easily the most egregious example of this; they could have sounded like Led Zeppelin or Rainbow, and they'd have benefitted from it.
Hey Jer, did you listened Fish's Internal Exile album, if not, take a listen…I think you will enjoy it.
Skyclad - The Answer Machine? (1997)
Folk metal pioneers Skyclad came together in 1990, including lyricist extraordinaire Martin Walkyier, formerly of Sabbat, and guitarist Steve Ramsey and bassist Graeme English, formerly of Satan / Pariah / Blind Fury. Their early sound was sort of punky thrash with violin, but it matured over time, and in 1996 with six studio albums already under their belt they did an experimental maxi-EP called Oui Avant-Garde A Chance where they majorly amped up the folk elements of their sound. This was received well enough at the time that they decided to do their next full-length studio album in the same lighter style that balanced the folk, punk, and metal elements more equally, and the result was The Answer Machine? in 1997.
- A Clown Of Thorns - Swooning violin is buffeted by acoustic guitars and a hypnotic rhythm. A melancholy vocal crescendos as the next song kicks in. A short but excellent intro track, 9/10.
- Building A Ruin - A drum fill breaks into an electric guitar and violin riff, giving way to a catchy, driving verse and pre-chorus. A piano and bass interlude rolls back into the verse and pre-chorus, then breaks into the chorus. Electric guitar, violin, and flute accompany a great bridge before returning to the pre-chorus and chorus to close out the song. Excellent song, great lyrics. 9/10.
- Worn Out Sole To Heel - A rhythmically busy guitar and violin intro cuts into a punky verse 1 and a more sinister, melodic verse 2. The chorus isn’t particularly catchy, but the softer vocal bridge and violin solo are great. Let’s say a robust 7/10.
- Single Phial - Plaintive arpeggios are joined by beautifully harmonized violins, eventually giving way to a melancholy acoustic verse. Electric guitar and violin join in for the pre-chorus, building nicely into the catchy chorus. Nice electric guitar and violin interludes, and a very tasteful guitar solo. Another excellent track, 9/10.
- Helium - A bass and vocal intro and a distant scream break into an acoustic/electric guitar and violin groove. This cuts into an electric guitar driven verse that blossoms into a great catchy chorus with a bittersweet interlude afterward. Nice variant chorus in the middle. Yet another excellent song, 9/10.
- The Thread Of Evermore - Middle eastern sounds and female singing break into a hypnotic rhythm and a catchy, melodic verse, pre-chorus, and choruses 1 and 2. The violin melody maintains the middle eastern feel throughout. Excellent hypnotic interlude. Interesting vocal harmonies. Another excellent track, 9/10.
- Eirenarch - An electric guitar and violin intro breaks into an uptempo groove before dialing it back a bit for a violin-driven verse. Heaviness kicks in for the thrashy pre-chorus and a not particularly catchy chorus. A queasy electric guitar and violin tradeoff interlude leads into a pretty cool guitar and violin duet solo. Good song, but not great. 7/10.
- Troublesometimes - A spoken word intro leads into a slow burn acoustic groove with male and female vocals and flute and violin breaks. Nice uptempo chorus with prominent electric guitar. Cool multi-part interlude with a flute solo. Nice extended outro. Another excellent track, 9/10.
- Isle Of Jura - An almost surf rock opening breaks into a bright acoustic 5/4 groove and an appealing verse. The chorus isn’t quite as successful, but still good. Nice interlude and a great clean guitar solo. Great song, 8/10.
- Fainting By Numbers - A heavy 6/8 groove breaks into a punky verse and a catchy pre-chorus. The chorus is a bit of a two-note dud, unfortunately. Great guitar solo. An endless steam of number-related puns fill out the lyrics. Flawed, but still good overall. 7/10.
- My Naked I - A peppy acoustic guitar and piano verse steps up the heaviness for the pre-chorus and a busy, appealing chorus. A nice bass, piano, and vocal bridge breaks into a cool harmonized guitar solo. Another great track, 8/10.
- Catherine At The Wheel - A haunting piano intro gives way to a pulsing arpeggiated verse groove and a more violin driven chorus with male and female vocals. Great acoustic guitar solo, nice violin solo later on. Creepy lyrics about an abused woman who kills male predators. Another great song, 8/10.
- Dead Angels On Ice - A fiddle and electric guitar driven number that goes all in on hoedown folk metal. An extended instrumental intro fades into a rhythmic banjo-driven verse that trades off with fiddle and electric guitar. A simple chorus keeps going as the next verse plays out on top of it. Weird car sound effects for an outro. Strange track, but still good. 7/10.
All too often folk metal winds up being standard metal with a violin slapped on it, but to me The Answer Machine? was what I’d always hoped folk metal would sound like. Lush arrangements that let all of the instruments contribute, whether they’re acoustic or electric; nice dynamics with softer and heavier sections; different time signatures and song structures without getting too proggy. Also, even though Martin Walkyier is never going to win any singing contests, giving him the room to breathe and sing in his natural voice instead of always being in a thrashy scowl does wonders for the music and makes it easier to understand and appreciate the wonderful pun- and wit-filled lyrics.
Half of this album is flat-out excellent, and the third of it that’s merely good is what brings the overall rating down a bit. Still, this is such a unique and important album, and there are so many excellent tracks on it that I chose to nominate it for the Greatest Metal Album Cup, where it will appear in the next round.
Unfortunately, Skyclad abandoned this lighter musical direction after this album and returned to a more thrash-fueled sound, which was still good, but never quite reached these same heights again (though Folkémon, Martin’s swan song with the band from 2000, comes close).