The departure of Martin Walkyier from superb UK thrashers Sabbat was a major disappointment but the talented frontman wasted no time, forming a new band Skyclad with members of Satan and Pariah. Their 1991 debut album The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth had plenty of the Ye Olde thrash Martin was known for but innovated with its incorporation of folk elements. And lo, a new genre – folk metal – started right here.
Martin delivers his caustic rants on social justice and ecological doom with raging charisma, backed by Steve Ramsey’s powerful and deft guitar work. There are huge thrash hooks in songs like The Cradle Will Fall (I am human!) and gothic closer Terminus but the band’s dark, dense Euro thrash does get fatiguing at times and the album is at its creative best during its folkier moments. The Widdershins Jig is a jaunty highlight (with a riff surely inspired by children’s TV show The Riddlers), Moongleam and Meadowsweet is beautifully lush (with gorgeous guest guitar from Sting’s Dominic Miller) and dramatic bursts of violin liven up thrashers like Sky Beneath My Feet and Our Dying Island.
The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth’s combination of labyrinthine thrash and pagan textures has proved remarkably durable over the years. More notable and eclectic offerings were to come, as Skyclad followed their prolific, fiddle-mad muse to become one of the most unique and influential British metal bands of the 90s. But the debut has a uniquely apocalyptic appeal that still makes it a go-to in the band’s impressive discography. Not a perfect debut but an attention-grabbing and adventurous one.