To me SKYCLAD always have been directly connected with fronter Martin Walkyier, his characteristic voice, his very deep lyrics, his personality, basically everything. Yes, I, too, have the single “Sword Of A Thousand Men“ and the semi-acoustic live album “No Daylights Nor Heeltaps“, but still I waited for the first real studio full length of SKYCLAD with “new” singer Kevin Ridley.
Four years after the great “Folkémon“ the Brits are back with studio album number 10 (not counting in any EPs, acoustic albums etc.) and there are a couple of differences compared to the “old” band sound. For one Kevin’s voice is a lot less rough and charismatic than Martin’s, they at times have taken out some of the heaviness and replaced violinist Georgina Biddle with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on many songs.
After the bag pipe intro “Intro (Pipes Solo)“ “Do They Mean Us“ sounds a lot more tame, without a doubt a good composition, but still, something’s missing. But that changes right after with “A Good Day To Bury Bad News“, which is pretty intense, with stronger guitars, which form a very nice contrast to the rather soft sounds of the orchestra, and the lyrics stand in full tradition of the old SKYCLAD (Kevin Ridley doesn’t stand far behind Martin), I would have preferred a bit more guitar, but still song writer Steve Ramsey once more shows that he is among the best of his trade.
With “Anotherdrinkingsong“ we get a full “relapse” into the old sound, powerful, energetic, folky, with strong violin, this song definitely can send a pub into a true frenzy, great! Kevin’s voice really fits as well, he goes into a completely different direction, not with the gruff charm of a Martin Walkyier, but still with a calmer voice, which at times completely contrasts the witty, sarcastic lyrics. “Ten Little Kingdoms“ then sounds completely different, with almost staccato-like vocals and heavy guitars in the verse and then a very melodic chorus with one a bit odd line, very unusual and I still am not all sure what to think of this song…
“Lightening The Load“ is a great ballad, at least that is what one would think originally, with acoustic guitars, violin and calm vocals, but then they add two or three bricks, in a great folky way, with tons of energy, classical SKYCLAD! On the other hand “Hybrid Blues” just drags on and on…
All in all “A Semblance Of Normality” absolutely has turned out to be a worthy SKYCLAD album, surely not the best, as the info claims, but still it contains more or less all elements that we all love so much about this band. Kevin Ridley does a really good job and I like his performance a lot, still his voice does not have the same charisma as a Martin Walkyier, but the band is looking forward and proves to all doubters that they still have a damn good reason to be! (Online June 23, 2005)