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Biography

SKYCLAD was formed in 1991 by vocalist Martin Walkyier, following his break from highly successful Nottingham Thrash act SABBAT. The singer was undoubtedly the unique factor in SABBAT and with SKYCLAD he was now able to push his extraordinary talents and unique inspirations to the fore. SKYCLAD contain such diverse elements as traditional Metal riffing, electric Folk violin and the distinctive pagan lyrical stance and imagery of the man himself. SKYCLAD's individualistic stance would not only carve out a reputation for themselves but also directly inspire a whole crop of subsequent German "Mittelalter" acts.

The band, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, was forged with ex-PARIAH and SATAN guitarist Steve Ramsey, SKYCLAD's initial demo for Noise Records comprised purely Walkyier, Ramsey and a drum machine. Soon after gaining a deal former SATAN bassist Graeme English and drummer Keith Baxter were added, followed by ex-D.A.M. guitarist Dave Pugh and fiddler Fritha Jenkins.

The group's debut album, October 1991's 'Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth', illustrated Walkyier's original approach to Metal music, combining his noted lyrical twists with the classic Metal signature riffing of Ramsey. Expectation amongst the European Metal throng was high, and SKYCLAD did not disappoint. A particularly significant track was 'The Widdershins Jig', this open appreciation of traditional Folk a certain first in the realms of Metal. The Walkyier-less SABBAT quickly floundered and disintegrated whilst SKYCLAD took the SABBAT concept and took several strides forward, supplanting the occult lore of yore with pagan history, ancient British mythology woven with Walkyier's elaborate prosaic twists. The group toured Europe alongside GAMMA RAY, THUNDERHEAD, CANDLEMASS and OVERKILL.

In late 1991 Ramsey suffered a fractured skull in a fall and the band were forced to cancel a string of British dates. Second album 'Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol' was delivered in March of 1992 and, back on the road, SKYCLAD had toured the UK in February packaged with OVERKILL and LAWNMOWER DETH. June had further gigs sharing stages with PARADISE LOST. That same month SKYCLAD appeared at the 'Dynamo Open Air' festival in Eindhoven, Holland notably jamming with ex-THIN LIZZY guitarist Brian Robertson on 'Emerald'. Irish dates followed in September leading up to release of the EP 'Tracks From The Wilderness', this including live recordings from the 'Dynamo' set. The year would be rounded out by support gigs to MANOWAR in Europe in October and November then a run of UK December shows.

The band maintained momentum with June 1993's 'Jonah's Ark' album, Japanese versions adding the six songs from the 'Tracks In The Wilderness' EP. However, Fritha Jenkins had become pregnant earlier that year and had been forced to bow out. Drafting new violinist Cath Howell the group put in UK shows supported by FORGODSAKE in June. Frustratingly, although a promotional video for 'Thinking Allowed?' saw airplay, valuable support tours planned with bands such as DIO, PARADISE LOST and SEPULTURA would fall through, the band claiming lack of financial support from their record label. These frustrations unfortunately would colour the SKYCLAD history from this point onward, despite the band holding a strong bastion of support in mainland Europe, able to shift over 50,000 albums with each release.

1994 found both Martin Walkyier and Fritha Jenkins acting as guest musicians on FORGODSAKE's 'Blasthead' album. On the SKYCLAD front, the group contributed their rendition of 'Prime Evil' to the VENOM tribute album 'In the Name Of Satan'. SKYCLAD's next offering, 'Prince Of The Poverty Line', was issued in early 1994, initial limited edition copies coming with an extra track in 'Brothers Beneath The Skin'. By now the group's finances were in perilous state, as echoed by the album title, but this fiscal misfortune was suitably channeled into the band's adoption of the bedraggled troubadour look. For further live work ex-VELVET VIPER guitarist Dave Moore joined the band on a temporary basis. The year saw SKYCLAD undertaking a highly successful European tour on the back of the 'Prince Of The Poverty Line' release. The tour included dates supporting TROUBLE, their first German headliner on 4th May at the Stuttgart Röhre then opening for Swedish axe God YNGWIE MALMSTEEN prior to further shows in Germany with FREAK OF NATURE. Festival dates included 'Dynamo Open Air' and Germany's 'Wacken Open Air' events. At the conclusion of the tour violinist Cath Howells left to concentrate on studying and was replaced by Georgina Biddles. Graeme English took time out to session on BLITZKRIEG's 'Unholy Trinity' album.

Following recording of 1995's 'The Silent Whales Of The Lunar Sea', at Newcastle's Lynx Studios, SKYCLAD were beset by problems. Ramsey collapsed in the studio and had to undergo hospital treatment for a heart complaint, subsequently being fitted with a pacemaker. Later in recording, Lynx Studios was broken into and recording equipment stolen. Still, the album was eventually completed and a brand new SKYCLAD debuted in early 1995 with gigs in Greece, Georgina Biddle's live inauguration coming on 26th February at the Rodon Club in Athens.

Unfortunately the band once more hit line-up problems in April with both Pugh and Baxter quitting. Subsequently Pugh turned up later in LOADSTONE with brother Brian on drums and bassist Trevor Beckitt. Swift replacements were found in two ex-INNER SANCTUM members guitarist Dave Ray and drummer Jed Hawkins. In this incarnation SKYCLAD toured Europe extensively which included a date at the 'Dynamo Open Air' festival in June and support gigs to BLACK SABBATH in the UK. The year ended on a high as SKYCLAD joined the December 'Blind Guardian Christmas Party' tour, headed up by BLIND GUARDIAN and also boasting LOVE/HATE, SAXON, RAGE and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. The newest members then opted out, post SKYCLAD both Ray and Hawkins were to be found with FIFTH SEASON, Ray later founding D-VOID.

The 'Irrational Anthems' album, promoted by a video for the song 'Inequality Street', saw European release in February 1996. Highlights included a solo violin instrumental, 'The Spiral Starecase', and a radical re-work of Khachaturian's 'Sabre Dance'. German touring in May saw a union with RIOT and Thrashers WHIPLASH. SKYCLAD's second 1996 album 'Oui Avant-Garde A Chance' (pronounced "We haven't got a chance") notably featured SUBWAY TO SALLY musicians Eric Hecht on bagpipes, Frau Schmidt on violin and Bodenski, included covers of DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS 'Come On Eileen' and NEW MODEL ARMY's 'Master Race'. Adventurous enough to even allow the band to quote the set as "experimental", 'Oui Avant-Garde A Chance' was committed to tape at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool and Jacobs Studios in Surrey. With no permanent drummer, percussion on the record was shared between Paul Kinson and Paul Smith. The project was originally planed as an acoustic EP but blossomed into a full blown album. Once complete, the band, with Paul Smith behind the drum kit, undertook headline UK shows that September. December saw SKYCLAD back on German soil with support act SUBWAY TO SALLY in tow. However, the last few dates of this trek would be cancelled when Walkyier came down with a severe throat infection.

The group, severing ties with manager Eric Cook, was back in the studio the following year to come up with the more folkified September 1997 offering 'The Answer Machine'. Newly installed on second guitar would be Kevin Ridley, known as former frontman of SCREEN IDOLS, THE SHOTGUN BRIDES and FORGODSAKE tradition as well as having a swathe of credits behind the production desk. Yasmin Krull of ATROCITY repute contributed guest vocals to 'The Thread Of Evermore'.

A traditional bout of German dates in April 1997 had support from Pennsylvania's MARAYA. That Autumn the group augmented their sound with the addition of SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS musicians Nick Acons on guitar and fiddle, John Leonard on accordion, mandolin, bagpipes, flute and keyboards plus drummer Mitch Oldham. However, this union would prove fleeting. SKYCLAD closed the year in novel performing acoustic sets in front of German record stores to distribute the EP 'Outrageous Fourtunes', limited to 1000 copies. These dates would be the first to see Kevin Ridley acquired as second guitarist for live work.

During 1998 both Martin Walkyier and Georgina Biddle guested on the 'Manifiesto' album from Brazilian band NEPAL. In March SKYCLAD launched into another European tour, this time taking out MINDFEED and ACROSS THE BORDER as openers. These dates saw double duty for Steve Ramsey, also acting as MINDFEED's guitarist. Once these concerts had closed the band embarked upon the first of their Irish Pub tours of Germany in April. This unique concept scored SKYCLAD favourable press, particularly in more mainstream areas of the European media. A double appearance at the 'Wacken Open Air' festival in August preceded a second round of Irish Pub dates to close the year in December.

February 1999 had SKYCLAD back to the fore with a much harder release 'Vintage Whine' as the band put in no less than five German tours during the year on top of many prestigious festival performances. April had Italian newcomers LACUNA COIL as openers. In July the band openly voiced dissatisfaction with their label Massacre Records onstage at the 'Ziegenrück Open Air' festival. An appearance at the 'Wacken Open Air' festival was blighted when Ramsey, also acting on the day as temporary guitarist for MINDFEED once again, was beaten up by over zealous backstage security suffering a bloody head injury.

The band signed to Nuclear Blast Records later that year for the 'Folkemon' album. The limited digipack versions would add a cover of TENPOLE TUDOR's 'Swords Of A Thousand Men' whilst the Japanese edition boasted the exclusive 'Locomotion' instrumental, this last cut surprisingly hosting a lead guitar solo from TYGERS OF PAN TANG man Fred Purser. Paying homage, SUIDAKRA covered 'The One Piece Puzzle' on their 2000 album 'The Arcanum'. The same year found Walkyier guesting on CRADLE OF FILTH's version of the SABBAT chestnut 'For Those Who Died'. Live action on the continent in November witnessed a brief burst of dates with Spanish act TIERRA SANTA in November.

As 2001 broke rumours spread that founder member Walkyier had quit the band. However, the band was announced as scheduled to perform at the Derby 'Bloodstock' festival during May. This show was also scheduled to feature a one off showing of RETURN TO THE SABBAT, a SABBAT reformation of sorts with Sneap's would be role being briefly filled by ex-TALION guitarist Pete Wadeson.

By April the band indeed confirmed that Walkyier had left and that 'Bloodstock' would be the farewell show. SKYCLAD themselves resolved to carry on with Ridley taking over on lead vocals. The new look band debuted with shows in Europe acting as openers to FISH.

As fans patiently waited to see just if SKYCLAD could survive without the figurehead of Walkyier it became apparent that the band had every intention of persevering. The act established their own label, Demolition Records, for release of a live album 'Another Fine Mess'. Being SKYCLAD's first official live release tracks featured material culled from the band's 1995 Dynamo festival appearance. Meantime former label Massacre Records weighed in with another collector's item- a free compilation CD entitled 'Poetic Wisdom' given free with the July issue of the Greek 'Metal Hammer' magazine.

The traditional round of touring in Germany also continued unabated although Jay Graham decamped to RETURN TO THE SABBAT and forge Black Metal combo GOAT THRONE in league with ex-IRON MONKEY and HELVIS guitarist Steve Watson and former PSYCHOWRECK, MOSH BABY and GRUMBLE GRINDER vocalist Stumpy. His swift replacement would be former AXIS and STICKY FINGERS drummer Aaron Walton.

In October SKYCLAD also launched a single version of the TENPOLE TUDOR cover 'Swords Of A Thousand Men', even roping Eddie Tenpole in as session guest. The single package would also include a freshly re-worked version of the stage favourite 'The Widdershin's Jig'.

Another SKYCLAD cover also arrived with Italian Speed Metal act ELVENKING committing 'Penny Dreadful' to their debut 'Heathenreel' album. The connection with ELVENKING was strengthened when it was announced that Walkyier would perform SKYCLAD songs live on stage with the band at the Italian 'Metal.It' festival in March 2002. Meantime, SKYCLAD themselves issued the acoustic 'No Daylights Nor Heeltaps' album. Released some two months earlier than it's May street date through the band's website copies ordered over the net came with an exclusive bonus disc featuring 'No Deposit, No Return', 'A Great Blow For A Day Job', 'No Strings Attached', 'Building A Ruin' and 'Loco-Commotion'.

SKYCLAD would be announced for an appearance at the 'Milwaukee Metalfest' but would subsequently cancel this date. A new SKYCLAD studio album, 'A Semblance Of Normality', was scheduled for early 2003. Martin Walkyier would spend the early portion of 2003 formulating his new venture THE CLAN DESTINED. The singer also guested as vocalist on the track 'Blood And Sand' on Bradford Metal band BLOODSTREAM's debut album 'Black Storm Harvest'.

It would be learned in September that SKYCLAD were collaborating on a new album with none other than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The group then hooked up with London based veterans THE QUIREBOYS for a short round of December gigs dubbed the 'Demolition Xmas Ball'. Support came courtesy of ANTI PRODUCT. A free CD would be given to gig goers, including two brand new tracks from each band.

Ex-member Jay Graham would be in the news during 2004, sessioning for BLACK SABBATH guitarist TONY IOMMI and joining HELVIS in June for their 'Onset Of Winter Brings Death (The Crops Have Failed)' recordings.

SKYCLAD's co-headlining gig at the Burgfolk Festival in Mülheim/Ruhr, Germany on July 24th would be filmed as part of a DVD release. A new studio album, entitled 'A Semblance Of Normality' mixed and mastered at the Damage Inc. Studio in Italy by Dario Mollo of VOODOO HILL and THE CAGE, was set for September issue through Demolition Records.

SKYCLAD performed an unusual concert dubbed the '34'000 Ton Metal Cruise' on September 25th, performing onboard the Münchenbryggeriet car ferry in Stockholm, Sweden alongside TANKARD, AMON AMARTH, HYPOCRISY, TAD MOROSE, STORMWARRIOR and WOLF. In July of 2005 SKYCLAD celebrated their fifteenth anniversary with both an electric and acoustic set at the 'Dong Open Air' festival held in Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany. The band headlined the UK 'Dominion - Autumn Assault' festival in Hull during October over a supporting cast of Germany's HUMAN FORTRESS, INTENSE, INFOBIA, PAIN CONTROL, Italy's WARCHILD, DELIVERANCE, CONQUEST OF STEEL, HUMANITY, EVILE and PITIFUL REIGN. However, European concerts were cancelled when Steve Ramsey sustained "a serious shoulder injury" in an accident.

In January 2006 SKYCLAD announced signature to a contract with Greek label Black Lotus Records. Preceding a new studio album would be an EP entitled 'Jig-A-Jig', this independent release only being made available through the band's website and at concerts. With THE CLAN DESTINED fragmenting in acrimonious circumstances, ex-singer Martin Walkyier broke a lengthy silence in April 2006 announcing that he was permanently withdrawing from making music. However, it was soon after learned that he was set to feature as guest singer on the track 'God Among Men' featured on all female Greek Black Metal band ASTARTE's 'Demonized' album.

'In The... All Together' emerged in May 2009 on the Audioglobe label.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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