Sunday, May 1, 2011

Skindred: Union Black

     Once again I'm afraid I've stepped out of the realm of obscure albums to review this latest lp from Welsh rock band Skindred. Skindred first caught my eye with the 2009 album 'Shark Bites and Dog Fights', though this album certainly steps up to the mark and hits the heights that that record didn't. Formed in 1998, all band members are Welsh, but the lead singer Benji Webbe manages to create wonderful Jamaican vocals, which are one of the band's selling points.
     With these sort of vocals, the band describes themselves as 'ragga metal', and this feel, though prominent, is underlined with alternative and punk rock sounds, highlighted in memorable hip hop sensibilities. Bearing in mind that this band is a metal group, there is no doubt that there are positive vibes that run underneath the dark lyrics and screaming vocals. You simply can't help but smile at the beginning of the second track, 'Warning', for example.
     The first track immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album, with Skindred's synthesised version of the national anthem. This, matched with the title of the album, implies a rising level of violence and hatred in the UK, which appears as a focal point throughout this twelve track record. 'Cut Dem' relates itself to this idea directly, talking of 'sharpening the blade', though the sixth track lightens the mood slightly, with it's obvious Jamaican feel and beat, be it with the idea of violence at the forefront of the lyrics.
     Fans of Skindred definitely won't be disappointed with this album. The roaring lion on the album cover is symbolic of the power this album retains, with it's big, loud and roaring punk sound. I did feel though, that Skindred steered away a little from their original sound, as seen on 'Roots Rock Riot' and 'Babylon', but I really didn't mind that much at all.
     Overall, this is a brilliant album, with it's varied tone and wonderfully original sound, relative to that of today's rock scene. A must for any fan of Skindred or for those who enjoy an aggressive punk-rock sound, I'm sure you'll be drawn into this record and rock along to it's heavy and synthesised beats. Benji Webbe's vocals add to this experience, be it keeping a distance from the band's earlier discography.