Review Summary: Skindred play it as safe as humanly possible.
Skindred emerged into the music scene in the beginning of the 2000's with their brand of reggae rock with punk and metal influences, which they themselves amply call ragga metal. Their debut, Babylon
, was a power-filled punky rock album, and while a bit uncouth, it was definitely an interesting and gripping album. After that the band released Roots Rock Riot
in 2007 (Babylon
was released in 2004) and took a slightly different approach: Roots Rock Riot
exhibited the band leaning away from their punk influences and the metallic riffing was also down-tuned to a degree. The atmosphere on Roots Rock Riot
was not as straightforward, aggressive, and in your face as it was on Babylon
, but it was more cohesive, carved and thought-out. While Roots Rock Riot
definitely isn't a soft album, the second half of it does show the mellow side of Skindred with even the word "mainstream" popping to mind (not that it would be a bad thing in this case). Most of the band's fans thought that the change in sound was a good move, and in truth, it really was, as the formula Skindred used on Babylon
would've become stale rather quickly. So with that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Skindred are continuing on that path - becoming softer and softer with each release -, but what is a surprise is that they have lost their edge.
Shark Bites and Dog Fights
can very well be described with one word: unimpressive. The thing that bugs me the most about this album is the complete and utter lack of energy (if to exclude to opener and single for this album, "Stand For Something"). Even the super-energetic vocalist and frontman of Skindred, Benji Webbe, sounds a bit stale in parts which is a sure sign that things are not okay. When listening to songs like "Corrupted", "Who Are You?" (which is a failed attempt at a atmospheric reggae song), and "Days Like These" I can't believe I am listening to the same band that released Babylon
just a mere 5 years ago. What happened? Did the need for more mainstream attention really become so intolerable (which would be funny, especially regarding the fact that Skindred are far more well-known than the average hard rock/metal band), that they needed to water-down their music which wasn't very complex in the first place? Please, Skindred, if you guys are reading this, do at least try to put some effort into the next record you make as this album just sounds like a watered-down rehash of old ideas.
There are still SOME good qualities about Shark Bites and Dog Fights
though. For example, the already briefly mentioned "Stand For Something" has that energy the rest of the album so desperately lacks. It has a solid build-up and good hooks to keep the listener interested. A good pick for a single as it is a decent rock song. Skindred's version of the infamous "Electric Avenue" is also a curveball. At first it sounds like a run-of-the-mill song, but on multiple listens, it becomes evident that it actually is a more than decent cover. Skindred get a thumbs-up for at least giving us a solid cover-song. Finally there is the song "Calling All Stations", where the chunky, down-tuned powerchords, which are used throughout the album, actually work. It is not excellent by any means, but it does warrant a few listens, if not more.
The style of music that Skindred performs is definitely not meant to be innovative or groundbreaking, but this album undoubtedly lacks new ideas. Many of the songs sound like B-sides from Roots Rock Riot
, and the complete lack of any new ideas is almost as bad as the album lacking any kind of energy. Rather simple powerchords have always been used by Skindred, but when on their previous album's they were at least compelling and captivating and got the job done, then on Shark Bites and Dog Fights
they just sound dry and dull. Too many of the guitar-lines fall in between Roots Rock Riot
and something that screams "mainstream rock". Webbe's vocals are good, but like noted above, even these feel a bit uninspired at times.
For conclusion, there is nothing else to do then to admit that Skindred have just released a crappy album that is in no way up to their usual standards. It is evident that after the successful Roots Rock Riot
the band knew that their new record can not be a disappointment, and so they decided to play it safe and create Roots Rock Riot Vol.2, but sadly they only fell on their faces. Too simple, too rehashed, too unimpressive, too boring, too stale, too casual. The path Skindred are on is taking them right to the pit of mainstream music industry that threatens to swallow up this welsh quartet. Skindred does still have potential, but in order for them to retain it, their next record better be at least something along the vein of Roots Rock Riot
in terms of quality, not a watered-down B-side of it.