Review Summary: A band that has never shied from variety, uses it to fun and impressive effect.
Skindred, a four-piece from Wales who have made a name for themselves with their four previous releases by cleverly mixing the styles of Heavy Metal, Hardcore and most importantly, Reggae. And lets face it, anyone who hasn't wanted to hear what the band call ragga-metal is either mad, or very, very boring. While the previous releases have been fairly straightforward rock records which have simply incorporated the singer, Benji Webbe's Reggae vocals and screams the band have obviously chosen to do something fairly different on this album. We were first alerted to this when we learnt that the live lineup for the band would be changing and that they were to be gaining an MC of sorts who would deal with the electronics that this album was going to be using. The band spoke in interviews about their musical sound being expanded and embracing genres such as Hip Hop, Drum n' Bass and Dubstep. They were not lying.
The album opens with the surreal title track that features a slow build up to a Drum n' Bass version of the British National Anthem(yes really), possibly to reflect the fact that this is the first album that the band has chosen to record in the UK. After this interesting opener, we are thrown into 'Warning', the first song we heard off the album and thankfully, its awesome. If you are a fan off the previous four albums there is not even a slight chance that you are going to dislike this song as it sums up just about everything that the band has been doing right. The down-tuned guitars fit perfectly with Benji's vocals and there has not been a chorus as built for the live environment and parties as this for a while. The song also features Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach fame adding some change to the chorus. Although his part sounds exactly like it could be in a Papa Roach song it never sounds out of place and adds to the song overall. The next song on the album is 'Cut Dem', and if Warning summed up everything they have been doing right then this sums up what they will be doing right. Five seconds into the song and the distorted guitar riff is greeted suddenly by a bass drop and the guitar is joined by a jittery Drum n' Bass beat. Anyone who is familiar with Dubstep will feel completely at home with the verse with Benji rapping over those heavy electronic 'wob' beats. Once you hit the chorus though everything comes back together and the guitars make there entrance for a memorable chorus. Around the two minute mark as you are settling into the song you are treated by another drop as the song suddenly becomes a remix of itself. The vocals are stretched out and the drums become increasingly eclectic. Its strange but hell, if you can't deal with this turn of events, good luck with the rest of the album.
The next song, 'Doom Riff' is a highlight of the album and is by far one of the heavier tracks which keeps the electronics to a minimum with its punching drums and infectious chanting, this will no doubt work perfectly when played live. Next is 'Living a Lie', which after a strange electronic start quickly turns into another great track. Benji shines on this track showing off an awesome variety of vocal styles, he raps in a way that sounds very similar to Dizzee Rascal before showing us that his clean vocals are up to it as well in the chorus. The song throws in the odd bit of electronics in places as well, to great effect. Now Skindred have always been a band to include at least one song that is pure reggae, and the next track, 'Guntalk' is just that. The song has no guitars and everything apart from the last minute is Benji rapping over a simple looped synth and beat. It also happens to be a really good track, and although I am certainly not a massive fan of Rap and Hip Hop I did really enjoy this track and could easily become a singalong tune with the right crowd. 'Own You', the next track, while not really a standout track for me is still a good track and balances the elements of Rap, Rock and Electro well. 'Make your Mark' similarly does not stand out much for me although it has to mentioned that some of Benji's more aggressive vocals are fantastic. 'Get It Now' is the kind of song that sums up how much fun Nu-Metal can be and is one of the tracks on the album that stands out as being incredibly fun with with the repeated 'Get it Noooowww' at the chorus. This is one for Limp Bizkit to beat. The awesomely titled 'Bad Man ah Bad Man' is next and reminds me of 'Cut Dem' with its melodic chorus and techno sections and is just as good. The even more awesomely titled 'Death to all Spies' is next and after a very cool beginning which uses a slightly muffled acoustic guitar singing combination the song has parts that could easily be a video game soundtrack with a pumping chorus that is greatly complimented by the throbbing synths and simple but effective guitar work. The final track on the album 'Game Over' is an appropriate finisher to the package and greatly combines guitar and synth work, before one last cry of 'game over!' before the song finishes suddenly.
Overall this is not an album that everyone is going to fully appreciate first time and that some might not appreciate ever, especially fans of the more straightforward rock songs they have done, particularly on 'Shark Bites and Dog Fights' but as you get used to the many twists that the album throws at you it becomes better and better. This is not perfect album, I felt that the bass guitar could have been used in a much more effective way considering the genres the album uses and some of the choruses could varied from the melodic anthemic formula but these complaints do not damage the album too much. If the band can pull this sound off live and continue to incorporate such variety so well in subsequent releases then Skindred have a bright future ahead of them.