|Skindred - Babylon|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 31 August 2004|
Skindred is comprised of Dirty Arya on drums, Mikey Dee on guitar, Daniel Pugsley on bass and programming and Benji Webbe on lead vocals. They are interested in creating a musical revolution. They just might do it.
While punk metal is not usually the type of thing I like, only because a lot of low-register screaming is often involved, this group absolutely surprised me. Hailing from South Wales, in and of itself a distinct place, Skindred have fashioned what they promote as a reggae punk metal fusion. The surprising thing is that, while there are clearly some rough edges in Babylon, there also some amazingly kicking beats and very clever and musically mature moments. South Wales has a large West Indian, African and Arabic population, and taken together with the natural musical influences inherent growing up in the U.K., the group has truly taken little bits of everything and somehow fused it all together in a way that actually seems to make sense and kicks some serious butt.
This group not only wants to bring rock into a new era, they think they are clearly the ones to do it. “Nobody” kicks things off with a warning: “Music we make to make the crowd jump up/Crowd get hyped explode and erupt/Blend up the Ragga metal punk hip-hop/Unity sound killer groove non stop/In ah Fe dis pit only the strong will survive.” If you’re not prepared, you won’t survive these guys. Blending great, melodic vocals with grinding, wretched screaming, as a listener one can’t help but be overwhelmed with either the musical ability or the sheer power that blasts through the speakers. “Pressure” really keys into this, as Webbe’s vocals sound a bit like Ziggy Marley crossed with Lenny Kravitz and the backing vocals sound like demons. It’s simply a great idea to cross sweet-sounding rock vocals with hard punk metal, “let the bodies hit the floor”-type vocals. Scattered throughout are three “Interludes,” which either serve as times to talk or simple bridges between tracks. The first one leads into the effervescently outrageous “Selector,” which again follows the same formula set down previously with great results.
However, while the idea is great, there are some flaws. Most of the guitar parts are simple and not very exciting, like on “Start First,” but they get the job done of filling in some of the harshness that the vocals themselves can’t accomplish alone. This generally results in a type of malaise that sets in about midway through the album, even with its massively upbeat nature. Valleys are needed to truly enjoy peaks, but there is only one valley and that comes near the end of the album. This valley is titled “The Fear,” and it is absolutely incredible, toning things down just a tad to use more of a straight reggae/rock sense with great countering vocals between Webbe’s distinctive reggae vocals and other, softer vocals. Co-written by the late Joe Strummer, this provides really the only auditory relief in 47 minutes of unrelenting musical assault. Thankfully, most of the tracks are somewhat short, but too many of them blend one right into the other and end up sounding like noise. Perhaps they’re right when they sing that “nobody gets out alive.” Either way, look for Skindred to plant themselves firmly on the map with this debut album. P.S.: there’s a bonus track at the end, and it is another great valley.