Skindred - Roots Rock Riot
Marcus Warner 07/04/2008
Skindred are an enigma in Britain at least, they are moderately successful touring band on this dear Island which they originate (Newport, South Wales), in America their last album (the re-released Babylon) sold 350,000 copies and there was a small matter of playing the Warped tour and supporting Korn in Madison Square Garden. Personally, I think it is too Britain's cost that they don't embrace Skindred with same open arms as America.
Their second album 'Roots Rock Riot' should sound fresh, especially to the new members of the band, guitarist Mikee and drummer Aria (who didn't write or play on Babylon, but toured it for a few years), and I'm sure bassist Dan is taking a more beefed up songwriter role on this album. For those of the uninitiated, Skindred's sound is 'ragga metal', not a attempt to position them as pushing some new zeitgeist, but a simple fact that they fuse the intensity of metal and the soul of reggae (with whole a host of others). The album from the outset sounds different and fresher than Babylon, primarily because I think it is a more fair reflection of Skindred's current lineup and a set of even more diverse influences.
Skindred's sound can safely be described as a 'sound system' and audio collage of many genres fused into the central tenet of one factor- melody. Even at their most abrasive, melody seeps through every pore of their music, all thanks to Skindred's vocalist Benji and a band who understand being diverse doesn't mean sticking to awkward juxtapositions for the sake of that concept.
It will prove very difficult to go through the album song by song and provide a definitive understanding of the sound of Skindred, but there are some constants. Huge muscular riffs that sound like Will Haven, intricate guitar lines and time changes that remind listeners of Coheed Cambria, and some of the hugest outright pop sensibilities of Benji's vocal lines. My own view is that Benji has been their star player, but also their enigmatic conundrum- the fact that the band take him to far more challenging places on this album solves the minor criticism that Skindred's previous releases rested on the sole question on whether you liked Benji's vocal. Benji sounds refreshed by this new movement, and a man talented as himself needs that at this stage of his career.
I cannot emphasise how brilliantly executed this album is, craft, guile and no shortage of outright single releasable tunes. Skindred are the gift that keeps on giving, find me a band that sound like them as whole, find me a band that sound accomplished in metal, rock, reggae, prog rock, electronica and drum and bass yet never sound messy. Skindred do that, perhaps best summed up by 'Cause Ah Riot', which starts as a jungle riff and ragga vocal, injects a riff that most metal core band would kill for, returns back to a pop hook chorus, and ends with the best riff the Deftones never wrote. It is frankly, wholeheartedly, a joy to behold.
Skindred- Rat Race video