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Volume

(Napalm Records)    

 

     Just when it seemed as if the music and entertainment industries as a whole were once again preparing to unleash the hopelessly contrived, 'by-the-numbers' banalities of yore, I unexpectedly find myself basking in the presence of a group that openly defies the usual preconceived notions of the mainstream. Formed in Newport, South Wales in 1998 amid the ashes of the then newly-defunct Dub War, Skindred issued their groundbreaking Howard Benson-Produced debut Babylon in 2002 via an alliance between Bieler Brothers and Lava Records. Returning in 2007 with Roots Rock Riot and in 2009 with Shark Bites And Dog Fights, the group continued to differentiate themselves by wisely avoiding the blatant pretensions of their few would-be contemporaries. Now, armed with Volume (2015) and an unlikely partnership with Austrian independent titans Napalm Records, their latest--and undeniably greatest--audio menagerie to date, the group now appears destined for world subjugation.

     On the stellar Volume (2007), an expertly assembled fourteen song collection of Eelectronica and Hip Hop-fueled, self-proclaimed 'Ragga Metal', each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling--albeit hook-laden--“Under Attack” and the truly self-explanatory lament “Shut Ya Mouth”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Wisely re-capturing the razor-sharp precision that has undeniably personified much of the group's existence (the previously-mentioned gems Babylon and Shark Bites And Dog Fights serve as prime examples), the frequently ferocious five-some proves their mettle with excruciating detail. Deftly showcasing their ironclad grasp on the increasingly complex auditory amalgams that has become their unflinching trademark without overly focusing on a particular element, the group dispenses with the businesses at hand, locking down on an oft-airtight groove.

     Continuing with the maddeningly infectious tirade “The Healing” and the unnervingly scalding 'fight the power' modus operandi “Straight Jacket”, the steadfast--to say the very least--combination ex-Dub War vocalist Benji Webbe, guitarist Michael Fry (a.k.a. Mikeydemus), bassist/co-founder Daniel Pugsley, drummer 'Dirty' Arya Goggin and newly-added DJ Programmer Dan Sturgess (a.k.a. Brixton/Sanchez) steamroll ahead with what can only be described as a truly sickening ease. With Webbe, Fry and Arya leading the charge, the group punctuates each multi-dimensional composition with a carefully-calculated swagger and sturm und drang that tastefully showcases the group's already much-celebrated musical proficiencies. Methodically working their way through an impressively varied set that leaves the proverbial average listener (i.e. you, the increasingly faithful reader) wanting more, the group offers an ideal variation of the standard issue formulations of the genre.

     Produced and Mixed by the acclaimed James 'Lerock' Loughrey (Depeche Mode, Manic Street Preachers, White Zombie) at The Strongroom studios in East London, other standouts, including the scathing Punk and Reggae hybrid “No Justice” and the emotionally-charged closer “Three Words”, further solidify the pioneering group's burgeoning reputation as a bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Easily surpassing the curiously Russ Ballard-fueled Kill The Power (2014), the group appears wholly intent on redefining the established boundaries of yore, effectively separating themselves from their few legitimate contemporaries. With the group's inane revolving door line-up and label-related issues now rectified, the resulting sonic furies seethe with unnervingly authentic levels of angst, aggression and, most importantly, political unrest, leaving the delightfully deafening Volume the improbably long-running group's most wholly satisfying achievement to date.

     So what's wrong? Still not sure you'll 'dig' it? While the group's quasi-revolutionary blend of Alternative Rock, Heavy Metal and Reggae are most definitely not for the faint of heart (or, for that matter, those with a genuine and sincere interest in broadening their musical horizons), the majority--if not all--of the decidedly multi-dimensional wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to further bolster their ever-growing legion of notoriously rabid constituents. Even if you somehow still find yourself unable to wholeheartedly embrace the group's already well-documented penchant(s) for lyrical and compositional uniqueness, this is quite possibly as good as it gets. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly diverse, thought-provoking alternative to the painfully mindless din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counterirritant for whatever ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.


Select Discography

Volume (2015)

Kill The Power (2014)

Union Black (2011)

Shark Bites And Dog Fights (2009)

Roots Rock Riot (2007)

Babylon (2002)


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