Skindred - Volume // Napalm Records - 9/10
Winners of the 2011 award for Best Live Act and pioneers of the “Newport Helicopter”, Welsh reggae metal act Skindred are due to return to the frontline with over 25 performances across Europe, including dates at London's Brixton Academy and Czech Republic's Dead End Festival. For those keen to catch the action, the tour kicks off in Cardiff on 31st October - just one day after the release of the band's sixth studio album, Volume.
Recorded at The Strongroom in East London, Volume leads on from 2014's Kill The Power and marks the band's first release under the flag of Napalm Records, whose current roster also includes the likes of Alestorm, Devildriver and Coal Chamber.
Skindred's hard-hitting, riff-heavy and groovy style returns in full force in their latest release, weaving a highly enjoyable cocktail-like mix of genre-hopping, rife with influential tweaks throughout. At its core, Volume displays a tightly packed formula of melodic vocal highs, rhythmic percussive aggression and the faint stink of nostalgic songwriting twists, creating a feeling of déjà vu whilst maintaining a sound fresh enough to make an impact on the modern music-lover.
“Nostalgia” seems to be a key word with Volume, and as I listen through the album's 14 tracks (weighing in at around 40 minutes of content), I can't shake it from my mind. Snaking effortlessly from the booming opener “Under Attack” to the closing moments of “Three Words”, something laced within this album has me looking back through rose-tinted glasses at the yesteryear of musical styles.
Reminiscent undertones are most obviously present in the nu-metal-esque sound of “Saying It Now” and the punk-infused riot of “No Justice”, though the overall infusion of old-school jungle, reggae and hip-hop influences that has become a staple of the band's style enhances this in tracks like “Sound The Siren”, “Shut Ya Mouth” and each of the album's “interval” sections.
Interval tracks aren't exactly a new concept, but while they're often some completely unrelated bullshit (yes, I'm thinking of Marilyn Manson's “Baboon Rape Party” in The Golden Age Of Grotesque), Skindred have kept things tied together pretty neatly. The periodic breaks in the music are less than a minute long, yet are served with a more electronic focus to contrast the distorted guitar-work and rasped vocals. While I'm not the most educated person when it comes to these styles of music, it's a refreshing addition to the mix of sounds presented in Volume and helps to keep things from getting too “samey”.
I've focused on the nostalgic elements of Volume so far, but that's not to say that it's old-hat. Michael Fry's ear-shatteringly crunchy guitar work is energetic and meaty, with heavy-set riffs and chord progressions burnt into “Under Attack” and “Hit The Ground” that are absolutely, 100% mosh-worthy and vibrant in sound. Coupled with Benji Webbe's agitated vocal outbursts and the catchy rhythmic backing of Dan Pugsly (bass guitar) and Arya Goggin (drums), Volume creates bite and vigor packed with enough juice, energy and content to be enjoyable on all accounts.
I've had the album for a good few weeks now and though the recent releases of Soilwork, Lamb Of God and Iron Maiden are still fresh in my mind, I keep coming back to Volume for my quick fix of jumpy, energetic metal goodness. There are gritty, pretty and memorable moments throughout and I can't seem to put this one down; something I'm entirely happy to run with.
Oddly, there's a part of me that feels that the smooth and uplifting reggae-style rhythms and vocal style of Skindred's latest album would have been better suited as a summer release, fit for lazy afternoons chilling in the sun. This is a minor observation of course, and doesn't factor into the overall impact of the album, but I'm going to have to wait a little while before I can chill with a bottle of cider, turning cheap meat into charcoal on a disposable barbeque while blasting this album. A bit of a shame really, but I guess I can burn sprouts and turkey just as good.
Skindred's progression of sound and style is clear in their latest release, even if it's not wholly ground-breaking. Well-versed fans of the welsh five-piece are unlikely to be surprised by the content presented here, but this isn't a negative point. Volume serves to tighten the screws of a well-oiled machine, standing as proof of a band sinking deeper into their own “comfort zone”, and it marks a strong continuation of their expanding career.
Following the announcement of Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden as headline acts of next year's Download Festival, the internet rumour mill is buzzing with talk of other potential performances for next year's summer fest. Skindred are no strangers to Download, and have performed at Donnington almost every two years on the dot.
Just a hint; their last appearance there was in 2014...
1. Under Attack (4:04)
2. Volume (3:37)
3. Hit The Ground (3:43)
4. Shut Ya Mouth (3:43)
5. I (0:47)
6. The Healing (4:02)
7. Sound The Siren (3:21)
8. Saying It Now (4:02)
9. II (0:48)
10. Straight Jacket (3:43)
11. III (0:52)
12. No Justice (2:44)
13. Stand Up (3.25)
14. Three Words (4:13)