The word ‘underrated’ is one that gets thrown around a lot – usually when one of your favourite bands doesn’t get the commercial recognition you feel they deserve – but in Welsh ragga/punk/metal crew Skindred‘s case the word couldn’t be more apt. Having been working at their craft for over a decade, during which time they’ve carved themselves a reputation as one of the most incendiary live bands on the planet, Skindred are now at a place where the rest of the world can now jump aboard and come along for the ride. And fourth album Union Black is the perfect album to elevate them from Britain’s best kept secret to world class performers.
Going that little bit further than previous albums, Union Black sees the band being more – for use of a better word – Skindred than ever before. Mixing sounds from the band’s rich musical pallette, tracks like the dub-heavy ‘Guntalk’ and the ragga flavoured ‘Bad Man Ah Bad Man’ expand on the melodic vibes that this band so effortlessly trade in, but when they really kick in on the heavier tracks, such as the built-for-the-live-arena ‘Get It Now’ and the fist-pumping ‘Warning’, the mood is one of joyous unity, hence the title.
As ever, singer Benji Webbe is the real focal point here and if his performances could ever be described as restrained then here he is let off the leash to wreak vocal havok over all of the album’s twelve tracks. Quite how he managed to lay down such an energetic vocal attack in the confines of a studio beggars belief, as it’s quite easy to imagine him leaping around like a loon whilst spitting out the lyrics to ‘Living a Lie’. Elsewhere, his laid-back croon seems to be an instrument all of its own as he injects those oh-so-catchy choruses with an almost over-the-top sense of melody.
Overall, Union Black is a culmination of everything the band have achieved so far. Although not a radical departure from anything they’ve done before, everything just seems amped up that little bit more. The crisp production and energetic performances combine to come as close to capturing their live sound as has ever been achieved on an album, and although it may come a very close second to debut album Babylon in terms of actual songs, this is pretty much the album that Skindred needed to make. Let’s hope the rest of the world takes notice.
Official MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/skindred