Album Reviews: Babylon by Skindred3.5 stars out of 5
Emerging from the ashes of the oft-cited-but-rarely-heard Dub War, Skindred's unique sound is usually called a metal-reggae hybrid, though that description is misleading. The "reggae" part consists mostly in singer Benji Webbe's style of toasting, bellowing, and crooning all in the same tune (plus, of course, the obligatory references to Babylon). But bassist-programmer Daniel Pugsley and drummer Dirty Arya maintain a driving and metallic rhythm, only approaching a skank when it is electronically programmed. The result is a loud and hooky pop-metal album dominated by Benji's ragga-hectoring and an underlying critique of the entire world system.
Sound ambitious? Probably, but when's the last time you heard a really great metal record with a firm grip on political (not to mention personal) morality? The centerpiece of the record is the majestic anthem "Pressure," hooked by a squawking guitar and a pounding-the-steering-wheel chorus infected with the utter joy of turning up that volume knob. I intend no insult when I predict that this song, like "Pour Some Sugar on Me," will inevitably be covered by a boy band. Even better is "Set it Off," which strikes a glorious balance between Benji's virtuoso bellowing and his ass-shaking toasts. Or how about "Tears," which features a power-pop riff straight outta 1978, plus a tender dreamy bridge that will melt your heart? Plus you get enough ragga-screamo noise ("World Domination"), Clash tributes ("The Fear"), and wacky goofs ("We Want") to keep the album thrusting ahead. A fascinating and memorable record -- strongly recommended. - Mark Desrosiers
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