Featuring ex-Dub War vocalist Benji, 'Babylon' is a re-release of Skindred's debut album and what a welcome re-release it is, with added bonus tracks this is an album that refuses to be ignored. Skindred are pretty unique in todays scene, blending elements of punk, metal and reggae in a highly effective way. Other bands have done this before of course (Bad Brain and The Ruts to name but two) but Skindred have really taken things on to a new level and created a sound all of their own.
From the first track 'Nobody' you're hit by hard and catchy tunes that effortlessly blend power and melody. 'Start First' is rawer on the vocal front but no less effective, short interludes of almost drum and bass music are interspersed throughout the album and all add to the effect. 'Selector' again takes elements of drum and bass in the verse but then breaks into a fast metal chorus with incisive and loud guitars, this is impressive material and it's a wonder that Skindred didn't make it bigger on the back of the original release.
The key elements that persist throughout 'Babylon' are raw energy, power and a refreshing unique sound; it has something of everything, you can dance to it, you can rock out to it or sing along to it all in equal measure! Midway through Skindred demonstrate their diversity with 'We Want', which features a more reggae led tune but it never loses that underlying current of energy and power. 'Set It Off' mixes all the influences together in one hell of a catchy tune, great riff, insistent chorus and a rocking groove of a beat behind it all. The further you get into 'Babylon' the more you can't help but get drawn into it.
On one hand you're blasted with songs such as 'Firing The Love' that features a fast and thumping metal riff with vocal grunts but straight after you get 'Tears' that is a completely different animal, mid paced and melodious. It all just works and it works very well, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if they stole the show from headliners HIM on their recent US tour!
The influence of The Clash is evident on tracks like 'Fear', which takes the tune from 'London Calling' and mashes it around a bit! Once again though it's impressive and shows the diversity of Skindred and leads perfectly into the last couple of tracks, the incisive urgency of title track 'Babylon' and the crunching riffage of 'The Beginning of Sorrows'. The four bonus tracks, acoustic versions of album tracks are welcome additions and suggest that Skindred could probably make a name for themselves in a different circuit were they just to do acoustic versions!
The bottom line here is that Skindred are a damn good band and 'Babylon' is a fine album. This re-release should see bigger audiences in attendance on their December UK tour and it all bodes well for the future, Skindred could be big, very big! Watch this space.