Stay out of the shallows

Skindred released their third outing ‘Shark Bites and Dog Fights’ to coincide with a sell out tour and a firm affirmation of their status as one of the leading bands on the circuit. Having built up a real head of steam with the reissue of ‘Babylon’ and subsequent follow up ‘Roots, Rock, Riot’ this was always going to be a key album for the band and it hits our stereo with a sense of eager anticipation.

What Skindred do so well is blend hard hitting riffs with big singalong choruses that gives them the ability to appeal to fans of both hardcore and those with an ear for a more melodic approach and there is plenty of that in this album. Openers ‘Stand for Something’ and ‘You Can’t Stop It’ are classic Skindred and you just know they are going to kick off in the live set. The heads are nodding almost from the start and any fears that they might have produced a duff ‘un are rapidly dispelled!

When I saw ‘Electric Avenue’ on the track listing I just knew what it was and prepared myself to cringe but they pull it off with aplomb, putting their own twist on it, making it sound like it was always meant to be heavy with Benji supplementing the original melody with all manner of ragga insertions and the odd soaring escapade.

There are some lighter tracks such as ‘Corrupted’ and whilst it has a decent chorus it falls a little flat compared to the majority of the album and doesn‘t work as well as say ‘We Want' did on first album ‘Babylon', which was much more of a contrast. This comes as the first of a trio of songs that display a more mature and serious sounding side to the band and whilst none of them are bad songs by any stretch it does feel like something of a lull and it’s left to closer ‘Invincible’ to bring things back on track. Initially I think ‘Invincible’ the most obvious song on the album and in many respects it is but there’s nothing wrong with that and it works gloriously well and ensures that 2 hours later you will still be singing it in your head.

To call it more commercially aware is probably doing them a disservice, they have always had that but overall this album is a little more polished and generally it works but at the same time it lacks the rawness and punch of ‘Babylon’. Bands have to move on however and it’s rare that you can recapture that first impression, so for a third album taken in it’s own right this is a fine offering that stands up well against both their previous output and their contemporaries.