Skindred-Union Black

Having a reputation as one of the best British live bands around for the past decade is no small feat but it's one that Skindred have held onto without ever showing signs of losing grip, playing killer show after killer show. The raga-metallers recorded output has however never quite matched the unrelenting and undeniable force of their live show, not due to poor songwriting by any means, the band have been pushing genre boundaries for years now, but more in that releases have been few and far between and occasionally feeling frustratingly reigned-in; the four hugely talented musicians never being allowed to fully explore all of their eccentricities and ideas. That is until now, until the release of third album proper "Union Black". Simply put this record is a masterpiece and the Skindred album that we've all been waiting for, comprising twelve brilliant songs built upon a foundation of metal, reggae, dancehall, dubstep, synths, rap and everything in between, with every distinct aspect working brilliantly alongside and within one another.

The album begins tantalisingly with a raw electrified rendition of 'God Save The King', immediately setting its marker out, as frontman Benji Webbe describes it, a 'celebration of this nation's multi-culturalism', before launching into the Nu-Metal echoing, huge-chorused 'Warning'. It's an explosion of an opening and guitarist Mikey Demus' unconventional riffage echoes that of Wes Borland or James 'Munky' Schaffer, Dan Pugsley's bending bass sounds huge and drummer Arya Goggin provides a colossal bed of pounding rhythms, all the while Webbe proves himself as one of music's most versatile vocalists, changing from guttural growls to soulful hooks within mere seconds of each other. From then on in its wall to wall anthems that offer constant surprises. 'Cut Dem', inspired by Webbe's personal experiences with Britain's knife-crime, fuses anthemic pop with a wobbling dubstep drop and a crushing declarative breakdown whilst major highlight 'Living A Lie' sees Webbe change his vocal style to that of a Grime MC as an irresistibly apocalyptic riff twists around his confrontations towards soulless gang-crime fakers. 'Guntalk' is pure dancehall, evoking much-missed scenes of joyous bandstand dancing before jungle breaks and helium vocals lift the track up and away, it's a departure that fits in seamlessly. 'Make Your Mark' is very possibly the most uplifting song of the year, embodying pure aural joy as Webbe's soaring chorus of 'everything will work out, you hear what I say' shines over a wonderfully sun-streaked soundscape of opportunities. 'Death To All Spies' opens with an authentic porch-feel vocal and guitar while 'Bad Man Ah Bad Man' possesses the most reggae-feel with tongue-in-cheek references to the record's title before closer 'Game Over' stomps and stutters as metal and dubstep collide and showcases one of Webbe's most delicate melodic vocals to date.

If there's any justice this album shall take Skindred to the successful heights that they have always threatened to go to. Essential listening.