Skindred - Union Black (3Wise Records)

Mixing it up, Skindred style...
Release Date: 
22 Sep 2011 - 11:30pm

Skindred’s latest offering, if you’ll excuse my Victorian era metaphor, goes off like a penny firework in a glass bottle. Union Black is a heinous mix of musical styles and this is what I love about the album. Of course, it is this diverse range of styles that may put people off but for me, I’m waaaaay into it.

The opener Union Black is a dischordant version of God Save The Queen (the British national anthem, not a Sex Pistols cover), and I’m sure the tabloids in England will have a field day if they ever get a sniff of it. Not that there’s anything disrespectful about it (just think how Hendrix was vilified after his cover of the Star Spangled Banner).

Warning is up next and it’s got some awesome cutting guitars and groove-a-licious hooks. Coupled with a shout along chorus to get you going and some lovely drums from Arya Goggin it’s sure to be in the frontal lobe of everyone this (Southern) Spring. I’m reminded of Dubwar but maybe that’s just the familiarity of Benji Webb’s vocals coming back to haunt me?

Cut Dem starts with the harsh tasty beats of drum and bass then it’s into a spot of dubstep. Webb’s vocal range is amazing...then Mikeydemus drops in with the guitars and it’s ‘catchy tune a-go-go’. I ponder why Skindred are not more popular than they are? Possibly the fact that they allow themselves to be influenced by so many styles that it just blows peoples' fucking minds?

Doom Riff is all distorted guitars with Webb changing his vocal style yet again. Another catchy chorus and everyone’s into it, going slightly nutty on their respective instruments. Goggin is a monster on the kit and you can hear every beat on this album. Gorgeous.

Living A Lie has a soothing keyboard intro and there’s a massive electro influence on this track. Beautiful guitar work and Webb’s scathingly satirical lyrics are weaved throughout the track – there’s so much going on in the mix (Dan Pugsley’s bass is a delight and he also doubles on the programming; no mean feat – this album is jammed with all manner of samples and electronica) that I hear new stuff every time I play it.

Guntalk is one of my favourite tracks on Union Black; an out and out reggae number with a natty dread intro; there’s brass galore on here and it’s just so up-tempo that it makes me grin whenever I hear it. Someone pass me a reefer immediately. The second half of the track has the drum and bass influence which takes us into Own You, a romping number with guitars and bass to match. The keyboards ooze sexiness and the drums are tight. There’s a whiff of old school hardcore (techno not punk) too, which is charming to a foolish old man such as myself...

Make Your Mark has an intro that bobs and weaves, with sunny guitars (I suspect I was in a rather ‘abstract’ place when I took notes for this review) and a fast paced introduction. Add a dash more drum and bass, some more guitars and some vigorous vocal delivery (Webb’s ideas on vocal timing are mental – he manages to fit so much into such small spaces) and it’s another scorcher. There are some nice echoing guitars against some minimal drums in places too, which I loved.

Get It Now has a Mudhoney-esque fuzzy bass which is prominent throughout this tune. I love it. Blast this fucker out to frighten and confuse the neighbours. The drums are getting beaten to death and the outro with piano and vocals is a real pleasure to hear. Going into Bad Man Ah Bad Man, you get a ragga style intro that leads into pure Skindred sound; it’s reggae, it’s ska, there’s metal and dub; it’s all mashed together to make Skindred's unique sound.

Death To All Spies has a riff that sounds cheeky to my ear. The production from James Loughrey is incredibly well balanced; it’s not over produced but you can hear everything – there are little touches that become apparent the more you listen to this album. Final track Game Over is all about the drums. If you caught Skindred when they were recently in Australia then you must have been a very lucky little metaller. And for that, I hate you.

There’s something about this album that really gets my thin, old man blood pumping. Webb’s lyrics are not particularly shiny and not particularly happy but there’s a vein of positivity in there that I find it unashamedly up beat. The diversity of this album might put some people off but give it a go, reefer and brandy in hand, and you might just love it.