Anyone who has seen a Skindred show will be able to vouch that they’re undoubtedly one of the best live bands Britain has to offer. Anyone who has also heard a Skindred album will be able to vouch that there’s no question which form is better. They’ve always been a band with a patchy past concerning studio recordings, last year’s lacklustre Kill The Power being the perfect example, halting any momentum built up by the considerably better Union Black. New album Volume, however, is a bit different, and definitely better because of it.
Whereas on Kill The Power the band attempted to separate themselves from their ragga-metal roots by going in every direction possible, Volume sees them giving it another try but in a much more straightforward fashion. It does them a world of good as well – this is an album that could be played front to back in any rock club in the land and would go down an absolute storm. That is to say, depth is in fairly short supply, but in terms of pure raucous rock anthems, Volume goes above and beyond the call of duty. Shut Ya Mouth and Straight Jacket are the kind of floor-filling bangers that Skindred have often made their usual stock, while the singalong refrains of No Justice and the title track will no doubt be lending themselves to massive festival crowds fairly soon. It’s that rarest of beasts – a Skindred album with a truly remarkable level of consistency.
But while the songs are good, the one thing that hardly ever gets mentioned about Skindred is the band themselves, and just how great they are on here. Sure, these songs aren’t the most technically advanced in comparison to a lot of bands’ output, but it’s the sum of each member’s part that makes them what they are. Mikey Demus delivers some of the finest riffs that Wes Borland never wrote on Hit The Ground and the frantic Sound The Siren, while DJ Dan Sturgess’s contributions are less in-your-face than they were on Kill The Power, with the likes of Under Attack benefitting from a more subtle electronic backbone. Of course though, Skindred is not Skindred without Benji Webbe, and on Volume he’s his typically boisterous and loveable self. But while he’s become synonymous with his phenomenally well-flowing reggae-raps, Volume sees him expanding some repertoire to some quite adept singing as on Saying It Now. He’s hardly the greatest vocalist in the world – the same also being said for the rest of the band – but it’s just one element that fits with all the others so well to make Volume the album that is is.
But even saying that kind of sounds forced, and it’s hard to compliment this album without it sound insincere or backhanded. No, Volume isn’t an amazing album, and it probably won’t make many, if any, year-end lists. But what it does exceptionally is give a snapshot of exactly where Skindred are in 2015, and how that can translate into a consistently decent album. And considering how rocky their recorded past has been and how they’re slowly approaching their second decade of existence, it’s fair to say that’s a job well done.
For fans of: Limp Bizkit, hed (p.e.), P.O.D
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Volume’ by Skindred is out now on Napalm Records.