on 3 May 2012
I'm ashamed to say that I have only just discovered this band. I'd heard about them for a while but was only really inspired to check them out when Metal Hammer put Union Black in the top ten albums of 2011. A couple of views on Youtube later and I had bought the album which I have not stopped listening to for almost a month now. This is music that makes you want to bounce of walls and jump around until your legs give out. The mixture of raggamuffin, dusbstep, metal and punk is brilliantly crafted into a coherent and immediately seductive package. All the musicians are top notch, including Benji Webbe's versatile vocals. Having seen a couple of their extraordinary live performances - for which the band is notorious - on the net, I can safely say that Union Black does very well to capture that raw energy. The guitars go from subtle to absolutely roaring in a nano second. The bass and drums go from complex dance grooves to out and out metal percussive destruction. Absolute killer tracks for me are Warning, Cut Dem, Doom Riff, Living a Lie, Death to all Spies and Game Over. Having said that, there really isn't a weak track here. This is why the album is slowly taking away my sanity as I listen to it in an endless loop. Actually, that's not quite acurate. I have broken the cycle by purchasing their previous album Rock Roots Riot. And now that's got under my skin too. So I guess I'm beyond redemption at this stage. This band should be huge. We should help them get there... If ever I catch these guys live, I'm definitely taking an ambulance home.
on 27 April 2011
I discovered Skindred when they were supporting Rob Zombie with Revoker (whose first album Benji Webbe has produced. Can't wait) and think they are one of the most innovative bands of recent times. They take multiple genres and fit them together neatly. Union Black is no exception; in fact, it goes further than previous albums and incorporates dance into the mix.
The album has relevant messages to emote, and lyrically it is brilliant, but let's move past that and focus on the overall sound of each song.
"Union Black" is an electronic subverted British national anthem. A great intro.
As this ends we are thrown into the starkly contrasting atmosphere of "Warning". The opening riff carries so much energy, and Webbe's voice sounds fantastic. The song gives "Nobody" some serious competition. Jacoby Shaddix's input only strengthens the melody. It's also a blast to hear live.
"Cut Dem" - a perfect example of how Skindred incorporate electronic sounds into their music. They have mastered it, and made it work wonderfully. I'm hooked.
"Doom Riff" is the most catchy song I have heard in ages. It's one of the heaviest, but also one of the most melodic. This will be essential on the set list.
"Living A Lie" - This is where it gets interesting. It opens with an electronic sound, and then breaks into raw metal. It even has rap, and it works. The aggression comes across very strongly, and the melody breaks the song up. Fantastic. One of my favorites.
"Guntalk" is pure reggae. Despite the disturbing veracity of the lyrics, it's a relaxing song. I've never heard anything like it. The slow reggae rhythm changes to an upbeat dance rhythm, and you realise what a unique track this is.
"Own You" is the heaviest track on the album. It's also the most straightforward. I honestly don't have much to say about it. It's pretty good, but not one of the best.
"Make Your Mark" - this is very upbeat and positive, in contrast to "Own You"'s dark concept. The chorus forces you to headbang. It proves Webbe's vocal skills hands down. The range of genres this song crosses is uncountable.
"Get it Now" - This is probably the weakest track, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's great. It's a lot calmer, is structured well, and has some interesting moments. It's also about 30 seconds too long. The chorus regurgitates softly at the end, but I don't see any reason for it. It would have been more concise without this segment.
"Bad Man Ah Bad Man" - A song about playing live, and the energy a show encompasses. This energy is reflected through the chorus. Demus' guitar packs one hell of a punch, and Webbe creates melody with clean vocals. Another highlight of the album.
"Death to All Spies" - The opening riff is addictive, then the verses tone it down, and finally it crescendo's into the slick chorus, and then the pattern begins again. Catchy, addictive, the perfect balance of heaviness, melody, and electronic music. Superb!
"Game Over" - How better to end a great album but with a track with the aspects which make "Cut Dem" and "Doom Riff" so enslaving! A snappy and punchy song. The sudden ending only gets me ready to scroll back to track 1 and listen to it all over again.
There you go. To summarise, this is the most experimental album I have heard in the last ten years. Fans will not be disappointed. It is very different to previous Skindred albums, but it retains their classic traits. Don't miss out.
Bad Man Ah Bad Man
By the way, this is not just an initial reaction. I've been listening to the album all day. I'm hooked. It's like cocaine in my iPod
on 27 May 2011
My love of Skindred comes from seeing them live, Benji Webbe has got to be one of the best front men for any band and absolutely loves being up on stage. And so it's the live performances of songs like Bruises, Trouble and Nobody that made me love the albums... until this one came along.
Easily the most accessible album to the uninitiated (have even caught the missus singing along to it) and, in my opinion, the best album to date!
Album kicks off with a 'remix' of our national anthem followed by the infamous Jacoby Shaddix's cameo in Warning, which just gets more rocking the more I listen to it, and the louder you play it the better it sounds. The dub-step/metal cross over for Cut Dem is brilliantly executed and in general the increased reggae influence on the album is noticeable, especially with Guntalk - a pure reggae track which then slips smoothly into a bit of dance. Bad Man Ah Bad Man is probably my favourite track on the album to generally listen to, although Doom Riff live is just a pleasure. Basically, it's impossible to listen to this album without cranking it up and jumping around the house.
If you love Skindred, then you'll love this. If you don't love Skindred, give this a go and it will change your mind, and if you've never heard any sort of `raggametal' before, then this is the introduction you need.
More than anything else though - GO SEE THEM LIVE!
on 5 October 2012
I saw Skindred live at the Golden Gods and at the time knew nothing at all about them. 25 minutes later, I was a fan. So I picked up Union Black. It's a stonker of an album. In many ways it is odd that Skindred has been embraced by the metal world, as the music is such a hybrid of different ingredients. You can hear ragga, ska, punk and rock in their sound, but it's a far cry from most modern metal. No shredding guitar solos, no screaming vocals - Benji has a superb voice, full of presence and power. Guntalk is a straight up ska track. Doom Riff is a monster. The band know how to write catchy, singalong choruses as well as stomping riffs. It's a terrific album and if you ever get the chance to see Skindred live, seize it!
on 27 July 2011
Only recently got this album but have listened to the band for a couple of years.
Union Black certainly seems to take more of a step back towards their earlier releases, but keeps some of the better aspects of the previous album.
When i first heard the term 'Reggae Metal' I cringed as it made me think of 'Nu-metal' and 'Rap Metal' which I really can't stand.
However, it works very well in everything Skindred have produced so far and in my opinion it works better than ever here. The Reggae aspect is minimal at times to be honest but it's in their enough to make it distincitive and unique.
The songs are well produced, catchy and mostly fairly heavy.
I'm not a huge fan of Metal these days as I found the genre to go veyr stale over the years but it's albums like this which will keep me going back to the genre to see what I can find.
Having listened to the album in full a few times, I enjoy each and every song. Their doesn't appear to be a weak point which is nice.
Overall, Union Black feels like natural progression for Skindred because although it goes back towards an earlier sound, this was probably required. I really enjoyed the previous album, but if they had continued in that direction this album would have suffered.
I only picked up this album as the track Make your Mark is on the latest freebee from Classic Rock magazine. And to be honest at first I wondered what the hell it was doing on there as this is anything but "Classic" rock. But to show you CAN teach and old dog new tricks, I was blown away by the track and even more so by the album. Tou could put this alongside Fat of the Land era Prodigy - or a more modern cross-reference might be Pendulum, but this is more esoteric and varied than either of these bands tonking out a rabid mix of techno, reggae, soul and huge blasts of metal as it does. This is one of the freshest and most original albums I have heard for years and I hope the crossover potential here is appreciated by the fans of the various genres represented here and they don't get all sniffy about having to listen to the "other" stuff. Open your ears guys and accept that just occasionally a truly cross-genre masterpiece comes along and we should all be grateful.
on 18 August 2012
If ever there was proof that bands that are associated with the metal genre are unfairly ignored by the mainstream it is here.
A brilliant combination of musical styles combined together. Essential listening.
on 3 May 2011
I've been a Skindred fan for many years, however having seen them live multiple times - it's fair to say that they have traditionally been far better live than on record. There is no doubt that the likes of Babylon, Roots Rock Riot and Shark Bites and Dog Fights contain fantastic tunes; Union Black takes the innovative and unique nature of these albums and expands on it tenfold.
This is the first Skindred album where I can safely say that every song has something about it, from the crushing riffs of Warning to the Reggae of Guntalk, there are hooks everywhere. It's infectious, it's catchy and it's quintessentially Skindred.
As an added bonus, I got to see their new material live last night on a leg of their UK tour. The new material comes across superbly live, a Skindred show is certainly never short of bounce and energy. Benji remains on top form on both record and live. This is an album to savour in your collection, I sincerely hope that in 5 years time Skindred will be playing UK arenas and we can look back on this album as what truly skyrocketed them to a long overdue success.
on 3 July 2012
Love the Skindred! Another great CD.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen...
on 3 October 2013
Watched them live at Leeds fest 2013 and they were awesome! Had never heard them before, great album, even better live!