This album, man…this band…so good. I don’t know how they keep doing it. I was floored when they came back after the decidedly mediocre album Union Black with the best album they had ever done, Kill the Power. I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t be able to keep that energy and fresh vibe going. Boy was I wrong. This album is killer.
When I heard the first single “Under Attack” I was a bit skeptical. I thought their last album was amazing because of the diversity and the way they brought electronics into their sound so seamlessly. This track was just straight up rock. Well, this album definitely does not have the electronic element in the forefront, but it in no way suffers for it. The songs are still amazingly written, and it’s also Skindred’s heaviest album to date by a good margin.
Normally, I’d start with Benji, but this is not his album. He’s still great, and I’ll get to that, but this album really lets the rest of the band shine, especially Mikey Demus. The riffs on this album are awesome. Just chunky as all hell, super catchy, and yet still managing to be rather heavy. It helps that the guitar tone on here is also the best they’ve ever had on an album. Just the right amount of “grrrr.”
The rhythm section is holding it down as well. Pugsley’s lines and tone really liven up the tracks. His bass is up nicely in the mix and he just digs in. So good. Goggin’s drum parts are equally perfect in the songs. He’s never been a flashy drummer but he knows where to put the beat for this band, and this album is no exception. He fits in so well that I really can’t imagine another drummer I Skindred. That is not a backhanded compliment, it’s an art form that a lot of musicians could study up on a bit.
Onward to Benji. Seriously, has this guy ever come up with anything that ISN’T good? I’d be curious to hear it. Even the ridiculous stuff, like the title track, somehow comes off as genius. He gets angry on this album too, and you believe it. I’d seriously put this guy up there with Kyo from Dir En Grey in my own personal “best vocalists” lists. I would love to hear him get even crazier since I know he could pull it off.
I want to talk about James Loughrey and the sound of this album for a bit. This guy has got skills. Skindred has done their last 3 albums with this same producer and he’s managed to help them radically transform their sound while still keeping it “Skindred” each time. That’s just amazing. Most bands that work with the same producer all the time start to sound really same-y (cough, Lamb of God, cough). If you are into music, you can usually pick out different producers and engineers based on their particular sound, but this guy is a freaking chameleon. This album sounds nothing like Kill the Power. That album was a masterclass in clean, almost pop, production with heavy electronic influences. Even though it was a rock album, the mix was very club-style with a lot of content in the lows and highs, nearly ignoring the mids. Getting all that sound in there clearly and cleanly was amazing. He totally changes gears with this album. It’s rough and rocking. It’s this massive wall of noise that makes you want to nod your head. It sounds great. It sounds raw as heck. I love it for these songs, actually. It’s also my only source of contention with this album: the vocal mix. There are two reasons for this, both pretty egregious in my book.
- The vocals get drowned out during many of the songs. Seriously, maybe 2-3db up and they would be fine. There are tracks like “The Healing” where you can barely hear Benji. It’s just dumb.
- Has James never heard of a de-esser? Holy crap the sibilance terrible on this album. I know I have an unnatural hatred of sibilance, but when it’s this bad, it’s really unforgivable. It’s such a simple thing to fix!
The weird thing is, based off of his other work, James is obviously talented and smart enough to avoid making simple mistakes like this. It really just makes me go “?!?!?!?!”
All right, I should wrap this up, it’s getting a bit long winded. This is a great album from a great band. You’ll bang your head, you’ll sing along, you’ll jump around. These guys really are the pinnacle of pop-metal and it just boggles my mind as to why they aren’t much bigger than they currently are here in the U.S. I mean, it’s the kind of stuff so many bands are trying to do (and failing) and all the radio stations are looking for (and not finding), but they just never take off here. You should help them out and go buy this album because it kicks ass. Oh, and see them live too, they are rule.