[27th January 2014]
01. Kill The Power
02. Ruling Force
03. Playing With The Devil
04. World’s On Fire
06. The Kids Are Right Now
07. We Live
08. Open Eyed
09. Dollars And Dimes
11. Proceed With Caution
12. More Fire
It’s almost hard to believe that it has now been twelve years since Newport’s finest ragga-punk quartet Skindred released their debut album Babylon. After some early line-up changes and label jiggery-pokery that saw Babylon released a total of three times in slightly different forms, the band has settled into a roughly two-year cycle of recording and relentless touring. This cycle has now brought us to album number five, Kill The Power.
As we saw at their festival warm-up show back in August, Skindred are, primarily, a live band. In Benji Webbe, as I will probably never tire of saying, they possess one of the finest frontmen operating on the live circuit today. This is only underlined by their steady creep up the running order at festivals across the world, and the mostly sold out UK headline run the band are currently undertaking as I write.
Skindred hit on their sonic formula early on, and whilst it has been refined over the years, they have never strayed too far from that original template. It’s probably testament to how successfully they have crafted their ragga-punk hybrid that they still fundamentally exist in a subgenre of one. Perhaps the most noticeable change in the band’s sound is the greater influence of dubstep – first introduced on 2011′s Union Black - alongside their more ‘traditional’ soundclash incorporating metal, dancehall, dub and drum & bass.
Union Black also saw the band take a turn into darker, more menacing territory. However, despite the name, Kill The Power seems to have an altogether sunnier disposition. This is most clearly apparent on “We Live” – possibly the most anthemic song the band have penned to date, and sure to get hands aloft right to the back of a main stage festival crowd – and “Saturday“, a positively jubilant celebration of the weekend driven by one of Dan Pugsley’s trademark burly basslines.
Lead single “Ninja” and the title track carry all the hallmarks of classic Skindred and are certain to become fixtures in the live set, fitting in comfortably with established favourites and are almost irrepressibly danceable.
Elsewhere, standout tracks “World’s On Fire” and “Open Eyed” show the band to be a well oiled, finely tuned groove machine. “The Kids Are Right Now”, possibly the weakest of the set, wouldn’t sound completely out of place on the more recent Chili Peppers albums.
It’s probably fair to say that Skindred are a masterclass in ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. In Kill The Power, they prove that they are as dependable on record as they are in concert. If you are already a fan, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love Kill The Power to bits. If you’ve not encountered them up to this point, there’s a good chance you will be seduced by its charms, but if you’ve not liked what you’ve heard from Skindred in the past, Kill The Power probably isn’t going to radically change your mind.
Even if the band may have played it a little safe, Kill The Power practically oozes quality. For the band’s steadily growing and hard-won fanbase, the album is like a little pocket of summer to tide us through the cold winter months and prepare us for the coming festival season. And on the evidence presented, this could well be Skindred’s finest year yet.