Skindred – Smile

Set your fazers to stun! Because Newport destroyers, Skindred are back with their eighth studio album, Smile!

It’s been twenty five years since Benji Webbe and Co. first burst onto the scene with their unique and infectious fusion of heavy metal and reggae. During which time the four piece from South Wales have built themselves a strong reputation for their incredibly energetic live performances, as well as dropping albums that provide the perfect soundtrack to any summer.

Their latest album, Smile has been a little longer in the making than most of their prior studio releases. With fans having waited nearly five years since their previous album, Big Tings and with Benji having taken a little time out to revisit his Dub War roots in the meantime. However, anyone that’s seen Skindred live over the past couple of years will no doubt already be familiar with a single or two from Smile. With tracks like Gimme That Boom and Set Fazers having already been thoroughly road tested on tour. So the only question left is, does the rest of the album measure up?

Our Religion gets things off to a solid enough start. It’s not their strongest album opener, especially compared to the likes of Stand For Something or Kill The Power. However, the theatrical introduction, dark undertones and some doom inspired riffage from guitarist, Mikey Demus is just enough to give you a taste of what’s to come.

It’s the follow up one-two punch of Gimme That Boom and Set Fazers that really gets you into the mood in the early going though. This is Skindred doing what they do best, that signature combination of reggae grooves and chunky heavy metal guitars that simply begs for a sunny day and a festival audience for vocalist Benji Webbe to whip into a frenzy. With both tracks packing massive chorus lines that are sure to get any crowd up and off their feet. They seem as if they were written explicitly with a live stage in mind.

After the rock and roll fury of Smile’s opening tracks, Life That’s Free offers a welcome change of pace. With the distorted guitars taking a back seat to a rolling drum and bass rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pendulum record. There are sure to be those that prefer Skindred’s heavier side, but it’s difficult to deny the appeal of summery anthems like this and the dub infused L.O.V.E (Smile Please) that follows shortly afterwards. Which are guaranteed to put a smile on even the most hardened metalheads face.¬†

Black Stars quickly takes things back to more familiar territory. Cranking the gain back up to eleven and giving Benji the chance to sermonise about his distaste for the establishment. A theme that continues to run through the appropriately titled, State of the Union. Adding a little of that anti-authority punk rock attitude into the mix that’s been part of his repertoire from the very beginning.¬†Proving that while he may be old enough to be your dad these days, the ever charasmatic frontman still has plenty of venom left in him.

Smile may not have had the strongest opening track, but the albums closer, Unstoppable definitely makes up for it. With it’s undeniably funky groove and affirming lyrics, arguably it would have been better placed at the top of Smile’s tracklist. However, after the more laid back, reggae trappings of later tracks like Addicted and Mama, you can see why Skindred chose to up the tempo for the albums finale and it definitely helps to leave the listener on a high as Smile draws to a close.¬†

Undoubtedly one of Skindred’s most varied releases to date, Smile is an album that perfectly showcases every element that has propelled Newports biggest export to the top of both the charts, as well as ever upwards on the line-up’s of some of the UK’s biggest festivals. Packed with hard hitting choruses that will no doubt become the battle cries for many a mosh pit. As well as a plethora of breezy summer anthems that are guaranteed to leave you with a grin on your face. Pound for pound Smile is easily one of their strongest albums to date.

Smile is available to purchase now via Earache Records.

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