UK metal innovators and legends Skindred have streamed the trailer for their forthcoming new album, Big Tings, due this spring on Napalm Records. The teaser features a snippet of the first track, ‘Machine’, coming soon. Jam it out now! Continue reading
One of Canada’s best-kept secrets will be exploding into the music world once again as Hamilton, Ontario’s own Sumo Cyco drop their second full length album since establishing in 2011. Opus Mar (Self-Released/Pledge) was produced by their very own lead guitarist Matt ‘Md13’ Drake and renowned producer James ‘Lerock’ Loughrey, known for his work with Skindred and Joss Stone. Continue reading
If you’re already a member of the Newport Helicopter Crew, you’ll probably know all of this, but if you’re new to Skindred, then let me take a minute to give you some background.
Back in the mid-90s, popular music genres were much broader than they are today. Music labels were still confident in their ultimate power over distribution and exposure, and alternative bands had to have their own unique sound to stand out and grab the attention of A&R reps. In a dark, grimy, beer-soaked corner between metal, indie, dance & pop lived a group of bands that resisted all attempts at pigeon holing. Every band was an eclectic mix of influences and all were as different from each other as they were from the mainstream.
Alongside the likes of Senser, Pop Will Eat Itself, Collapsed Lung, Jesus Jones, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine was a four-piece Welsh juggernaut called Dub War. Mixing metal, ragga and punk with dub and hip hop, the band put out two landmark albums via Earache Records before splitting up in 1999 due to disputes with the label, and from the ashes (well – Benji) of Dub War rose the mighty Skindred.
Featuring a more driven, heavier and ultimately far more successful sound, Skindred’s first album – Bablyon (Bieler Bros./Lava) – was a critical and (eventually) commercial success having featured on a myriad of charts (twice #1 on the Billboard reggae albums chart!) by its 3rd release. Whilst remaining similar in tone and content to Dub War, there was more subtle focus of guitar riffing in both the writing and the (clearly superior) production. The second album – Roots Rock Riot (Bieler Bros.) – signalled a move away from the old Dub War approach, establishing the distinct Skindred sound (which I shall call Skank Metal) in its own right and delivering the band squarely into the arms of the metal fraternity. From then through to 2011’s Union Black (BMG), fans have been treated to massive downtuned riffs, shoutalong breaks, roughneck vocals and sub bass drops as the band have motored through headline academy-level tours and 50k+ festival crowds. Last year’s Kill The Power (BMG) throttled back somewhat with a mellower and more varied sound.
Volume (Napalm) is Skindred’s sixth studio album, following hard on the heels of the last release (only one year between releases rather than the usual two or more), and seems in many ways to have come full circle. From the outset with ‘Under Attack’ there is a distinct and nostalgic return to the Dub War vibe. ‘Volume’ and ‘Hit The Ground’ are sublime fusions of old War and new ‘Dred. ‘Shut Ya Mouth’ is sure to be a moshpit favourite – it’s going to sound monstrous live – and ‘The Healing’ is a swaggering singalong with a euphoric chorus and some random sampling for an outro. ‘Sound the Siren’ has set-opener written all over it, ‘Saying It Now’ returns squarely to Dub War ‘Million Dollar Love’ territory, whilst ‘Straight Jacket’ is possibly the perfect song to show the uninitiated what Skindred is all about, ‘No Justice’ is a punky skankathon, ‘Stand Up’s Slash-esque rolling riff displays some classic rock chops and the show is closed with the near-ballad of ‘Three Words’.
In an age of bands that sometime seem shameless in their adherence to the confines of their parent (sub)genres, Skindred are an inspiration. There’s still no-one sounding remotely like them. Long may they continue.
Confession time. Up until two days ago when my editor sent me this assignment I had never heard of Crossfaith. So yeah, for a band that has been kicking since 2006 and consistently on tour it took me until their fourth LP Xeno (Razor & Tie) to acknowledge their existence. I am the definition of timeliness.
Anyways, during my lunch break I browsed the web out of boredom and realized that Crossfaith’s sound has been described as renown for combining metalcore and electronic dance music. Naturally when reading that combination of genres the first thing that comes to mind is “I’ve died and gone to hell.” Immediate visions of laptopcore bands like The Browning and Blood on the Dance Floor flooded the brain. Fuck me.
But don’t knock it till you try it, or at least that’s what the girl as the grocery store seems to always tell me. Look at the bright side, Crossfaith is from Osaka, Japan and the land of the rising son has fostered plenty of eclectic and talented metal bands such as X-Japan, Dir en Grey, and Maximum the Hormone. Just press play.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and Crossfaith for the most part hits the mark. Instead of the Hot Topic goth dance party I was dreading the music on Xeno was actually listenable. Multifarious to a fault, but still listenable. Pretty good, actually. However if you are looking for some dance party action then check out ‘Wildfire’ (featuring Skindred’s Benji Webbe) and it’s unholy matrimony of EDM and Reggae. And I can say with no shame that I blasted it out loud in my car.
That being said the tunes here are more in line with Slipknot, mid-career Soilwork and even some Linkin Park for good measure. Frontman Kenta “Ken” Koie leans more on his singing voice on this effort and it helps elevate songs like ‘Raise Your Voice,’ ‘Devil’s Party’ and the excellent title track to radio rock anthem status. In addition to Koie’s strong performance, much attention should also be paid to drummer Tatsuya Amano’s frantic bursts of aggression and producer Josh Wilbur’s (Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb of God) masterful work behind the studio board.
The one moment on Xeno that lost me was power ballad ‘Tears Fall.’ It’s an excellent showcase for Koie’s pipes and it does feature a tuneful solo from guitarist Kazuki Takemura, but it’s way too sappy to fully take seriously. So much so that you could sell it for parts to Bullet for My Valentine. While that gamble doesn’t pay off, Crossfaith pick up the pace again with ‘Paint it Black’ and the drumming showcase that is ‘Vanguard.’ But before the album comes to a close these Osaka natives get a another chance to play with dynamics and texture on ‘Calm the Store’ a melodic track that is much more in line with the aforementioned Linkin Park or Dead Letter Circus.
I feel slightly less hesitant about the melding of electronics and metalcore. Slightly. You done good, Crossfaith.
Crossfaith have released a new video for their song Devil’s Party, the first clip from their forthcoming album Xeno (Razor & Tie) due out on September 18th. You can watch the Devil’s party video at this link or below:
Front man Kenta “Ken” Koie commented on the video:
“This is the first music video from our new album, ‘Xeno’, and we put a lot of effort into it. I’m certain that you can feel our vision/concept of the album through this music video. Learn the words and sing with me at the show!”
Xeno track listing:
01. System X
03. Raise Your Voice
04. Devil’s Party
05. Ghost In The Mirror (feat. Caleb Shomo from Beartooth)
07. Wildfire (feat. Benji Webbe from Skindred)
08. Tears Fall
09. Paint It Black
11. Calm The Storm
12. Astral Heaven