SKINDRED’s “Smile”: A Genre-Defying Musical Triumph Celebrating 25 Years of Reggae Metal Innovation and Sonic Eclecticism
There are different ways to create Extreme Metal, some based on sinister or hard-to-believe ideas, with incomprehensible sounds, while others are simpler. That’s why, with their eighth album, “Smile,” the Welsh band SKINDRED celebrates their twenty-five years in 2024 as if it were the first time we heard them, surprising us with their ability to make Metal in their own style. We recognize and appreciate their artistic journey.
“Smile” is enjoyed and mastered with a sonic explosion befitting a band that signed a global four-album deal with the legendary label EARACHE RECORDS last year. This label is known for noisy Grindcore or Punk Metal bands and anthems loaded with riffs suitable for massive festivals. This has earned SKINDRED a large following in the British Extreme Metal scene.
The album was recorded at VADA STUDIOS, mixed at METROPHONIC PRODUCTIONS, and mastered at ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS, all located in London. Under the supervision of George Perks and Pete Hutchinson, it was produced by Julian Emery, and the album cover was created by Mikey Demus, the guitarist.
The band members include the charismatic and unique vocalist Benji Webbe, whose appearance with dreadlocks, leather jackets, studded sunglasses, medallions, and pink jumpsuits reflects his eclectic mindset. There’s also the ZZ Top-style bearded left-handed guitarist, Michael “Fry” Demus, bassist Dan Pugsley, and drummer Arya Goggin. Their mission is to “unite people.” Although describing SKINDRED as “ragga metal” doesn’t do justice to their broad musical range, which encompasses Punk, Nu Metal, Reggae, Pop-Rock, Hip-Hop, Electronica, and Dancehall. In “Smile,” they’ve included enough powerful riffs and crunchy rhythms to satisfy their fan base, including exhilarating anthems fit for a lively mosh-pit. The band’s skill and enthusiasm allow them to achieve these variations in their sound.
SKINDRED is an example of a contemporary band with a strong impact on the world of Metal. Much of their success is attributed to their vocalist, Benji Webbe, who is charismatic both in the studio and on stage. His stage presence, along with the rest of the band members, allows their Jamaican heritage to harmoniously blend with their music. His unique voice and versatile vocal abilities, including Bob Marley-influenced growls and screams, make him unparalleled and distinctive.
Furthermore, the Welsh band adds touches of jungle electronics, makes use of Moog analog synthesizers, and, of course, incorporates Reggae into their music. This makes “Smile” a tonally committed blend, reinforced by great riffs and a charmingly unique personality that showcases SKINDRED’s well-done work. They achieve a balance in their sonic experimentation that is highly enjoyable.
This album retains the band’s strengths: political lyrics, energy, catharsis, and a natural blend of Hard Rock that immediately shows why they have received such an enthusiastic response from their fans in the UK and throughout Europe. SKINDRED is undoubtedly one of Wales’ most significant musical figures, and “Smile” will have longevity. It could be said that this album represents the pinnacle of their career, as they have never sounded better or achieved such a perfect balance between commercial shine and raw integrity.
Let the music guide us through the songs. “Our Religion” ceremoniously begins with Mr. Fry’s chords and Mr. Webbe’s vocals, followed by penetrating rhythms. “Gimme That Boom” was the first single and has a touch of festive pop-reggae that invites dancing. The song is inspired by Mr. Webbe’s frustrating encounter with a social media-obsessed fan. The video, shot at God’s Own Junkyard in East London, is colorful and filled with neon lights, reflecting the idea of enjoying the moment and forgetting worries. The repetitive chorus, “just gimme that boom,” and the various tones encourage uninhibited enjoyment.
“Set Fazers” starts with Mr. Fry’s guitar and features a more moderate musical accompaniment, with pauses that allow for electronic sounds and pleasant choruses. The video depicts a dwarf who appears to capture the band like Terminator and then reunites them in a workshop, creating a fun atmosphere.
“Life That’s Free” features keyboards at the beginning and Mr. Webbe’s clear and harmonious vocals, merging Reggae Metal with recorded sounds, emphasizing SKINDRED’s ability to uniquely blend styles. “If I Could” is a kind of old-school Alternative Metal ballad with sharp riffs and high-quality percussion by Mr. Goggin.
“L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)” embodies the essence of SKINDRED, with catchy and danceable rhythms thanks to their Reggae style but with a distinctive twist. The use of brass instruments and choruses adds depth to the track.
“This Appointed Love” transports us to a beachy landscape and combines Bob Marley’s distinctive rhythm with guitar chords that remind us that this is a Metal band. “Black Stars” features a catchy chorus and becomes an animated Rap Metal with a protest message celebrating black people who have been an inspiration to society.
“State Of The Union” begins with fanfares and features a danceable rhythm in the verses, highlighting Mr. Pugsley’s bass. The song offers an interesting social message. “Addicted” incorporates street noises and Rap beats and becomes instrumental halfway through, inviting the listener to move to the catchy rhythm.
“Mama” is a tribute to motherhood with Mr. Webbe’s impeccable vocals, accompanied by simple arpeggios and brass sounds. “Unstoppable” is SKINDRED’s trademark, an invigorating track with a fun video that fits perfectly as the album’s closer.
“Smile” is an album full of good vibes that uses the power of Reggae Metal to bring positivity and joy at a time when we all need a break after a historic pandemic. Although it didn’t reach the top of the UK music charts, this album has given SKINDRED the promotional boost they deserved for a long time. It’s a work that demonstrates why this band should always be on our radar.