Skindred are back with Smile, their follow-up to 2018’s outstanding Big Tings. In the works for four years, the expectations are high for the reggae metal fusion four-piece. In the eyes of their fans, Skindred can do no wrong, piling on the pressure to deliver on their latest outing.
To understand why this pressure exists, you need only listen to the group’s debut record Babylon and, by extension, their former identity Dub War. Not only has the group delivered eye-wateringly catchy songs over the years, but their very presence demands attention. Vocalist Benji Webb oozes charisma with the voice of a reggae angel, the accent of a Welshman and a fashion sense unique to himself alone, cementing him as a frontman like no other. In essence, Webb was born to bring uncompromising joy into the world via his infectious vocals! So, yes, there are high expectations for Smile.
Opening with “Our Religion,” Skindred are keen to ensure that fans know this record will be just as heavy as its predecessors whilst also retaining the roots of what makes up Skindred’s identity. As tunes go, it is fine, but not one of their strongest. That said, it must be remembered the group’s back catalogue is awash with outstanding tracks, and not everything can reach those dizzying heights. Smile really comes into its own, though, as soon as the very first note of “Gimme That Boom” hits.
Before the music even starts, Webb proudly announces, ‘Just gimme that boom,’ thus marking the start of yet another single that belongs on a best-of compilation. Webbe’s metal/reggae/rap fusion is on full display, and the aforementioned charisma flows through the speakers, with guitarist Mikey Demus backing him up with some dance-worthy riffs. “Set Fazers” does not let the energy diminish. The tune delivers on multiple levels with slower moments juxtaposed with the heavy tones of the song as well as Webb demonstrating his range from spitting out grizzled metal-infused raps as well as his ability to deliver a more emotional vocal style.
The most notable track on Smile could also be the most unexpected. Whilst Skindred are well known for their reggae influences, it’s rare for them to go full reggae, but that’s exactly what you get from “L.O.V.E. (Smile Please).” The tune captures the group’s identity to a T; it is uplifting, fun, joyful, and just so easy to get drawn into. Once again, Webbe’s positive outlook and belief in the lyrics permeate throughout every second of the tune.
The second half of the album ensures that the essence of the Skindred sound is carried through to the end. Tunes like “Black Stars,” “State of the Union,” and “Addicted” carry the heavy metal/reggae vibe along with the uplifting nature of the band’s identity. The songs will have you dancing like nobody is watching, even in the middle of the supermarket, ensuring your questionable moves are on full display for the world to see. That, though, is the beauty of Skindred; their music will melt away any and all self-doubt releasing your inner self into the universe.
The closing track, “Unstoppable,” ends the album strongly with Webb proudly announcing ‘I’m unstoppable’ and no truer words were ever uttered!
Once again, Skindred has delivered for their fans. Smile speaks to listeners both on a personal level and as a collective encouraging self-worth, love and unity. Skindred has always been a band of the people, and no matter how big they appear to grow, they still promote themselves as a group fans can identify with, they can reach out and touch. They are tangible in a way other bands are not; this always comes through in their music. This record will make you smile!
Smile Track Listing:
1. Our Religion
2. Gimme That Boom
3. Set Fazers
4. Life That’s Free
5. If I Could
6. L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)
7. This Appointed Love
8. Black Stars
9. State of the Union
Run Time: 42:51
Record Label: Earache Records
Release Date: August 4, 2023