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Union Black

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  • Arguably one of the alt-metal scene's most diverse bands, Welsh four-piece Skindred's eclectic blend of rock, drum'n'bass, dancehall, and ska has remained something of an underground concern up until now, but with the likes of Pendulum and Chase & Status proving that the Download/Creamfields audiences are no longer mutually exclusive, their fourth album, Union Black, could be the one to give them their well-earned breakthrough. Produced by James Loughrey, the follow-up to 2009's Shark Bites & Dog Fights is undeniably their most ambitious to date, effortlessly genre-hopping from demented dubstep ("Cut Dem") to Tarantino-inspired thrash metal ("Death to All Spies") to blistering ragga-punk ("Make Your Mark"), while simultaneously dissecting contemporary "Broken Britain" through their socially conscious lyrics, a theme brilliantly encapsulated by the opening title track, which mangles the National Anthem in a manner which would make even Johnny Rotten balk. Despite tackling very modern-day issues, there's a definite turn of the century feel about many of its tracks, particularly lead single "Warning" which, thanks to guest vocals from Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix and an explosive chorus reminiscent of Limp Bizkit's "Rollin," harks back to the heyday of the nu-metal scene, and the punchy rap-rock of "Living a Lie," which recalls the abrasive grime of Dizzee Rascal's Mercury Prize-debut. But even with the force of nature that is frontman Benji Webbe, who impressively drifts from screamcore howler ("Doom Riff") to carefree Rastafarian ("Guntalk") with apparent ease, the album struggles to sustain its early thrilling momentum, with the likes of "Get It Now," "Bad Man Ah Bad Man," and "Game Over" all repeating the same raucous fist-pumping formula. Uncompromising throughout, Union Black may be an acquired taste, but in the absence of Asian Dub Foundation, it's the kind of revolutionary record that the U.K. currently needs. ~ Jon O'Brien
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