Not since Bad Brains hit their stride in the mid-'80s has a band combined reggae, punk, and metal influences as excitingly as Skindred did on its debut album and then again on this, its sophomore effort. Which is not to say that they sound anything like Bad Brains; on the contrary, the 20 years of musical change that lie between the two bands is fully audible here: the kinds of punk and metal available for Skindred to draw upon are completely different from what was current in the '80s, as are the varieties of dancehall reggae that inform their rhythms and vocals. And of course, jungle and drum'n'bass were not even a twinkle in anyone's eye when Bad Brains were busily building their pioneering punk-reggae fusion. On Roots Rock Riot -- a perfect album title if ever there was one -- the predominant sound is an alloy of speed metal (with all the guttural vocal roar and thunderous clockwork guitar precision that the term implies) and melodic hardcore. What this means is that hooks are everywhere, and sometimes they're soaringly, gorgeously harmonized (as on the hair-raising "Alright") and sometimes they're relatively simple for maximum shout-along ease (as on "Trouble"). On this album, reggae influences are more of a spice than a main ingredient, and a good number of these songs are really just pop/punk/metal performed with a Jamaican accent -- "Destroy the Dancefloor" and the title track being prime examples. When the reggae influence is jacked up just a bit, the whole sense of intensity changes without being lessened, as on the slyly jungle-flavored "Ease Up," and the fun but ultimately rather disorganized "Killing Me." Everyone in Skindred is a stone pro, but singer Benji Webbe is the band's primary weapon, a vocalist equally comfortable bellowing in rage, crooning a sufferer's anthem, or deftly riding an 80 mph dancehall rhythm.
Roots Rock Riot Review
by Rick Anderson