Skindred Smile review – The five-year wait was worth it

Eight months after giving fans a taste of their eighth record, Skindred is leaping into their second decade with some sensational tunes and what may be their catchiest anthems yet.

The band has been a melting pot for a multitude of styles and symphonies over the years and is continuing their unique legacy with Smile, sticking to their reggae-metal roots but also branching off into unexplored territory.

The unwavering undertone of each and every song is passion. In some bars you’re almost transported to the studio, watching Benji Webbe, Daniel Pugsley, Mikey Demus and Arya Goggin just trying to have the most fun possible, a joy that bleeds through into the more feel-good hits.

As for the tracklist, there is quite literally nothing more fans could ask for. Smile offers two moshpit-ready bangers, two lovesick ballads, a tribute to family, a few head-bopping songs and some ridiculously catchy earworms.

Of course, there’s also the inevitable “let’s overthrow the government” anthem that seems to be a must-have on every heavy album release this year.

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However, Skindred has put a unique take on this, offering two anthems; one for each of their fanbases on either side of the Atlantic with Black Stars and State of the Union playing back-to-back in what can only be described as anarchic glory.

Smile’s key highlight may be its ability to please almost every type of listener. It pulls in chunky breakdowns and nu-metal melodies, all the while staying true to Skindred’s iconic reggae-metal style with a dash of electronic pop mixed in for good measure.

It doesn’t quite have the same type of nail-biting narrative listeners have started expecting from bands like Sleep Token but the lack of an over-arching mind-bending storyline makes for some relaxed listening and the emotional journey is unparalleled.

Smile commences with the powerful Our Religion, showing off Benji’s signature growls and Daniel’s bass-lead breakdowns are a force to be reckoned with.

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The album gradually takes on a more optimistic tone, peaking with L.O.V.E. that simply oozes good vibes before taking a drastic turn into Black Stars’ hard-hitting political lyrics and yet again twisting to a mournful tribute in Mama.

Listening to the album as a whole, the only true dilemma it faces is that it ends on Unstoppable which doesn’t quite wrap up the experience, leaving a sense of longing for just one more song to conclude it all. And, with five years since their last album, fans may be a bit let down after just 12 tracks.

Skindred – Smile is out tomorrow.

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