Ragga-metal is a concept whose time has come. In fact, it's somewhat puzzling why the blending of two of the most popular outlets for youthful angst hasn't happened on a massive scale earlier. Whatever the reason, don't blame UK singer Benji Webbe, whose new band Skindred evokes nostalgia for Bad Brains while avoiding the contrived posturing of 311. Webbe's vocals vacillate between guttural growls, yelps, and shouts, not to mention patois-laced toasts and singjay-style chants, doing justice to each side of the equation. Reggae is a dreader dread when backed by high-voltage, titanium-strength riffs, and guitarist Mikeydemus complements Webbe's Jahful utterances but eschews endless Yngwie Malmsteen/Steve Vai-like solos (the absence of which will be felt only by air guitarists). Meanwhile, the rhythm section of bassist Dan and drummer Dirty Arya hold down the cardiac tempos without veering off course. The results are sort of like mixing sinsemilla with amphetamines, making it possible to mash it up and mosh it up at the same time.

Babylon's main shortcoming is that every song sounds almost exactly the same: It's probably no mistake that the album's best track, "The Fear" (an update of the Clash's "London Calling"), downplays the blitzkrieg bop, allowing Webbe's peacemongering lyrics (Time for talking, to work it all out/Can't take the pressure, nuff of the youth dem ah shout) to resonate even stronger.


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