Review: Skindred at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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Welsh ragga metal group Skindred were met with a packed-out O2 Guildhall for the first show of their Pump Up The Volume tour, promoting their most recent album Volume. The band, who were formed in 1998, have become famous across the world for their unique experimentation with a number of musical genres including, but certainly not limited to, heavy metal, hardcore punk, dancehall, ska, dubstep and jungle. It seemed very fitting then that they were supported on stage by a bill of bands also known for blending musical styles which might appear, at first, to conflict.

Opening support act Yashin played to an enclave of loyal fans as the Guildhall started to fill up, staying animated and lively throughout as well as making excellent use of the considerable space afforded to them on stage. A lot of bands flounder in such an exposed and therefore daunting environment, but Yashin, with just under 10 years of experience in touring and performance, seemed right at home in front of their continuously expanding audience. Their set consisted of a good number of short, punchy tracks which set a brisk, energetic tone to the evening. There was a lingering worry amongst fans before the show that Yashin would be ill-suited to the evening’s entertainment, considering that the rest of the roster practiced considerably heavier styles of metal, but all-in-all they turned out to be a solid opener.

Up next were Californian rapcore heavyweights Hed PE who stalked onto a blacked out stage before exploding into their powerhouse hit single ‘No Turning Back’. Lead vocalist Jared Gomes, clad in an Anonymous/Guy Fawkes mask and low-slung flat cap, spat blistering rap verses and raw, eye-wateringly harsh scream vocals with equal bouts of mastery and gusto whilst guitarist Greg Harrison (figuratively) tore his axe to pieces with throaty E-string chugging and sublime thrash metal-esque solos. Hed PE’s set was a mixed repertoire of their two favourite styles – slow, thrumming rap metal and cagey, agitated thrash-punk – which stood nicely in contrast to Yashin’s earlier performance. Gomes, as well as being a fantastic vocalist, is an excellent onstage performer, firing up the crowd with impromptu circle pits in the final few tracks to pave the way for the evening’s main support act.

Osakan electronicore group Crossfaith burst onto the stage and launched straight into the first two tracks from their most recent album Xeno. This record features electronica-influenced synths in bunches which, when blended with the band’s smooth, rumbling strain of metalcore, makes for an intensely energetic performance on both sides of the barrier. The crowd began to convulse and writhe as ‘System X’ dropped into ‘Xeno’ and the floor erupted into a chaotic maelstrom of circle pits and walls of death. Following the opening tracks came the monstrously heavy ‘Monolith’ which preceded a downtuned, throbbing version of their most successful track from the new album, ‘Wildfire’, which also features Benji Webbe of Skindred supplying support vocals. Rounding off their relentlessly electric set with ‘Countdown to Hell’, Crossfaith left the audience to simmer down before the headline act came out.

Skindred mounted the stage to sonorous applause and rolled right into ‘Under Attack’, the single and opening track off new album Volume. Vocalist Benji Webbe bounced across the stage in the expressive garments – a thick leather/fur hooded trench coat, chunky spiked sunglasses and a score of glittering rings – that Skindred fans have come to know and love whilst the rest of the band remained consistently animated behind their frontman as they rumbled through fan favourites like ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Ninja’. These were interspersed with a good amount of newer material from Skindred’s recent release, strung together with the sheer force of Mikey Demus’s guitar and Webbe’s bursts of surprisingly brutal scream vocals, with DJ Dan Sturgess, drummer Arya Goggin and bass guitarist Dan Pugsley propping everything up with layers of stormy background beats. The band operated in perfect unison, their delivery was faultless and the fans were happy to join in by screaming down the Guildhall and shaking its foundations as the band stormed into another favourite track, ‘Kill The Power’. Fans of all ages and backgrounds stood shoulder-to-shoulder to welcome Skindred back onto the stage for a double encore, ending the night with ‘Playing With The Devil’ and the savagely heavy ‘Warning’, for which Koie Kenta of Crossfaith retook the stage with Webbe and the rest of the band to see off the audience, who walked away with ringing ears and smiles on their faces.

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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