Produced and engineered by Paul Schroeder. (Mostly) recorded at Rockfield Studios and mixed at Parr Street Studios. Released on Earache Records, 1996.
I bumped into Kevin, a colleague of mine, the other day on my walk to work.
“I’ve discovered an amazing new genre of metal,” he said enthusiastically. “Reggae metal!”
“Skindred?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said looking suddenly downcast. “How did you know?”
I expect that I must have come across Dub War at some point during the mid-1990s but they were never really on my radar until I saw singer Benji Webbe performing with his current band Skindred, supporting Soulfly at the Glasgow Garage in January 2006.
In my review of the gig I said that “the support band Skindred were surprisingly good […] and had us all bouncing to their unique brand of Ragga Punk Metal.” Surprising because I really don’t get reggae. But they were brilliant, and Benji was the perfect frontman who by the end of the gig had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
I went home and ordered their first album Babylon (2002), and that’s when I first made the connection between Skindred and Dub War. Until this project I had only two songs of theirs in my collection: the 1996 single “Enemy Maker” and its acoustic b-side “Peace Maker”.
Dub War were formed in Newport, south Wales in 1993 — the year the World Wide Web began to take off with the release of the Mosaic web browser; the year that I graduated from university. Nu metal was on the decline but Dub War took the best things from nu metal: particularly combining diverse music styles and made a sound that was quite uniquely theirs.
My copy of Wrong Side of Beautiful (1996) is actually a part of a 2-CD box set released in 2007 of Dub War’s two (and only) albums; the other being Pain (1995). Pendants may be interested to learn that there was a third album, released in 1998, but this was entirely of remixes. And a fourth album of demos, which you can read about on the Ask Earache blog.
I have to say, that having been playing this album all week (56 tracks played this week, according to Last.fm), I love this album.
It was the kind of album that had me reaching for my bass guitar and playing along. The bass riffs just bounce along, particularly on songs like “Armchair Thriller” and the jazz-sounding intro to “Bassballbat”, which has a really woody bass sound.
Some tracks have a feel of the American rock/funk/hip hop band N*E*R*D about them. There is something about The Prodigy in their attitude. There is something about Faith No More in their variety. The intro to “Enemy Maker” reminds me of The Police.
There are elements of reggae, ragga, metal, punk, rock, dub, soul, jazz… This is a band whose influences you can hear in their music, but their music doesn’t sound like just one of them; if anything, it sounds like them all at once.
But it works!
I will definitely be listening to this album again… and I’ve still got Pain (1995) to review some time soon.
Review score: 95%
Here’s the promo video for “Enemy Maker”…