Epic Studios, Norwich October 14, 2023
by Niki Jones
Heavy security on the door of tonight’s show means that the place is barely a quarter full by the time Lake Malice hit the stage.
Not that this seems to deter them one bit. Looking like a cross between sexy snowboard instructors and that “controversial” Eurovision entry that (eep!) has heavy guitars in it, the Brighton two-piece (tonight backed with a live drummer) explode into opening song Magic Square.
The use of backing tracks in rock and metal has long been a contentious subject, and there’s no denying that Lake Malice’s sound relies heavily on them, but when you have riffs as huge as those being churned out by guitarist Blake Cornwall and a singer as talented as Alice Guala you stop noticing pretty quickly.
Mixing the late nu-metal sound of Linkin Park with the electronica and metcore blend of the likes of Bring Me The Horizon and contemporaries Spiritbox, they have shared stages with the likes of Wargasm and Enter Shikari – and it’s easy to see why.
Italian-born Guala is an incredibly versatile vocalist, and from her soaring clean vocals to her savage growls she is a captivating presence.
By the time their set closes with the enormous Blossom, the room is over halfway full and everyone is looking their way.
The T-shirts at Blackgold’s merch stand proudly proclaim “Make Nu-Metal Great Again”. It’s certainly a bold statement about a genre that ran out of steam quicker than a Pot Noodle, but if tonight’s performance is anything to go by they just might be in with a shot.
This masked and anonymous quintet bring to mind Slipknot in their appearance and, yes, in quite a lot of their sound, too.
But they also inject a huge amount of hip-hop bounce, reminiscent of the likes of Hed-Pe and Limp Bizkit.
Vocalist Spookz works the crowd like an old-school hip-hop show, spreading a positivity that belies the angriness of the music.
Drums groove, turntable scratches, riffs bounce, and by the time they reach a storming cover of Cypress Hill’s I Ain’t Going Out Like That, the whole place is a party.
The crushing and ominous Boogieman seals the deal, leaving more than a little doubt that nu-metal died in 2002.
Anyone who’s been to a Skindred show before will know it’s a party and before they even hit the stage the place is buzzing. People are air-guitaring to Thunderstruck and dancing to Sabotage as they play over the PA.
So when the boys do finally hit the stage (to a dub remix of the Imperial March from Star Wars, no less) the place just explodes. Slamming straight into new album banger Set Fazers they send Epic into a frenzy.
It’s almost pointless to talk about frontman Benji Webbe at this stage of Skindred’s career, as what hasn’t already been said about this man? If there’s a more underrated singer in modern rock music then I’ve never heard of them.
He’s charisma personified with a voice to match. Whether he’s singing It’s Getting Hot In Here over the intro of That’s My Jam, donning a bright pink bucket hat for recent single, the infectious reggae-tinged L.O.V.E. (Smile Please) or nominating his own children as people he hates before classic Kill The Power, he’s impossible to take your eyes off.
The rest of the band are no slouches but they’re clearly happy to stand in their mighty frontman’s shadow.
Birthday-boy drummer Arya Goggin gets a round of Happy Birthday before slamming into If I Could, while guitarist Mickey Demus appears to play an acoustic version of Marillion’s Kayleigh before Benji joins him for the opening of Life That’s Free.
Fan favourite Nobody dissolves into a drum and bass remix of itself before careening into new album rager Gimme That Boom and turning the whole place into a nightclub.
They return to the stage (Benji resplendent in a white tassled leather jacket with “Unity” emblazoned across the back) for new album opener Our Religion before Spookz from Blackgold joins them and takes dual vocal duties for a searing version of Warning.
Some have criticised Skindred shows because you always know what you’re going to get. But if what you get is an evening this enjoyable (plus some genuinely exciting new talent to boot), who the hell cares?