Before he was Skindred’s master of ceremonies, Benji Webbe was doing… well, pretty much the same thing with Dub War. The Newport crossover crew released a pair of albums in the 90s that melded metal and reggae and, at the time, sounded totally unlike anything else in music. Both 1995’s Pain and 1996’s Wrong Side Of Beautiful are great lost gems, well worth investigating. But that was then, and do Dub War still stand up 26 years later?
Broadly speaking, yes, they do. The main hurdle might be that, well, aren’t Skindred doing this exact thing already? Kind of. But while it would be disingenuous to say that the presence of Benji doesn’t make Westgate Under Fire sound sort of similar to his main job, there are key differences in Dub War. Skindred are a forward-thinking band, who clearly strive to incorporate as many modern musical styles and production techniques into their sound, whereas Dub War are more of a love letter to classic dub, punk and alt-rock. Nowhere on the record is this more evident than on a superb cover of War Inna Babylon by Jamaican roots reggae legends Max Romeo and The Upsetters, featuring the final recorded performance from guest vocalist Ranking Roger of The Beat, before his passing in 2019. It’s a perfect touch, and gives Dub War a real sense of authenticity.
As you’d expect, Benji is the star of the show here, crooning and barking his way through Bite Back then channelling John Lydon on the thrashy Art Of War, before lyrically skipping through the two- stepping Fun Done. It might not sound quite as contemporary as Skindred, but the members of Dub War can still make the original rock/reggae soundclash sound like a huge amount of fun.