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African Holocaust

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Album Review

A long seven years since their previous album, Rage and Fury, reggae legends Steel Pulse return yet again, this time with African Holocaust, and yet again have their ranks dwindled. Core members David Hinds (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Selwyn Brown (keyboards, backing vocals) are the only ones to remain from the band's glory years, but they more than hold their own and they're joined by a deep roster of supporting musicians, a list too long to list. As always, the music is what's most important, and on that count, this Steel Pulse lineup indeed makes the mark. The sound here is superglossy for such grassroots-level reggae, sure, and that may indeed irk some listeners who still yearn for the lo-fi golden age of roots reggae. Even so, the songwriting and musicianship here are also super — as super as anything bearing the Steel Pulse banner in a decade or two (standouts include "Global Warning," "Blazing Fire," and the title track). The thing is, this is largely a Hinds solo album; he writes all the songs in addition to singing and lending guitar to them, so if there's anything lacking it's a sense of unison among the bandmembers. You have to wonder if this guy ever tires of Steel Pulse. After all, it's been decades now, and here again he shows no sign of slowing down. Granted, it did take him seven years to get the album out, but still. There's really not too much else to say about African Holocaust. Longtime fans will know what to expect. Newcomers should know a few things: above all, Steel Pulse are known for performing well-written, Afrocentric songs that are rebellious without being negative or inflammatory, and though the band membership has changed over the years, the type of songs hasn't, nor has the steady move away from dancehall that was apparent on the band's previous album. This is very well done contemporary reggae, and even the rhetoric-laden liner notes and iconographic outer packaging are well done. Overall, yes, it's well done.

Customer Reviews

Mostly good, but not all of it

Everyone agrees this is Pulse's most solid work since the 80's, but there are a few weaker tracks and occasionally things that hold back some songs from being better. The best and most popular song is No More Weapons, featuring Damian Marley, a song about war in the middle east with a nice amount of echo/delay on the horns and vocals to give a stronger impact and a retro roots flavor. The first 3 songs of the album are all solid right throuh. It breaks down a little on the 4th track, Make Us A Nation, which could have been a much better song if it wasn't so overly-catchy and bubbly and repetitive. It grabs you right away like candy, but after listening a bunch of times you will get tired of it. Dem a Wolf is a nice little bluesy Wailersesque tune, but nothing extraordinary. Tyrant is almost a classic, but it falls short by the verses being short and the chorus repeating itself too frequently. Door of No Return is an uptempo ode to redemption that's pretty nice. Born fe Rebel has a driving edge helped by quick chunks of distortion guitar in the riddim, a solid tune. Darker Than Blue is another tragic could-have-been-much better song; The "ready right now" chorus is a strong rallying cry that should have been left for only the intro and then to reappear at the end of the song, but it gets overused by appearing at the end of every verse and soon loses its power. The pretty saxophone flourishes don't help the song either. Otherwise it's a beautiful riddim and nice vocal work. George Jackson may appeal to people who grew up on folk-rock, but it totally doesn't belong on this album. It's just too lite and airy and poppy of a Dylan cover on a serious subject nonetheless. The title track has a powerful tone, but it was rushed together at the last minute and lacks depth and variety. The verses are way too short, and the drum beat sounds like a preset. The album ends with a warm, rich, and textured reworking of Pulse's old Uncle George from 1979. A nice song that introduces different verses from the original. Some people find the "Jackson" refrain repetitive, but they should think of it more as a chant. That's part of Pulse's original style.

Steel Pulse

Having not heard an extensive amount of Steel Pulse's work, I can't really compare African Holocaust to older or more recent albums. But I can state that this is an astounding reggae album, one that should be heard by any one who calls themselves a fan of the genre. There is not a song here that could be considered less than classic.

Good beats, easy rythim

Have always been a fan of Steel Pulse since I saw them in Bellingham back in (was it 1985? 84?) - well, a long time ago. This album has what sounds like modern mixing which gives the bass end more thump. Love it!

Biography

Formed: 1975 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Steel Pulse were one of Britain's greatest reggae bands, rivaled only by Aswad in terms of creative and commercial success. Generally a protest-minded Rastafarian outfit, Steel Pulse started out playing authentic roots reggae with touches of jazz and Latin music, and earned a substantial audience among white U.K. punks as well. Their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, is still regarded by many critics as a landmark and a high point of British reggae. As the '80s wore on, slick synthesizers and elements...
Full Bio
African Holocaust, Steel Pulse
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