Originally formed in 1993 in Newport, Wales, Dub War were a band that tore into the atmosphere with a unique, head-turning fusion of rock, punk, hip-hop and reggae dub – efforts which, in 2020, Metal Hammer declared as ‘tiresomely overlooked’ and alike to the genius of Rage Against The Machine and Faith No More. Since then, frontman Benji Webbe has worked his revolutionary ways within the folds of the legendary Welsh metal band Skindred. Now returning with their first album of all new material since 1996’s ‘Wrong Side Of Beautiful’, Dub War are set to release ‘Westgate Under Fire’ on 5th August 2022, giving the world a second chance to appreciate their trailblazing sound to the full extent that it deserves.
“Although I’m in Skindred, Dub War has always been very dear to my heart. The pandemic and lockdown gave me a lot of time to write with [original members] Richie [Glover, bass] and Jeff [Rose, guitar]. We played a few reunion shows before Covid hit, and the shows felt so good, so we began to write some new Dub War songs,” says Benji on the reigniting of Dub War.
‘Westgate Under Fire’ builds upon the groundbreaking sound that Dub War are known and loved for. Working its way through ragga-punk (see the punk rock cover of the Max Romeo and the Upsetters’ classic “War Inna Babylon”, which features the legendary Ranking Roger of The Beat in his last ever recording before his sad passing in 2019), sinister metal with exotic beats (“Coffin Lid”), and hip-hop infused metal (“Vibes In The Place”). “We had no need to wander far from our original sound,” affirms Benji. The album also packs a punch with its lyricism, as in the critical messages enfolded in the likes of “Blackkk Man”.
A band which take pride in their hometown, ‘Westgate Under Fire’ shines a light on a crucial event in Newport’s history, the Newport Uprising. An event which would play a role in transforming democracy in Britain and the world, the uprising in 1839 saw thousands from the Chartist movement march through south Wales, seeking social reform, including the right for men of all classes to vote. The marches ended in a bloody battle at the Westgate Hotel, which saw many of the Chartists dead or wounded. ‘Westgate Under Fire’ aims to embody the empowerment that Chartists took upon themselves all those years ago and coincides with the local community resurrecting the derelict Westgate Hotel into an exciting new venue.
Whilst fellow Newport resident and good friend Mikee “KRUPA” Gregory took to the skins for many of the album’s tracks, ‘Westgate Under Fire’ sees six different drummers offer their rhythm-keeping for the album. “Adding six different drummers from around the world was a very exciting prospect for us. Each drummer was a friend and a fan of Dub War who brought their own unique blend, and has made this album probably the most entertaining to date, with each track taking you on a sonic journey,” enthuses Benji.
The scenes from which these drummers and the album’s other guest musicians come from are as far-reaching as Dub War’s sound, with the album welcoming Stone Sour’s Roy Mayorga, Faith No More’s Mike Bordin, Snot’s Mikey Doling and Jamie Miller, In Flames’ Tanner Wayne, Ill Niño’s Dave Chavarri, Killing Joke’s Spike T Smith, alongside the aforementioned ska legend Ranking Roger.
‘Westgate Under Fire’ also features a host of good friends behind the mixing desk: Richard “Action” Jackson (who produced the majority of the album), the late GRAMMY-nominated Rick Will (“Rick was an amazing vibe master”, acclaims Benji), Lord Hagos (Senser, Lodestar) and Brian New.
“The album was written over lockdown in 2020 and recorded at each of the band members’ home studios. What made it special was having Richard “Action” Jackson mixing it. As difficult as the period was in which we recorded the album, we still kept the vibes rocking and the energy on each track bouncing,” Benji continues. “It’s definitely been a party of bridge-building, love and helping each other keep sane in such a harsh time for musicians and performers.”