Steel Pulse African Holocaust

David Hines must be sharing the same oxygen tent as Loretta Lynn, because over 25 years after Steel Pulse's inception in Birmingham, the lead singer's magical youth-filled voice hasn't changed one iota. Nor has his triumvirate agenda of tearing a strip off Babylon ("African Holocaust", "No More Weapons"), forwarding black nationalism ("Born Fi Rebel,” "Make Us a Nation") and espousing the Rasta faith ("Blazing Fire"). After a barren album-less seven years, thankfully the promise made on 1994’s "Back to My Roots” has not been broken. Gone are the dance-pop numbers that plagued the band in the late ’80s and early '90s. Instead, African Holocaust delivers gritty lyrics, heady roots reggae, and contemporary nuances to create an album long-time fans will rejoice in and others should discover. Even with only Selwyn Brown and Hines left from the original line-up, African Holocaust feels like nouveau-vintage Pulse. Tracks such as "Door of No Return" and "Darker than Blue" are kindred spirits with Pulse circa Reggae Fever, and it's hard not to see echoes of "Earth Crises" or "Bodyguard" in stand-out tracks like "Global Warming" and "Tyrant." In true Pulse fashion the album breathes with contemporary sounds — check out Capleton leading the band through a few of the record's dancehall inspired tracks. There's even a bouncy cover of Dylan's "George Jackson," which actually eclipses the band's own composition on the same subject matter called "Uncle Jackson." It's a shame Grizzly left the band, as he was truly one of reggae's greatest drummers. His absence is definitely felt on the less adventurous arrangements, but everything else here points to African Holocaust ranking as the best Pulse album since 1985's Babylon the Bandit. (Sanctuary)