Body Count bringing the gravity

BODY COUNT: Bloodlust

Release year: 2017/2019
Label: Century Media

Body Count are one of those bands whose longevity is unlikely – next year it will be 30 years since a group of young black men from South Central, LA, led by rapper Ice-T, started hammering out crossover metal tunes in a time when black people in metal were not a common sight, not even to the extent they are today. Since then, they have shocked the entire nation, lost three original members to street violence or disease, but have never given up.

The group are most notorious for the anthemic Cop Killer from their 1992 debut, a provocative and scathing lyrical retaliation to the Rodney King incident and police violence. The song met with controversy that blew out of all proportion; even vice president Dan Quayle condemned the song. It has since been removed from all re-releases of the album.

So Body Count entered the scene with a bang. Sadly, the group didn’t manage to capitalize on the momentum of the debut and the visibility of the Cop Killer controversy; and with the waning fortunes of all kinds of metal in the early 90’s, the band soon fell off many people’s radars – second album Born Dead (1994) and subsequent albums have largely fallen into obscurity.

After the rather disappointing Murder 4 Hire (2006), which even Ice-T has been dismissive of, many were probably ready to forget the band. Far too soon, as it were. In 2014, Manslaughter hit the music world like a bomb. Body Count were back big time, finally with a successor worthy of the legendary debut. They were hard, they were mean, they were heavy as fuck, they were angry and they weren’t taking any prisoners.

Some of the favourable reactions to Manslaughter might have been due to the surprise of Body Count releasing a new album at all. Bloodlust proves that Manslaughter wasn’t a fluke: the second album after the “comeback” (can you come back if you were never truly gone, just not on everyone’s radar?) is every bit as good, if not even better, proving that the praise the band garnered with Manslaughter was fully deserved.

On Bloodlust, Ice-T, guitar maestro Ernie C and the rest of Body Count stick to what they do best: angry, in-your-face rock music which mixes rap aesthetics, thrashing metal and hardcore punk into an amalgam that is purely Body Count. The difference to earlier albums is that, like on Manslaughter, Body Count finally have a production and sound that match the music: heavy, brutal, abrasive and powerful. The one glaring flaw on the debut is the rather tame sound. Not so here.

In his lyrics, Ice-T alternates between gore-drenched dark humour a’la the detailed murder fantasies of Here I Go Again and serious (albeit provocative) social commentary in the vein of No Lives Matter or Black Hoodie – like the band has done on every album since the debut. For the first time in Body Count’s career, Ice-T fully matches the intensity and fury of the debut lyrically – and vocally, at times even surpasses it. The lyrics of Bloodlust refuse to be ignored.

There’s no shortage of hit songs here: the already mentioned tracks No Lives Matter and Black Hoodie are absolute highlights, showing the serious and political side of the group. The Ski Mask Way goes for some gangsta romanticism, whilst This Is Why We Ride explores the conditions of the ghetto combining boastful rap aesthetics with a very brooding, melancholy atmosphere – cracking the boastful surface to offer a glimpse at the grim reality beneath. Both work wonderfully. There are other great moments on the album as well, but let’s leave it at these. If you want more, just give the entire album a spin.

The box set re-release comes five bonus tracks: the instrumental versions of Civil War and No Lives Matter are rather trivial, and the live version of Cop Killer is no match for the original – somehow live recordings of Body Count manage to catch very little of the presence and impact the band has on stage, resulting in rather forgettable live tracks which could lead one to mistakenly think that the group are not in their element on stage. Having seen them live at Tuska 2018, I can assure you that Body Count kick ass live.

It’s the two previously unreleased tracks that are worthy additions: Extreme Discipline is a fun song, but pales in comparison to Blood Sport, which showcases the fiercest, most thrash metal side of Body Count. Where the Slayer-medley of Raining Blood/Postmortem on the album proper only hints at it, this is Body Count going full on thrash groove and taking no prisoners.

Ultimately, though, the bonus tracks don’t make it absolutely necessary to purchase the album for a second time if you already have the original. Unless you’re a collector, like me. Then it is of course absolutely mandatory.

Bloodlust is a blistering album, which should prove any naysayers of the band conclusively wrong. The cult status of Body Count may at one time have to some extent been due to the gimmick – an all-black metal band with a legendary rapper on vocals – but with an album as strong as this, nearly 30 years after their inception, Body Count stand firmly on their own legs. An album as strong as this renders any gimmick null and void.

Better believe it. Because if you talk shit… you might get shot.

5/5

Visit Body Count on their official website or Facebook

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