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You know, most of the time, I just cannot take Body Count seriously.
Maybe it’s because the band has become synonymous in recent years with their truly ridiculous cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ ‘Institutionalized’. Maybe it’s the fact that in my short 22 years on this planet, I’ve watched dozens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes, a show which Body Count frontman Ice-T played a sizeable role in as Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (and because Ice-T was also beautifully parodied in Season 2 of Rick & Morty.) It could just be the fact that the nickname/stage name of Body Count’s guitarist is “Juan Of The Dead” and that their drummer’s name is Ill Will. Or maybe it’s the fact that since their very beginning, this band has combined very real world issues with these absurd, fictional stories, all with George Carlin levels of coarse language.
No, actually, I know it’s all of the above.
Even so, while I usually don’t take this band seriously – despite the real, serious topics they tackle in their music – I’ll admit that Body Count’s new record, ‘Bloodlust’, isn’t half bad! Though, I would hesitate to label it a great record overall.
On album number six, the Californian band continues the “rock/metal band with a rap mentality” approach to songwriting that they’ve been jacking since day one. Which is all well and fine as they’re good at it, and they’re one of the few bands, alongside Rage Against The Machine and Faith No More, that helped to inspire new, up and coming acts to take the rap-rock, nu-metal route. For better and for worse.
Now, if you’ve heard their 2014 album, ‘Manslaughter‘, then you’ll know exactly what business this new album deals in; distorted, run-of-the-mill metal guitar riffs, punchy drumming that shifts between hardcore grooves and fills with faster, more precise metal patterns, Ice-T’s rapping-but-not-quite-rapping vocal delivery and his unfiltered lyrical content, a plethora of swearing – all with large doses of attitude. As such, ‘Bloodlust‘ is just more Body Count. Except now, the sextet is somehow even angrier and more pissed-off than ever before.
This added layer of aggression most certainly stems from the deep racial tensions in America, both those that have simmered beneath the surface for decades and the more recent incidents that make the news headlines far too frequently. For just like much of the group’s previous work, the key issues discussed here are that of our species tendency for violence and death, police brutality, racism, growing up in low economic urban areas, black-on-black violence in the US, and calling out any and all bullshit the band witnesses in this crazy fucking world of ours. Again, just more Body Count for your ear holes.
But as for the actual songs here, well… it’s a mixed bag.
The overly long album opener ‘Civil War’ doesn’t quite capture the energy of the later and frankly better songs, but it does feature a solid guitar solo from Dave Mustaine, and it’s a fitting solo for Body Count’s music and overall vibe. As far as the features go, Max Cavalera guests on the spiteful and vengeful chug-fest that is ‘All Love Is Lost’ (which is not an Architects cover sadly), making for a really solid cut. Also, writing a very Lamb Of God-sounding track that’s titled ‘Walk With Me’ and has Randy Blythe himself featuring on it is really on the nose, ain’t it? Yes, yes it fucking is! Decent song, though.
In terms of novelty and the band’s compositional efforts, the gunshot samples that are synced up with the thundering double kicks in the surprisingly emotional (well, as emotional as this band could ever get) hood anthem ‘This Is How We Ride’ was a really nice touch. Kind of corny, but ultimately very effective. So too where the pair of gunshot samples that fit in time with the chorus of ‘Black Hoodie’, with Ice-T scathingly declaring “that’s the sound of the police” in regards to said gunshots. Oh, and I cannot talk about this record and the novelty without mentioning their faithful and truly wicked cover of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’, which morphs into a final, blistering rendition ‘Postmortem’ for full thrash metal medley points. Unlike their Suicidal Tendencies cover, this is a spot-on rendition of two classic Slayer songs, with the lyrics remaining verbatim. It’s one of the best moments of this whole record, if not the best!
Covers aside, there are some very serious, very straight-faced songs on this record, such as the aforementioned ‘This Is Why We Ride‘, the banging lead single ‘No Lives Matter’, the confessional and remorseful ‘God Please Believe Me’, and the anti-profiling rager of album closer ‘Black Hoodie’. But for every time that Ice-T and his band mates grapple with heavy subject matter, they jarringly dilute their meaning and their impact by surrounding them with subpar songs with cringy, eye-rolling narratives.
For instance, ‘Here I Go Again’ is made up of mid-tempo drumming and Slayer-inspired guitar-work, all underpinning a monologue from Ice-T where he portrays the twisted actions and mindset of a Patrick Bateman-like serial killer. And Christ, it’s fucking bad. It’s like reading the raving diary entries of a 14-year-old kid who watches far too many horror movies and generic crime shows. But what makes it even more jarring is that on the track listing, right after this downright dumb song, you have the pissed-off, anti-racist anthem of ‘No Lives Matter’ – one of the album’s best and perhaps most poignant songs.
Likewise, earlier on you get ‘The Ski Mask Way’. Oh god, this fuckin’ song!
Basically, that track is Ice-T and co. talking about how they’re going to “get paid” via the “ski mask way” (committing robbery, heists, breaking & entering). It’s not an awful song, well, at least not at first. After all, Ice-T has spoken about his earlier gangster years and how he’s dabbled in such crimes to get by as a young man, so there’s some real weight to it. But then you hit the song’s bloody middle part, which is a typical hardcore-punk build-up section where Ice-T talks through the “no bullshit” process of robbing someone, about getting everyone up against the walls, wanting what’s in the safe, how they’ll “shoot the bitch” if the safe isn’t opened quick enough, and how it’s all just “business, nigger”.
Yeah… and that’s not even to mention the pseudo-deep meaning of the album’s average as fuck title track either.
See, the main issue with ‘Bloodlust’ is that there is some massive tonal dissonance on this record that weighs everything thing down with unnecessary baggage. This is also another big reason as to why I don’t take this band seriously; because they write shit like ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘The Ski Mask Way’. Yes, the band has taken this approach ever since their self-titled debut with songs like ‘Evil Dick’ and ‘KKK Bitch’. However, it didn’t work back in 1992 and it doesn’t work now in 2017. It all just gets in the way of their stronger, outspoken and more serious material, which is what this band excels at.
Unlike Wu-Tang Clan, Body Count are indeed something to be fucked with, as when they remain straight-faced and fully on-track, they deliver some of the angriest heavy music around. Which is where their greatest musical strengths are found. But when the band’s mask slips, and they try to be “edgy” or “funny” they come off as simply idiotic instead of what they should be – intimidating.
As I said before, ‘Bloodlust’ is just a mixed assortment of songs. Cut the shit next time, guys.
1. Civil War
2. The Ski Mask Way
3. This Is Why We Ride
4. All Love Is Lost
5. Raining Blood
6. God Please Believe Me
7. Walk With Me
8. Here I Go Again
9. No Lives Matter
11. Black Hoodie
‘Bloodlust’ is out March 31st via Century Media Records. That album cover is just god awful. Just god awful. Five points deducted. Also, I love how as he gets older, Ice-T just gets harder and tougher. He’s like wine that’s made out of fucking pissed-off concrete!