Bloodlust by Body CountRelease date: March 31, 2017
Label: Century Media Records
Body Count are back. And guess what? Ice-T is still angry. The hip-hop artist-turned actor has been far from silent since his bombshell debut in the world of metal. He has quietly been slipping out Body Count albums on a regular basis since their debut back in 1992. But they were largely overlooked, because, as Ice-T puts it: “As an artist, you can be pissed off as you want, but if the audience is dormant and care more about their chai lattes, well… We’re dealing with a generation that has never known rage. They grew up on Obama, they’re soft.” This album, the band’s sixth, is the most focused since the Iceman unleashed ‘Cop Killer’ on the world. And, again in the words of Ice-T: “It is our season again.”
He may be right. Their debut, released in the wake of the riots in protest of the police beating of Rodney King, was seething with fury, no more than on ‘Cop Killer’, whose controversy, meant the band was beset by notoriety over their music. Then, there was a right-wing president in the White House and the US was sharply divided along racial and poverty lines. Fast forward 25 years – beset by tragedy in Body Count, with the deaths of the original members Mooseman, D-Roc and Beatmaster V – and hey presto, there is a right-wing president in the White House and the US is again riven with racial and socio-economic divides.
And there are some blistering tracks on this, backed by Ernie C’s chugging guitar that is clearly a product of his background: growing up with Black Sabbath then being surrounded by Californian thrash in the 1980s. A highlight is ‘No Lives Matter’ a track which continues the themes from ‘Cop Killer’, which were largely overshadowed by the controversy over the song: the US police’s disdain for any race of downtrodden citizen. It is a rap-rock classic in the making, with a riff that Rage Against the Machine would have been proud of – and lyrical content which is up there with Ice-T’s best output.
‘Civil War’, which opens the album, is another standout song, even if Ice-T rails against the press in a way more associated with Donald Trump. Although the subject matter may have struck a chord with the arch-conservative Dave Mustaine, who guested on the song. He’s not the only big name to join in on the album. Max Cavalera does one half of a rage-filled duet in ‘All Love is Lost’ that makes him and Ice-T sound as if they are having counselling midway through a messy divorce.
Meanwhile the Slayer frontman (and Trump fan) Tom Araya sounds every one of his 55 years old on a workaday cover of a medley of two songs off Reign in Blood: ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Postmortem’. Randy Blythe, the Lamb of God vocalist, pops in to bark a large portion of ‘Walk With Me’ – which is a dark, speedy depiction of paranoia, with a huge chorus. ‘Black Hoodie’ continues the theme of the police force’s racial profiling and it is a head-nodding, riff-heavy ending to the album. It describes extreme violence – but with good reason.
Less successful are the songs merely concerned with mindless violence – a criticism that could be aimed at Ice-T for his whole career, as he straddled the lyrical realms of social commentary and self-parody. For every ‘Cop Killer’ or ‘There Goes the Neighbourhood’ on Body Count’s debut, there was a ‘KKK Bitch’. For every ‘Freedom of Speech’ or ‘Lethal Weapon’ on his hip hop classic The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech, there was ‘The Girl Tried to Kill Me’. On here we have ‘The Ski Mask’ and the title track. The horrorcore lyrics may depict a kind of reality for some, but when you remember that a 59-year-old successful actor is spitting out the lyrics, they lose a little of their venom.
Still, there is enough quality on here for anyone who remembers the Body Count of old to get stuck into. They haven’t changed that much in 25 years. But then again, neither has the world.