(This is TheMadIsraeli’s review of the new album by Body Count.)
Say what you want, but in concept the mixing of rap/hip-hop and metal is something that makes complete fucking sense. A lot of music from both genres encapsulates a lot of the same angst, rage, and darkness, depending on where you look. I don’t know if I can explain why nü-metal to many people was an abomination of a music genre, although I think it’s the cornball excessive whiteness of it, how much it diluted down the metal aspect to relatively inoffensive minimalism, and how faux edgy it was. Thing is, early nü-metal was experimental and ambitious and found a good middle ground between the two styles. Rage Against The Machine is a favorite band of mine actually, and I think they’re the primo example of this being done to its maximum potential.
Body Count is the other most notable example. I like Body Count’s entire discography and I’ve always felt they were shamefully unsung heroes of thrash/metallic hardcore. I think it’s interesting that in the fifth track on this album, a pretty fantastic cover of “Reign In Blood”, there’s a monologue by Ice-T preceeding it where he talks about Suicidal Tendencies having a gang-banger from the streets vibe about their music and how it influenced Body Count. I’ve always liked hardcore that had this same vibe, which is why bands like Biohazard come to mind, who unashamedly had this vibe going in a way that was authentic.
Body Count, of course, have evolved with the times. Their Sumerian comeback debut Manslaughter kept all the old school ’80s and ’90s metallic elements and groove they were known for, but they proved themselves unafraid to explore some slightly experimental territory and to embrace a more modern song-writing structure.
Now the band are on Century Media and their debut on that label, Bloodlust, is one of my favorite albums of the year by far. I don’t know whether it’s how genuinely pissed off it is, how good guitarist Ernie C is at writing killer riffs with propulsive groove and attitude, or how much I appreciate Ice T’s much more matter-of-fact lyrical delivery than what metal has gotten itself wrapped up in lately, with pretentious talk of space, philosophy, and so on. The music feels present, it’s existentialist, and it’s looking at how fucked-up everything and everyone is right here in the moment, especially concerning the plight of people of color in American culture and society.
The band haven’t forgotten their thrash roots, but Body Count have always been strongest when they’ve played metallic hardcore. In fact, I think it’s when they purge their self-confessed Slayer influence entirely that they’re at their best. The Slayer cover on this record aside, Black Sabbath meets Suicidal Tendencies mixed with a dose of nü-metal over-the-top angst is a pretty good quantification of Bloodlust.
There are other influences that I can’t quite completely peg. The Black Sabbath–Suicidal Tendencies–Slayer trinity that Ice T always names as the definition of Body Count has never felt quite like the complete summary of their music. The doomy NY hardcore attitude of opener “Civil War” could definitely be compared to Seasons Of The Abyss-era Slayer, but it also feels a LOT like something out of more modern Testament in its swagger. The solo break that goes into full-on, full-speed-ahead thrash shenanigans comes off as something from a Megadeth record, with Ernie C pumping out a fucking phenomenal solo with some great phrasing that sounds like a classic explosion of riffs and melody from the best of thrash metal.
The one pure thrash-metal song on this record, “Walk With Me…”, is another example of the difficulty of precisely pegging their influences, coming off as something you might hear on an Artillery album. The presence of Randy Blythe on this song, sharing the vocal duties, is also cool; the contrast between him and Ice T plays really well to the song’s narrative.
As noted above, however, this band are really at their best when the punk and hardcore elements are at the forefront. “The Ski Mask Way”, “All Love Is Lost”, “Black Hoodie”, and the title track are the proof of that. The nü-metal bounce of “No Lives Matter” hits hard and definitely stays with you, as does the power-ballad-meets-groove-metal mesh of “This Is Why We Ride”, but Body Count excel when things are punk, street, and pissed.
This album is great. I like the approach of painting poverty and the ghetto as an inescapable purgatory that inevitably breeds the innermost depraved aspects of man just to cope with the environment. This record is undeniably, justifiably, angry, and drenched in paranoia, the desire for revenge, the desire for power — just so you can feel anything but completely dehumanized by the rest of society and, as the title proclaims, blood lust. While Bloodlust paints a grim picture of a world where the black man might be even more marginalized and imprisoned than he was before, it’s done with passion and gusto, and you can get behind the anger pouring out of it all. This is definitely an unexpected favorite of mine this year.
Well said. I couldn’t describe it better even if I wanted to. I like Body Count too and I like that you wrote about them. Their new album is really good and it gets better over time.
Good read !
Nice review, I’d been meaning to check out the full album after hearing No Lives Matter here a few months back. Time to remedy that!
I think the problem with nu metal wasn’t the idea itself, but the horrific implementation. Fred Durst in general is something nobody needed–Fred Durst rapping even less so. Having one side or the other–metal or rap–being some of the worst practitioners of their respective genres guarantees only sadness.
However, there is a hilarious interview out there somewhere (I wish I could find it) in which Steven Tyler–likely very drunk and/or high–credits Aerosmith’s performance with RUN D.M.C. as a great leap forward not just in music, but in race relations.