As longtime readers may know, I have a special place in my heart for L.A. street metal combo Body Count. Their debut album is an indisputable cult classic, and follow-ups Born Dead and Violent Demise were equally essential to the soundtrack of my misanthropic youth. BC suffered some setbacks since the early days, including the deaths of three original members. 2014’s Manslaughter seems to have been the comeback the band needed, and now Ice-T and co. are making a case for modern metal legitimacy with Bloodlust.
Opener “Civil War” kicks off with a spoken intro from right-winger and born-again Christian Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), who seemed about as likely as Charlton Heston to appear on a BC record. The song’s doomy pace kicks up a notch or three towards the end, as Mustaine reappears to lay down some tasty soloing. The guest appearances continue with Max Cavalera (Soulfly), who co-wrote and shares lead vocals on “All Love Is Lost.” As a big, stupid Chaos AD-style groove rolls by, Ice-T and Max lash out against those who have scorned them (Ice seems to be singing about an ex-girlfriend; Max’s lyrics could conceivably be directed towards Andreas Kisser).
Track 5 is a cover of Slayer‘s “Raining Blood/Postmortem,” not unlike the Suicidal Tendencies cover on Manslaughter. It’s not particularly well done — Ernie C. and Juan Of the Dead might be the only two metal guitarists on earth who don’t know how to play that signature riff, and bassist Vincent Price’s lead vocal on “Postmortem” approaches parody. The song begins with a brief explanation by Ice-T, suggesting that he’s aware that this track requires some justification.
Lyrically, Ice-T is one of very few people who have seen street life from both within and without, and this results in an interesting duality on record. On “No Lives Matter,” Ice correctly points out that America has a class war in addition to a racial one. But on “The Ski Mask Way” he’s in full-on gangster mode, conducting a home invasion during the song’s bridge. The two viewpoints collide on “This Is Why We Ride” (co-written with God Forbid‘s Doc Coyle) which seems to lament gang violence while simultaneously justifying its causes. Iceberg’s lyrical approach works best on the title track, where he describes all of mankind’s self-destructive tendencies as a “sickness.” It seems like current events have kickstarted Ice-T’s more socially-conscious lyrics, which is never a bad thing.
“Walk With Me” is among the most aggressive tracks in the BC catalog, with blast beats and near-black metal trem picking, not to mention a furious guest vocal by Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God). “Here I Go Again” finds Ice playing the role of serial killer over a horribly dated groove, suggesting the short-lived “horror rap” of the early ’90s. “Black Hoodie” is clearly intended to be a “Cop Killer”-style anthem, but while the subject matter is tailor-made to become a BC classic, the song is derailed by weak riffs and some corny-ass ICP-style “whoop whoops” on the chorus.
Bloodlust is as professional as Body Count gets, with slick production, guest stars and outside songwriters — and I guess that’s what feels wrong about it to me. BC‘s best albums felt sloppy and low-budget, which gave it a grindhouse vibe and a sense of urgency (see also: Darkthrone, early ’80s punk rock, the entire Cannon Films catalog). Present-day Body Count has been boiled down to little more than breakdown riffs, and a lot of it sounds like Ice-T fronting any Hatebreed-wannabe groove/hardcore band. To his credit, Ice is trying to express some heavy ideas, but his flow is not what it used to be. I’m already seeing a lot of press hailing Bloodlust as “Body Count‘s best record yet” or some such bullshit. Don’t believe the hype.