Review: Body Count, “Bloodlust”

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What do you do with an otherwise great album you don’t enjoy?

Rapper/actor/metal frontman Ice-T and Body Count released their first album in the early 1990s, and despite the “Cop Killer” controversy, the album was pretty wacky, in a Cannibal Corpse house of horrors sort of way. Sure, it had some serious moments (the title track and interlude “A Statistic” stand out in my mind). But songs like “Evil Dick,” “Voodoo,” “There Goes The Neighborhood,” “Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight” and “KKK Bitch” were crazy metal larks. That album contained quite a lot of very dark humor, set to some pretty serious thrash. I can’t say Ice-T invented rap-metal, but he’d certainly perfected it by that point. Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit didn’t add anything to that mix.

Body Count didn’t go away after the first self-titled album, the band released at least one other full-length disc, “Born Dead,” which apparently went nowhere commercially. But it’s clear Ice-T and Body Count are experiencing a resurgence this year, with the release of “Bloodlust,” which very well might be the angriest album we’ll hear in 2017. Anyway, I hope it’s the angriest — if there’s anything more brutal than “Bloodlust” coming this year, I don’t know if I wanna hear it.

Do I have to tell you these songs are extremely explicit? Fair warning.

In terms of timing, Ice-T is certainly striking at the right cultural moment. The Ferguson, Missouri demonstrations and riots, the death of Eric Garner by NYC cops, the execution-style shooting death of Walter Scott by a North Charleston, S.C. police officer , the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, in 2012 by a vigilante and other incidents have brought the issues of racism and violence against African-Americans, predominately black men, into sharp national focus. Throw in the 2016 presidential election, where the current occupant of the White House ran on a campaign of catering to the nationalist, racist “alt right,” and obviously it’s a time to give the topic of racism and violence in America a hard look.

With that, tracks like “No Lives Matter,” “Civil War” and “Black Hoodie,” are definitely timely and touch a cultural nerve. Songs like “No Lives Matter” and “Black Hoodie” pull no punches into their scathing indictment of how America disregards black men, harassing, arresting, incarcerating or simply killing them. Is there any doubt that happens? Look at the prison statistics, which show that African-Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than whites (you can find that study here).

So yes, I I know everything Ice-T and Body Count are saying in the political tracks on “Bloodlust” is absolutely true. Further, as a reporter who covers crime daily, I know there’s a certain element of truth to “The Ski Mask Way” (a brutal track told from the perspective people who rob drug dealers and anyone living large and ostentatiously — “flash cash, we might come to visit you/nice furs, we might come to visit you/sell drugs, we might come to visit you/brag a lot, we might come to visit you/pray to god we don’t come to visit you”).

Crazy as it might be for most people to believe, there’s also quite a lot of truth in “This is Why We Ride,” a song about getting revenge after street shootings and attacks. Not to portray myself as an expert, but it’s not at all uncommon for people to report robberies and assaults, to only later tell the cops to forget it — and that they’ll take care of the situation themselves. I wouldn’t say I hear stories like that weekly covering the police beat, but I’ve heard those stories often enough to not be shocked by them.

The album is not all political beginning to end — the band does a very strong cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and a decent cover of “Postmortem,” “Here I Go Again” is a serial killer horror tale with a bit of a surprise ending, and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe joins Ice-T for the strong “Walk With Me” (Dave Mustaine appears on “Civil War” and Max Cavalera does a cameo on “All Love Is Lost”, but Blythe is the most memorable guest star, IMO).

Musically, “Bloodlust” is about as solid as you like, Ice-T is a compelling vocalist and best songs are driving and full of energy. But oh my god, this album is a hard listen. I think there’s a lot here to respect, but I gotta tell you the truth — listening to “Bloodlust” stresses me the hell out.

Metal has always been confrontational, angry and willing to embrace hard truths. This music isn’t supposed to be “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” is it? No, it’s not. So, again, I can respect what Body Count is doing on “Bloodlust,” and I’d even go so say as to say as Ice-T’s perspective on racism and violence is important, and ought to be heard.

And I’ve heard it. I just don’t think I wanna hear it again. Is this a negative review, then? I don’t know. Maybe you just gotta hear it for yourself.

 

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