March 15, 2020

Body Count – the crossover metal side venture of west coast hip-hop giant Tracy Marrow – better known as Ice-T – has been around for nigh on 30 years. As Ice-T himself explains on the 2017 album Bloodlust, ‘moshing’ occurred at hip-hop shows and Ice wanted to give his friend Ernie C an outlet to play guitar. The band were never short on controversy and their self titled debit released in 1992 was swamped with it; while discussing socio-political issues, drug abuse and police brutality, initial copies of the album were even shipped in body bags. Originally, the album was entitled Cop Killer and included a song with the same name but Warner executives were already jittery about the album. The situation blew up with a Time-Warner shareholders meeting and actor Charlton Heston reading lyrics from KKK Bitch and demanding that the company take action to remove the album. With the then wife of presidential hopeful Al and moral campaigner Tipper Gore wading in along with Police federations across the United States campaigning for a boycott of Time Warner products, the controversy looked like it was boiling over. There was enough in defence of the album, not only from a freedom of speech perspective and the fact that police brutality was very real but when politicians steamed in and then president George Bush condemned the album, the writing seemed to be on the wall. With death threats being levelled at Time Warner executives, it was Ice-T himself that removed the song from the album – although not before copies had been released featuring Cop Killer which had been replaced by a new version of Ice-T song Freedom Of Speech.

That was then…and opinion will be either that it was a genuine audacious beginning or a cynical ploy but that debut still stands up three decades on and while it may have overshadowed the band’s career it has not hurt them enough to stall it. And the truth is that Body Count as a band, are also a bunch of friends talking about real issues how they see them and to the sound track of speed, thrash and hardcore and seven albums in plus a lot of game changing mixing and matching of musical genres over the last 30 years it cannot be argued that Body Count does not have a place in metal history.

And Body Count has endured more than controversy over a song with the loss of original members Beatmaster V (Leukemia) Mooseman (drive by shooting) and D-Roc (Lymphoma) which put the band on an emotional ride that few would come back from but Body Count persevered and while not exactly prolific in releaseing albums, even taking a hiatus following 2006’s Murder 4 Hire which felt tired as a record. Body Count did briefly return with a song for video game The Gears Of War 3 in 2010. There was a resurgence for the band when Body Count released fifth album Manslaughter in 2013 which brought them back to their best and followed by the excellent Bloodlust, Body Count did sound both inspired and rejuvenated again.

So to the present, a new decade and Body Count return once more with Carnivore and in typical Body Count style does not shy away from holding back – even with the title. “It’s basically ‘fuck vegans’,” explains Ice. “We figure that anything carnivorous kicks ass. We’re carnivorous! I’m not [really] saying ‘Fuck vegans.’ Everyone’s so pussy right now, [so] we’re carnivores.” Quite. What Carnovore proves is that it is business as usual, ‘same shit, different day’ and that very little has altered, although if we exist outside of four walls then we already know that this is the case. Lyrically Carnivore still has the same targets and that is because they still live and breathe; the backdrop of racial tension and social injustice are real life that continues to affect people which throws fuel onto Body Count’s fire. The result is slightly mixed, though. Carnivore does feature a wide range of guests and it is a surprise that goth/symphonic queen and lead vocalist of Evanescence Amy Lee could sound anything on a Body Count album but it does work on When I’m Gone while Riley Gale’s contribution to Point The Finger is laid over some solid thrash madness. Bums Rush wildly hits out at a variety of subjects and while it is almost cliche to have a pop at Trump, where would an aggressive album be without the man’s inclusion as a source for violent inspiration?

And in a way, this is the problem for Body Count, the quality of the music gets forgotten or at least spoken over in favour of what the lyrics are saying. No-one is asking that Body Count become ‘party bro’s’, metal has a history of bringing the social conscience to the fore in the name of entertainment and the fact that the band are not really changing their subject matter because it is still out there is being analysed over the whole. Ignore the lyrical content – just for a minute – and Carnivore is one hell of an album, the mix is solid, it sounds GREAT and is a top notch metal album and there are some tracks that immediately jam in the brain, the aforementioned Bum Rush and Another Level (featuring Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta) has a chorus that hangs around when its hardcore stomp has long finished. On 2017’s Bloodlust and during the spoken word prior to cover of Slayer’s Raining Blood/Postmortem that Ice-T tells us his influence for Body Count was “the impending doom of Black Sabbath, the punk sensibility of Suicidal [Tendencies] and the precision of Slayer…” and to that end, Body Count has brought us once more music worthy of that combination, it is meant to bang heads as well as serve as a reminder that the world continues to be a mess.

As has become the norm on Body Count’s albums, the band throw in a cover and this time it is Ace Of Spades dedicated to the late Lemmy although there is two more cover in the form of a metalised version of Ice-T’s Colours that does give it a new lease of life as well as reworked 6 In The Morning. To that end, Carnivore does feel a little short on new material as the familiar kicks with these the tracks – although to be fair 6 In The Morning is a bonus track on the deluxe CD – but the remainder is still worth it and the album does not feel disjointed and packs a vicious punch all the way through.

Carnivore is a terrific sounding record with some great songs and while it is depressing in that the world has not changed that much, this should not stop anyone digging into a fascinating band that has always seemed intent on delivering across the board and delivering the world from their point of view while attacking rather than defending and the band never skimps musically and is a reminder of the band’s strengths in their genre splicing and not being afraid to fuse together aggressive sounds to deliver a solid musical uppercut.

Carnivore does come in a variety of formats with the deluxe edition CD featuring three bonus songs, 6 In The Morning and live versions of No Lives Matter and Black Hoodie. The ultra deluxe box set features the album, a separate CD with instrumentals of the main album, a mini poster of the cover artwork, a Body Count beanie hat and a solid pin badge.

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