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Body Count Bloodlust

2017 Century Media

This blood runs deep...

Body Count - Bloodlust

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You don’t have to go far to get a handle on the tone of Body Count‘s sixth studio album, “Bloodlust“. The first track, “Civil War“, opens with Megadeth vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine delivering an in character spoken declaration of martial law, laying out a frightening list of rights and freedoms being stripped from the populace, all amid sirens that recall the public addresses delivered in ‘The Purge‘ movies.

Not a band to let such a cameo go to waste, Mustaine later returns on the same track with a fiery solo that breaks up frontman Ice-T‘s cautionary tale of the current racial/political divide that has split in America in half. It’s a bold opener that pretty much sums up exactly what “Bloodlust” is about to deliver: A politically and racially charged look at the current state of America and the evil that men do.

It’s not a diss to say that Ice-T isn’t exactly a talented ‘singer.’ You won’t hear brutal death grunts or soaring melodies. The key to his success in a metal band has always laid in his keen awareness of his own technical limitations, allowing him to thrive as a charismatic storyteller. It’s a trait he managed to build a career on and the continued relevance and bluntness of his street poetry of sorts has taken him to places few could have ever expected.

On “Bloodlust” he still revels in it. There’s skits included and songs are often prefaced with introductory explanations. For instance, on “The Ski Mask Way” he tells the tale of taking advantage of the carelessness of social media culture and the tendency to flaunt wealth without considering the consequences. That song arrives complete with an acted out robbery, recalling his past works during the heyday of his rap career, and that of gangsta rap in general during its nascent period in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

However, while telling the tale of why Body Count formed prior to the included medley of Slayer‘s “Raining Blood” and “Postmortem” seems like a fitting tip of the hat. His decision to spell out a number of the songs before they even really begin does wear thin, as nearly each cut opens with a brief synopsis of sorts.

In a sense, it’s almost like he’s delivering a running commentary on something that is soon readily apparent, as he doesn’t tend to mince words when it comes to lyrics. It also winds up feeling a bit clumsy on repeat listens and would probably better be left for stage banter.

Still, despite a stumble or two, “Bloodlust” as a whole finds the band continuing to flourish in their career renaissance of sorts. It’s a highly enjoyable album chock-full of shock value and explosive topics, complete with guest cameos and writers. Along with Mustaine, Lamb Of God‘s Randy Blythe and Soulfly‘s Max Cavalera also lend their talents on tracks that have distinct echoes of their own original bands.

Body Count also remain fearless in tackling some of the bigger issues, be it on “No Lives Matter” or “Black Hoodie” (the latter featuring a callback to KRS-One)—both of which are bolstered by Ice-T‘s street cred and would likely end the career of any other metal band outside of maybe Rage Against The Machine.

Thanks to decades of pushing the envelope, Ice-T sits in a unique position of being able to say whatever he wants and get away with it. He’s able to be refreshingly non-PC and a few of the songs featured here almost recall the days when “Cop Killer” nearly turned the music industry upside down.

Even so, there is a disconnect apparent on “Bloodlust“. The songwriting and technical ability are entirely serviceable. The band still practice a tasteful mix of thrash, hardcore and punk. But it’s unlikely that the riffs or rhythm section will ever outshine the larger than life persona of the vocals. That the vocals also feel like social commentary more than traditional ‘artistry’ leave the album feeling cerebral, rather than cathartic.

It’s only when Ice-T delves into a serial killer persona on the track “Here I Go Again” do the band deliver what could be construed as a traditional ‘song,’ rather than an explosive reaction to injustice and such. In turn, it definitely stands out as one of the more memorable tracks here when it comes to overall musicianship.

As stark and serious as the message is across most of this album, there’s no denying that “Bloodlust” can be a very entertaining listen. It’s far darker and grittier than 2014’s “Manslaughter” and manages to drive its points home even harder. Over twenty years later Body Count remain as much of a firebrand as they did when they started.

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