There was a time when Body Count, the hardcore-meets-thrash side-project of West Coast rap pioneer Ice T, was one of the most controversial bands in the world.
Incensed by the 1991 murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins and beating of Rodney King, the band penned the notorious ‘Cop Killer’ as a response to police brutality and racism in their hometown of Los Angeles. The song caused outrage and a national shitstorm that had even US President George Bush weighing in on the matter.
Almost 30 years later and Ice T has presumably been taken off the FBI National Threat list, but the same themes of racism, social injustice and systemic oppression rage at the centre of Body Count’s seventh album. ‘Carnivore’ is a depressing reminder of how little has changed and how far we still have to go.
Body Count’s last album, 2017’s excellent ‘Bloodlust’, played out against a backdrop of high-profile police brutality and the blacklisting of American football player Colin Kaepernick by the NFL, which made stone cold belters like ‘No Lives Matter’ and ‘Civil War’ all the more potent.
They’re themes picked up again here on ‘Point The Finger’, which features Riley Gale of next wave metallers Power Trip. “The fucking badge is the biggest gang we’ve ever had,” Ice raps scathingly over a vicious blast of visceral thrash. “The cops shot and said he reached for a gun/ They shoot first and ask questions last.” On ‘The Hate Is Real’, over malevolent Slayer-aping riffs, Ice bitterly notes that his country has a “long and painful history of telling citizens of colour they do not belong here.” Sure, it’s lyrical ground the rapper has covered many times before, but it still feels depressingly relevant.
Parts of ‘Carnivore’ lack the same bite and pointed barb of its predecessor. ‘When I’m Gone’, which features Evanescence’s Amy Lee, groans towards dated nu metal and the dark humour of ‘Thee Critical Beatdown’ and ‘No Remorse’ feel like directionless rants into the ether. Yet there are several stand-out tracks. ‘Bum Rush’ takes aim at everything from Trump to the Flint water crisis between squealing leads from guitarist Ernie C.
The punishing title track seems to be ripping the piss out of vegans – “Watched my mother clean a fish/Gut a chicken, make a dish” – but there’s a deeper criticism of gang culture buried in the incendiary delivery. It makes a change from Ice’s usual ‘say what you see lyrical style, but those straight-down-the-line harangues are well suited to Body Count’s brutish bludgeonings. A case in point is doomy bicep-flexer ‘Another Level’, which features metal’s human equivalent of an adrenaline shot: Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta.
They might not be the world’s most dangerous band anymore but as long as there’s social division and terrible politicians calling the shots, there’ll always be a place for Body Count.
Release date: March 6
Record label: Century Media