BODY COUNT – Carnivore

BODY COUNT – Carnivore

In his book "Heavy" Dan Franklin describes heavy metal as "full‑on, intimidating, exhilarating and addictive…bloodletting for the excessive soul" which "suits a person who sometimes feels too much and wants to be consumed by sound and fury". I could not think of a better description for the Los Angeles rap/hardcore heavy metal outfit Body Count’s 7th full length, where they further depart from their former rapcore stylings into the realm of pure heavy metal, with the result sure to satisfy all those who appreciated "Bloodlust" for its varied approach.

Body Count was created in 1990 by a charismatic former U.S. 25th Infantry Division soldier, rapper Tracy Lauren "Ice-T" Marrow (also known to US TV watchers as NYPD Detective/Sergeant Odafin "Fin" Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and guitarist and backing vocalist Ernie "C" Cunnigan. Body Count debuted with the self-titled album (1992) from which a controversial "Cop Killer" song was eventually removed by Ice-T under a right-wing political pressure. The following, "Born Dead (1994), "Violent Demise: The Last Days" (1997) albums helped solidify their position in the rapcore audience but the band hit a snooze button for 9 years before releasing "Murder For Hire" (2006) and Manslaughter (2014), but it was Bloodlust (2017), featuring such heavy metal icons as David Scott Mustaine (Megadeth), Massimiliano Antonio "Max" Cavalera (ex-Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy) and David Randall "Randy" Blythe (Lamb Of God) which really showed both their songcraft and their versatility along with the increased direction toward more extreme heavy metal. Specifically, it revealed Ice-T’s love for Slayer, which is one of the core stylings of "Carnivore", now no longer just here and there but laid and bare for all to see and enjoy.

Ever since his very impressive impersonation of Slayer’s Chilean American vocalist Tomás Enrique "Tom" Araya on the cover "Raining In Blood/Postmortem" featured on "Bloodlust", Ice-T (whose nickname is a combination of his love for novelist Iceberg Slim and an American tendency to call friends by the first letter of their name, popular not just among Blacks), has developed an affinity for screaming vocal stylings similar to Araya’s. The man simply sounds like a seasoned thrasher in the best tracks, "The Critical Beatdown" and "The Hate Is Real", both of which could easily fit on "South Of Heaven" or "Seasons In The Abyss". But there is still (as was in the past) a strong Biohazard vibe to the songwriting, as in "Point The Finger" or the catchy Rage Against The Machine-ian "Bum-Rush". There is a mandatory cover, in this case, Motörhead’s "Ace Of Spades" with Ice-T impressively channeling the late Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister aided by Eric "Jello Biafra" Boucher (ex-Dead Kennedys), and an interesting ballad co-operation with Evanescence’s Amy Lynn Lee (When I’m Gone) as well as on the nu-metallish duet with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta (Another Level) and even a metalized remake of Ice-T’s solo rap hit "Colors" from the soundtrack of Dennis Hopper’s film of the same name. But the biggest shock is the influence of deafening deathcore a’la The Accacia Strain in the opening title track or the hate-filled excellent "No Remorse", the sheer tonnage of the guitar and some of the guitarwork resembling Meshuggah not something one can any longer dismiss as simply "rapcore".

Lyrically, Ice-T is all over the place. The most striking is (as already hinted on "Bloodlust") ongoing problem of the US cops murdering innocent citizens on the streets without trial while suffering no consequences and with the victims being blamed in a very similar way as battered women get blamed for enraging their abusive male partners. As this is increasingly not just a US problem, I’m not sure whether or not Ice-T had heard of the recent Polish police street execution of the 21 year old Koninian citizen Adam Czerniejewski, an innocent man, who, too, had been immediately branded a criminal and drug dealer "who got what was coming to him" by the Polish authorities, but the song resonated with me from the first notes. Then there’s the mournful and thoughtful tribute to Ice-T’s recently murdered friend, the Grammy nominee rapper Ermias Joseph "Nipsey Hussle" Asghedom, in Los Angeles (When I’m Gone), the anthem to those who prevailed over the negativity of their environment and succeeded (Another Level) and the lyrical antithesis of Matthew 7:12 known as The Golden Rule where the protagonist/antagonist still gets a little concerned over his hateful attitude (No Remorse) and finally the call for resolving conflicts through the old-fashioned fistfight instead of drive by shootings (The Critical Beatdown) and the recognition of the increasing xenophobia inspired and legitimized by the current occupant of the White House, all of which shows Ice-T at the top of his game aided by the remaining members, Ernie "C" Cunnigan (guitarist, backing vocalist), Sean E Sean (sampler, backing vocals), Vincent Price (bass, backing vocals), Will "Ill Will" Dorsey, Jr. (drums), Juan "Of the Dead" García (rhythm guitars, backing vocals) and Ice-T’s son, Tracy "Little Ice" Marrow Jr. (hype man, backing vocals), all of which contribute to a flawlessly executed work.

What stops me from giving this disc a 5/6 is, paradoxically, what makes it so interesting: the stylistic range. At times, it seems as though Ice-T was struggling with reconciling his solo past with the current Body Count propensity for ultraheaviness and the result appears to have no clear sense of direction. Perhaps a fusion of deathcore and Slayer-ic thrash in most songs would have done the trick but as it is now the most impressive element are the tremendously improved and versatile vocals of Ice-T (check out the near Death-like chorus recalling the late Charles Michael Schuldiner in "Point The Finger") with the music rightly and fairly generally deserving a full 4.5/6 and a rightful status as Body Count’s best album to date.

Like "Bloodlust", the new Body Count album is a continued testimony to the talent of the man called Ice-T, the man who overcame adversity and hostility from a country of his birth where it is becoming horrifyingly cool to hate anyone who isn’t rich, white and male. Where the man and his crew could have just continued to make copies of the self-titled for the rest of their career, they choose rather to give us something different each time, while providing lyrical food for thought regarding the totality of the detoriating human condition, and if you have been their fan so far you’ll likely remain one with "Carnivore", their best album to date.