Reviewed: [April 2020]
Released [2020 Century Media Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Even without all the controversy and hoo-ha, Take 2 of Body Count makes much more of an impact and feels a hell of a lot more legitimate than the first go-round for rapper Ice-T’s metal/crossover offshoot did back in the day. Lost amid the furor over the incendiary “Cop Killer” from Body Count’s self-titled debut in 1992 was the simple fact that while intentions its might have been pure, its execution lacked polish and sounded pretty garage band.
The infamy of that single tune went much farther than the musical merit of the album as a whole, and it sure helped shift units – even though “Cop Killer” was later removed and replaced by a retooled “Freedom Of Speech” when the shit reached full boil. Of course, Ice had just played a cop in the movie “New Jack City” and has been a fixture on Law And Order: Special Victims Unit or 20 years, which made all the fuss that much more ridiculous. But as Ice’s acting career took off, his attention to Body Count waned and the band sorta spun its wheels over three subsequent releases before going on hiatus in 2006.
But since Body Count re-emerged with 2014’s Manslaughter, it’s been a whole new ballgame. The more seasoned crew – which includes Agent Steel/Evil Dead guitarist Juan “Of The Dead” Garcia – really knew how to bring it with authority and producer Will (Fit For An Autopsy) Putney was able to help make it resonate from a sonic standpoint, and not rely so much on Ice’s charisma to carry the day. Plus, Ice really seems into it.
2017’s Bloodlust ripped, and included a pretty rad, spot-on – albeit in reverse order – mashup of Slayer’s “Postmortem/Raining Blood.” The band even earned a “best metal performance” Grammy nomination for “Black Hoodie,” and not without warrant.
All of which brings us to Body Count’s latest, Carnivore. It certainly captures the spunk and spirit of the last couple releases, even as it offers a bit more of an Acacia Strain-like deathcore brutishness at some points – notably the title track, which kicks things off, and “No Remorse.” Both are low, slow and menacing. “If you were starving, I wouldn’t feed you a hot bowl of shit,” Ice barks over the din on “No Remorse.” Nice.
But the bracing “Point The Finger” – which features Power Trip’s Riley Gale and flips the “Cop Killer” narrative to address police-involved shootings – “The Hate Is Real” and a reverent cover of Motorhead’s signature “Ace of Spaces” are up-tempo and exhilarating, led by drummer Ill Will’s driving tempos, Garcia and Ernie C’s thick, crunching riffs and Ice’s acerbic, often profane lyrics and attack dog delivery. “Bum Rush” hints of Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” in its booty-shaking swagger, keening guitar effects and Ice’s machine-gun cadence, and is the album’s high point.
The revamp of Ice’s classic “Colors” makes a seamless transition from rap to metal here. Its timeless, vivid lyrics and already propulsive undercurrent make a natural foundation for the meaty hooks that punctuate the update, and the thrashy sprint to close it out is a nice touch. Same goes for the sendup of “6 ‘N The Mornin’” – both of which, by the by, feature Dave Lombardo on drums
Less engaging is the mid-tempo fare. “Another Level,” which features Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta, and “Thee Critical Beatdown” deliver plenty of f-bombs, but otherwise feel flat when compared to the other material here. “When I’m Gone” melds deathcore bottom end with ethereal harmonies as Evanescence’s Amy Lee chimes in and sounds a bit out of place – although the melodies are quite compelling and the lyrics are certainly poignant.
Overall, though Carnivore is a resounding, relevant effort. Body Count has settled into an admirable – and resonant – groove since its resurrection. And despite having passed age 60 while also juggling prime time/reality show/Hollywood commitments, Ice doesn’t seem to have lost an ounce of venom – and his bite is as sharp as ever.