Body Count - Carnivore (Cover Artwork)

Body Count

Carnivore (2020)

Century Media

Rap metal isn’t easy to do well, is it? So much so that not many people honestly have the balls to try these days. Balls, however, is not something you could accuse Body Count of being in short supply of. At this point it’s worth mentioning Body Count have now been a band for THIRTY years. They formed a year before RATM for anyone counting. That doesn’t mean they’re a better band, or that they’re necessarily pioneers of the rap-rock or rap-metal genres, but what it does mean is that their authenticity is beyond question and they’re still doing it for the love of the music. Not many bands make it 30 years in, never mind one who exist in a much-maligned genre with more lowlights than highlights.

So 30 years into their career, what do a rap-metal band have to offer today’s scene? More than you might think, I’d say. But I’m going to start with a few reality check points. You’re not going to get a great deal of progression from this record. Or indeed any. But then I wouldn’t imagine many people reading this were expecting it. Also, there is arguably a slight consistency issue, but that's largely due to the way the album is made up of re-workings, covers, guest slots, etc. But now let me make my own day by saying that this is a very good record. For the second time in 3 years, Body Count have made a record that is far better than it has any right to be. The songs themselves are hulking, chugging, ‘Gibson and Marshall’ metal slices that do vary significantly in pace, but sound for the most part like they have come straight from the 90’s, which for clarity, I do not mean as a negative. There’s a whole heap of Slayer, splashes of G ‘n’ R, moments of Pantera…not the worst set of reference points, are they? For much of the album the riffs feel muscular, impassioned and played by someone who has real love for what they’re doing. All of that with a beefy, if unremarkable rhythm section (apart from Dave Lombardo turning up on the re-working of old Ice T track “Colors”) and a better production job than you’d find on a vast majority of those 90’s records.

But let’s be honest, the main event here is still Ice T. The man is a wrecking ball of charisma, a legitimate OG and still sounds as furious now as he ever has. Both personal (“Thee Critical Breakdown”) and societal (“Point The Finger”) targets get the treatment from Ice and I for one hope to have a fraction of the fire and fury that he does when I’m in my 60’s. When you consider that the record also features Amy Lee of Evanescence on the Nipsey Hussle-dedicated “When I’m Gone” (not a highlight for me, but primarily as I’m not a fan of Amy’s style), Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed on “Another Level” and most explosively, Riley Gale of Power Trip on (one of the album’s highlights) “Point the Finger”, then you can see the reverence that the wider scene has for Body Count, and rightly so.

Viewed as a whole, the album is a combination of things: it’s a socially-conscious record full of righteous indignation and fury, it’s a patchwork of classic band influences (Motörhead’s Ace of Spades gets the traditional Body Count cover treatment this time out) and there’s also an undercurrent of positivity in a strange way. I think it’s Ice’s rallying cries to dispense with institutionalised hatred and violence (even able to see his own flaws in album closer “The Hate is Real”), his absolute zero tolerance for bullshit and also, the fact that 30 years in, he and co-founding member and lifelong friend Ernie C are still making raging metal tracks, driven by the right stuff: Love for the music and passion for the things that motivate them to make it.

It might not be cutting edge, it might not be perfect, but what it is, is fist-pumping, red-blooded metal that keeps me entertained and engaged throughout. Allow me an unusual comparison here for a minute; my favourite comedy is typically that which is based on ‘buddy’ chemistry. Almost all podcasts I listen to consign to that dynamic to some extent or another as well. There’s something both deeply satisfying and comforting about listening to people who are obviously close, cut from the same cloth and on the same page artistically, making something they both love. And that’s what this record is. It’s infectiously enthusiastic and aggressive in equal measures, there are moments of real quality throughout and who doesn’t want to hear Ice T screaming “MOTHERFUCKER!!!” In a De La Rocha style? I sure as hell do.