It’s frankly shocking that, in 2017, there’s still such an archaic culture of racism that, sadly, doesn’t seem to be getting any less prevalent. It’s particularly in America too, with far too many reports of police violence against people of colour, and in the country’s currently warped political situation, the unavoidable racial divides are hard to ignore. And when it comes to Body Count’s tackling of such issues, they’ve trodden this ground before; their incendiary and highly controversial 1992 single Cop Killer details the sorts of incidents of police brutality that are still going on two-and-a-half decades later.
As such, Bloodlust feels like an album that shouldn’t have to exist, an unflinchingly real portrait of the struggles faced by African-Americans on a daily basis. But at the same time, its importance can’t be overstated, particularly thanks to the rap-metal veterans’ current burgeoning relevance off the back of 2014’s Manslaughter. And given the staunchly outspoken stance that this band has taken in the past around various political issues, particularly in the case of talismanic frontman Ice-T, Bloodlust is exactly the sort of uncensored, brutally honest album one would expect Body Count to come out with.
When breaking down Bloodlust into just how it works, it’s worth starting with the instrumentation, arguably the least important factor on an album like this. It feels as though Body Count understand this too, given that while the instrumental canvas of this album is fairly basic, it packs the sort of heaviness and dread that the subject matter deserves, whether it’s the bludgeoning assault of tracks like All Love Is Lost or No Lives Matter, or the winding, gritty guitars and blasts of machine gun on This Is Why We Ride. The band can still pull off flash when they want to – Dave Mustaine delivers a blisteringly intense solo on apocalyptic opener Civil War, and the struggle is broken away from for a moment to let guitarist Ernie C dish out a mashup of Slayer’s Raining Blood and Postmortem – but primarily, this is a case of power over precision, the sort of heavy, suitably violent sonic that fully synergise with what’s being said.
That’s probably for the best, as it shifts the counterbalance to a more equal status when paired with Ice-T’s delivery. Maybe it’s a combination of a lack of real technical rapping skill on show here and the fact that Ice is currently pushing on 60, but apart from the low, menacing spoken word of Here I Go Again and closer Black Hoodie which does develop something of a more natural flow, his performance is disappointingly basic in terms of actual rapping ability, especially compared to an act like Run The Jewels currently tapping into a similar thematic well. The shouted vocals feel like an attempt to compensate and draw in some more power, but coming from an artist whose been in the rap game for three decades at this point, it would’ve be nice to hear some of that experience channeled here.
But then again, maybe that’s the point. After all, Bloodlust is as street level as it gets, and when taking onboard what’s actually being said here, the blunt hammering that comes in such a delivery might be the best way to give the lyrics the most impact. And when the overall focus is one concerning the plight of black Americans in economically destitute areas, impact is the greatest thing that Body Count can deliver, whether it’s the shots of those profiteering from the Black Lives Matter movement on No Lives Matter, the intrinsic racism experienced at the hands of the police force on Black Hoodie or the struggle to simply survive on This Is Why We Ride. And while the inevitable surface-level analysis of The Ski Mask Way and Here I Go Again can be seen as validating the thuggish, violence-obsessed stereotypes, Body Count are a lot smarter than that, framing themselves as being aware of these notions, but, just like King 810, with the underlying idea of it being a criticism on this lifestyle. And also like King 810, Bloodlust on the whole portrays this violence as a way to survive, but not one to live.
And while plenty of acts have chosen to speak out on such issues, few have come across as fearless as Body Count do here. Compared to their goofy, cartoonish return on Manslaughter, Bloodlust proves that there’s still plenty of substance within, the sort of heavy, mercilessly politicised material that Body Count do exceptionally well. Whether this will get the same sort of coverage as their return did remains to be seen, but considering the enormous vault in quality that’s taken place here, not to mention the bleeding-edge relevance of the content, it certainly deserves to.
For fans of: Rage Against The Machine, Suicidal Tendencies, King 810
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Bloodlust’ by Body Count is released on 31st March on Century Media Records.