[Album Review] Body Count Go For The Jugular on 'Carnivore'
Updated: 6 days ago
Ice-T has been a prominent figure in the entertainment business for the better part of over three decades. From his time in the underground hip-hop scene in the eighties to the founding of Body Count in 1991, on his O.G.: Original Gangster album, to his turn as Odafin “Fin” Tutuola on the police procedural smash Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, the New Jersey native has an extensive resume.
His band Body Count, the proprietors of the infamous track “Cop Killer,” saw a resurgence at the end of 2012, following an extended absence after their 2006 disc Murder 4 Hire. With their politically- and racially-charged lyrics, Ice-T’s confrontational delivery, and the thrash metal stylings of the backing band, Body Count is a hidden gem in this era of #BlackLivesMatter and general civil unrest. Their latest offering, Carnivore, is a relentless attack full of wordplay, brutality, and a tribute to Lemmy, all in a sub-forty minute package.
The title track, which I’ve previously discussed upon its release, is one of the heaviest, sludgiest tracks the band has ever done. The chorus of dissonant guitars and police sirens give way to a low, chugging opening riff, complete with a gang vocal of “CARNIVORE!” that is begging for a thousands-strong chant at a concert. The visceral lyrics of lines such as “gut a chicken, make a dish” drive home this gruesome opener.
Next up is “Point the Finger,” which picks up the pace and calls upon Riley Gale of Power Trip to lend his growls and wails to this statement piece against police brutality. From its opening lines of “Poor little Johnny didn’t live to see sixteen / Gun made his lung collapse,” to Ice-T’s spoken word bit in which he sums up the police state as “some fuckin’ bullshit,” it’s a callout of the boys in blue who abuse their power and turn innocent lives into statistics.
“Bum-Rush” is sure to be a pit favorite, with its loads of double kick drums and another chorus gang vocal. Ice-T does what Ice-T does best: call out the racist bullshit going on in this day and age, from dogging the proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, to pointing out, ever so gently, that there’s “still no clean water in Flint.” Following it is a cover of “Ace of Spades,” as the band pays tribute to the legendary Motörhead in a surprisingly faithful take on the 1980 classic. By this point, those dismissing Body Count as “just another rap-metal band” should listen to this, the band’s take on Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies from their last two records, come back, and apologize.
Speaking of Slayer, the influence of the Bay Area bloodhounds is apparent in the opening of “Another Level,” as the opening first sounds a bit like the second section of “Seasons in the Abyss,” then a shift into the opening of “South of Heaven.” Jamey Jasta lends his screams to this track, a celebration of making it and being untouchable and unfuckwithable. With a slow, methodical delivery, Ice-T and Jasta talk about busting ass, hustling as best as one can, and making it to the level they have.
“Colors” is an update of Ice-T’s own song, from the 1988 soundtrack of a film of the same name. Rather than a celebration, it is a blunt statement of growing up poor, with precisely nothing around you going the way it should:
“Last night in cold blood my young brother got shot
My homeboy got jacked
My mother's on crack
My sister can't work 'cause her arms shows tracks”
The ending features a wah-laden guitar solo and some tight drumming from Ill Will, finishing up the metal coat of paint on this hip-hop classic.
“No Remorse” is another palm-muted attack with, well, every bit of remorse as the title promises. It gives the title track a run for its money in the low chug department, and has some lyrical mic drop moments courtesy of Ice-T:
“If you was on fire, I wouldn't piss on you
If you was starvin', I wouldn't fix you a hot bowl of shit”
In the beginning of “When I’m Gone,” Ice-T talks about the death of rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle, which inspired the track. Lyrically, it stands as a “life won’t wait” message, a reminder that things can change in the blink of an eye, and as cliche as that may sound, life will catch you off-guard. Evanescence siren Amy Lee lends her haunting vocals to the track, an odd addition on paper if it weren’t for the message and the inspiration behind the song.
The tone flips right back to words of war and street fights with “Thee Critical Beatdown,” with plenty of thrashing riffs and drums parts. The guitar work here is worth highlighting, as Ernie C and Juan of the Dead bring in some old-school thrash riffing and the occasional triplet to make this track a heavyweight, with a lead break over the titular line. The kung-fu sound effects in the breakdown are a bit over-the-top, but it hardly takes away from the song overall.
“The Hate is Real” is another assault on racism and xenophobia, as the opening samples several would-be news pieces highlighting the issue. It is the fastest, most hardcore punk / crossover thrash track on the record, perhaps in the band’s extensive catalog, as Ice-T talks about the casual racism prevalent in the media. He even points out his own prejudices in lines such as “I hate racists, so I'm guilty too / I'm from LA where the red try to kill the blue.” It’s a beatdown of a closer for this alley fight of a record.
A few years ago, Body Count became a guilty pleasure band for me. I can say now, as I write this, that I am done being shameful about loving this act. Body Count is a metal band, first and foremost, as Ice-T and his BC brethren have intended from the beginning, and if anyone needs concrete evidence of such, give Carnivore a listen (or a bite, if you will), and all doubt will dissipate.