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Thrash Under Pressure: Body Count

Written by Tim Jones

 

It’s a new year and with that comes a new Thrash Under Pressure. What better way to start than slightly left-field with the legendary Body Count?

Body Count were initially seen as a rap-metal act or just rapper Ice T scratching an itch and trying to capitalise on a burgeoning trend of hip hop and rock being mixed together.

But now after 25 years of plying his trade with Body Count, maybe the naysayers will finally accept that Ice T actually likes metal and was indulging a passion.

Anyway Body Count was first introduced at Lollapalooza in 1991. Ice T was on the bill and halved his set between his own rap numbers and the new band. It was seen by many as the highlight of the whole tour, people wanted more and of course an album was just around the corner.

Body Count‘s now legendary eponymous album was released in 1992. Damn, that makes me feel old. Tracks from this album were the staple of many a rock night in my youth. Far from being just another rap-metal offering though, it proved to be a well decent metal album, veering towards thrash but with elements of classic rock and metal thrown into the musical mix. Ice T‘s style wasn’t necessarily rap either. Indeed, you’d probably find stronger hip hop influences on a Biohazard album at the time. There was controversy surrounding the track Cop Killer, a track which Ice T ultimately pulled from the record due to worries that the furore would overshadow the music  (it’s available on reissues and on the internet if you want to hear it still). A good choice really. Some of the lyrics might be shockingly sexist, something that wasn’t noted much at the time of its release, but this album is nothing short of amazing.

Sadly for Body Count this would possibly be the greatest point of their career. Ever since then they have tried to recreate the glory of their self-titled without success. 1994’s Born Dead was the first of these. It’s not a bad album per se, but it just has to live in the shadow of what came before it. There are highlights: Masters of Revenge is a definite homage to Black Sabbath and it’s pulled off well and Shallow Graves is delightfully heavy. The Hey Joe cover is best forgotten though. Body Count were still a breath of fresh air in a 90s metal scene which generally lacked direction – even if they might be credited with popularising nu metal and bands like Limp Bizkit!

Violent Demise: The Last Days followed in 1997. It is a marginal improvement and a reply to critics of Born Dead. In fact My Way is the kind of track that would seem more at home on a hardcore album. It is certainly a much heavier album, but still it’s not a return to their greatest form.

By this point Body Count had lost two original members to lymphoma complications and leukaemia and in 2001 original bassist, Mooseman (who had already left), was killed in a drive-by shooting. It’s not easy to carry on under such circumstances, but carry on they did. Murder 4 Hire came in 2006. It has the best guitar sound of any Body Count album and has a slower thrashy feel mostly. There are fast parts too and it represents the closest the band came to recapturing the spirit of ’91.

After a break, Body Count returned with Manslaughter in 2014. This is a pretty heavy album and the cover of Suicidal TendenciesInstitutionalized is genius. The sexism of 99 Problems BC is not though. The rest of the album is decent enough, but it’s sill quite hair-raising that such misogyny was deemed acceptable by anyone associated with it.

There’s a new album coming this year and if anyone still doubts that Ice T likes metal, check this studio outtake out:

Put them on your playlist: There Goes the Neighborhood, Masters of Revenge, The End Game

About the author

Tim Jones

I’m an East Yorkshire-based fan of thrash, hardcore and punk who likes to write about it as much as he likes to talk about it.

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