Album Review – Body Count / Bloodlust (2017)

Controversy, acidity and hatred are just some of the main ingredients in one of the heaviest and most complete albums in the career of the bloodthirsty Ice-T, Ernie C and Co.

We as human beings all got a deranged sickness deeply rooted inside our minds, a will to kill for sport and for revenge, an inner desire to make the ones who disagree with us or who hurt us suffer in pain, and that’s exactly what the iconic Ice-T and his henchmen, collectively known as American Thrash/Groove Metal band Body Count, have to offer us in their new installment, the excellent Bloodlust. Since their inception in 1990 in Los Angeles, the band has been delivering a high quality hybrid of Groove Metal and Hip Hop, but in Bloodlust they managed to increase the heaviness of their compositions significantly, resulting in what can be considered their most metal album of all time.

Not only Bloodlust is the sixth studio album in their solid career, but the controversy, acidity and hatred flowing from each one of the album’s 11 tracks puts it almost side by side with their cult self-titled debut album, from 1992. That only shows how passionate Ice-T and the other are about heavy music, always playing it with a lot of energy, trying to send a clear message to their fans and showing the bitter truth of the lives of the less fortunate people in the United States and all over the world. Besides, when you have guest musicians the likes of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura), you know the music will hit you in the face like an uncontrolled bulldozer.

Loud sirens and the more-than-special guest Mr. Dave Mustaine himself declare martial law, before Body Count begin delivering sheer heaviness, chaos and groove in the opening track, the awesome Civil War, with Ice-T having a fantastic performance with his hostile rap-like vocals, resulting in one of their darkest compositions to date; and keep banging your head to the always boisterous riffs by Ernie C and Juan of the Dead while Ill Will smashes his drums mercilessly in this Groove Metal anthem The Ski Mask Way. Needless to say, the song’s lyrics are as aggressive as hell (“I’m in your rear view, when you leave the club / How cold could I be, you look like food to me / All on instagram, showin’ that cash off / What you really hope, is I don’t take this mask off don’t make me punish you don’t want to hurt your wife / Come up off that watch, it ain’t worth your life / I gotta crew of wolves, life has no meaning / We roll late night and hunt human beings”). Slowing the pace down a bit and increasing the groove considerably, This Is Why We Ride is a song where Ice-T is nicely supported by the excellent job done by Vincent Price on bass and Ill Will on drums, not to mention that the sounds of the shots and the sirens of the cops together with the insane heaviness blasted by the band will crack your neck mercilessly.

If you’re already feeling that pain in your neck after such intense headbanging music, All Love Is Lost will terminate it for good. Featuring the unparalleled growls by guest Max Cavalera, the vocals in this song burst with acidity while the instrumental pieces are a work of anger. Moreover, Ernie C and Juan sound like two serial killers slitting throats with their bestial riffs. Then the band offers us a fantastic version of two all-time classics by Slayer, Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017, with Ice-T kicking ass on “Raining Blood” while Vincent Price takes care of the vocal duties on “Postmortem”. Furthermore, the intro to the song is already a lot of fun, with Ice-T explaining the origins of Body Count saying he wanted to have a Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop band by blending the music by Black Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Slayer. God, Please Believe Me works as a poetic bridge by Ice-T and his crew to the fulminating Walk With Me…, one of my favorite songs of the album where guest singer Randy Blythe vociferates like a beast, while Ill Will sounds insane on drums and Ice-T is just as rabid as Randy. This is a flawless hybrid of Thrash, Groove and Rap Metal, showcasing even hints of Death Metal, perfect for stage diving, mosh pitting and sick headbanging due to its beyond brutal rhythm.

Here I Go Again, a re-recording of a demo track from Ice T’s Return of the Real sessions, brings a somber ambience with Ice-T delivering some darker-than-usual vocals, with its instrumental being pretty solid which results in an effective support to the craziness flowing from the song’s lyrics and the demented screams in the background. Then we have the controversial No Lives Matter, another high-end explosion of Groove Metal by Body Count which blends their heavy music with an austere discussion about the issues surrounding the “Black Lives Matter” initiative. Put differently, it’s an extremely politicized tune with insane bass lines by Vincent and a great performance by Sean E Sean with his samplers, paving the track for the title-track Bloodlust, a song about our attraction for death and brutality, about the inner desire of mankind for killing, portraying it as a sickness inside our hearts and minds. While Ernie C and Juan fire fierce and melodious riffs, Ill Will continues his technical and groovy attack on drums, showing how amazing this song will sound when played live.

And if you think Ice-T and his henchmen would give you a break from all their sonic havoc, they come crushing one last time with the best song of the album as their closing act, the flammable Black Hoodie, an amalgamation of their past, present and future where poetry and violence are powerfully united (“Got on a black hoodie, its hood up on my head / I didn’t have a gun so why am I dead / You didn’t have to shoot me and that’s a known fact / And now I’m laying face down with bullets in my back”), with all instruments exhaling metallic and belligerent sounds while Ice-T keeps rapping nonstop.

It deosn’t matter if you are a metalhead that’s not very fond of rap or a rapper that doesn’t get too excited to the sound of a heavy riff, when you have an album like Bloodlust (which by the way you can find in different bundles at the Control Industry webstore) on your hands it’s almost mandatory that you start banging your head to Body Count, acknowledging they are indeed the biggest exponent in the history of Rap Metal and one of the most fun acts from the 90’s that’s still alive and kicking without sounding Jurassic. And I’m pretty sure the counting of bodies done by Ice-T, Ernie C and Co. is far from being over.

Best moments of the album: Civil War, Walk With Me…, Bloodlust and Black Hoodie.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing   
1. Civil War (feat. Dave Mustaine) 4:23
2. The Ski Mask Way 3:36
3. This Is Why We Ride 5:26
4. All Love Is Lost (feat. Max Cavalera) 3:36
5. Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017 (Slayer cover) 4:31
6. God, Please Believe Me 1:23
7. Walk With Me… (feat. Randy Blythe) 3:07
8. Here I Go Again 3:32
9. No Lives Matter 4:23
10. Bloodlust 3:34
11. Black Hoodie 3:29

Band members
Ice-T – vocals
Ernie C – lead guitar, backing vocals
Juan of the Dead – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Vincent Price – bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Postmortem”
Ill Will – drums
Sean E Sean – sampler, backing vocals
Little Ice – backing vocals

Guest musicians
Dave Mustaine – spoken word and lead guitar on “Civil War”
Max Cavalera – additional vocals on “All Love Is Lost”
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Walk With Me…”

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Concert Review – Guns N’ Roses (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, 07/16/2016)

Do you know where you are? You’re in Toronto, baby! Wake up! Time to die!

OPENING ACT: Billy Talent

GNR_Toronto_2016I must confess I’ve never felt so happy in my life for missing an opening act like what happened this Saturday, when I “couldn’t” arrive on time at the Rogers Centre to watch Canadian Rock N’ Roll band BILLY TALENT opening for Guns N’ Roses on their sole Canadian concert from the colossal Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime… Tour. I had the unpleasantness of watching their lame and tiresome concert once back in 2011, when for a reason beyond my knowledge they played AFTER classic bands such as Exodus, Death Angel, Testament, Mastodon and, believe it or not, the almighty Slayer, and were obviously booed throughout their entire “performance”. Whoever had that brilliant idea of inserting such a hideous group among so many real metal bands might have been involved in the stupid decision of placing them as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses instead of the excellent Alice In Chains, the iconic The Cult or even the not-so-bad Lenny Kravitz, as it’s happening in every city Guns N’ Roses are playing except for Toronto. The only thing I know about their performance is that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was replaced by Jordan Hastings (Alexisonfire), which doesn’t really mean anything at all for any regular fan of Guns N’ Roses. Their setlist is below, but why bother?

Setlist
Devil in a Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Louder Than the DJ
Rusted from the Rain
River Below
Surprise Surprise
Afraid of Heights
Devil on My Shoulder
Red Flag
Fallen Leaves
Try Honesty
Viking Death March

Band members
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jordan Hastings – drums, percussion

GUNS N’ ROSES

IMG_1542Who would imagine that after 20 years Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan would not only be reunited on stage, but still kicking fuckin’ ass as if they had never split up in the beginning of the 90’s? I’m pretty sure the entire crowd of over 50,000 gunners who were at the Rogers Centre this Saturday will agree with me that GUNS N’ ROSES were almost flawless during the whole concert, blasting their biggest classics from the 80’s and 90’s blended with some “newer” material from the controversial (but good) Chinese Democracy, their latest studio album. To be fair, after they played It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Chinese Democracy and Welcome to the Jungle, I was already satisfied enough to go home so good those songs were. Let’s say the only thing that didn’t make anyone happy were all those despicable scalpers trying to extort good people who just wanted to see one the best Hard Rock/Hair Metal band of all time playing. I truly hope very few people ended up getting their tickets from those scammers, and this is only going to end when absolutely NO ONE buys tickets from unauthorized people anymore, but you know how diehard fans are, right?

Anyway, getting back to what really matters, the (official) price paid for the tickets was definitely worth every penny. The whole band was in such perfect sync it’s hard to point any issues with their concert, and except for minor changes I would personally make to their setlist (which might have been already perfect for many) everything else went beyond my expectations. The “least famous” members of the band (Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards, or whatever she was doing on stage) did their job, provinding the necessary support for the other guys to shine. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed (don’t ask me why they have three keyboardists, including Axl) and guitarist Richard Fortus proved why they’ve been with Axl for such a long time, probably even more time than Slash and Duff themselves, especially Richard who was spot-on with his riffs and solos to the point he wasn’t overshadowed at all by the one and only Slash. Quite the contrary, they make an amazing guitar duo together. However, no matter how much I praise those musicians, we know everyone was at the Rogers Centre to see the “heart”, the “soul” and the “blood” of Guns N’ Roses.

Starting with the “blood”, known as bassist Duff McKagan, he couldn’t be more physical and dedicated to the music he plays. Wearing a Lemmy T-shirt and having a Prince sticker on his bass guitar (a nice tribute to two unique musicians, with only the black star by David Bowie “missing”), Duff was on fire with his rumbling bass lines and awesome backing vocals. And when he was the lead singer, like in their cover version for Attitude, by the Misfits, he showed all his love for Punk Rock and how charismatic he is.

IMG_1541Axl Rose, who will always be the “heart” of Guns N’ Roses, surprised even the most skeptical fan with an absolutely incredible performance on vocals, singing each and every song as if he was the same Axl from Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion. What he did on my favorite Guns N’ Roses songs of all time, the superb Estranged, You Could Be Mine and Civil War (how can the lyrics for this song still be so meaningful after more than 20 years?), was a thing of beauty. He kept running around the stage, danced a lot, wore some almost-classic outfits from the 80’s and smiled to the fans all the time, and by seeing that I finally realized his troubled years might be dead and gone for good. When they played the beautiful ballad This I Love, the touching Sorry and the fun Better, songs where Axl is truly needed as they had zero contribution from Slash or Duff when composed, we could witness a focused and passionate artist that has found peace and is now on the right path to reconquer the world of music. Even when Axl talked about their small incident at the border, when the police found a gun with them, he didn’t get angry or anything like that, simply mentioning it was a funny moment and that “it wasn’t his gun”.

Lastly, what can I say about the “soul” of the band, the unparalleled Slash? That guy is getting better and better as time goes by, delivering his unique riffs and even more unique solos for the total delight of every fan of the band. His guitar duet with Richard Fortus, his beyond stunnig solo in November Rain and his classic riffs and solos in Sweet Child O’ Mine led many fans to an amazing state of ecstasy, a sensation many had to hold for decades to feel again. Let’s just hope Slash remains with Guns N’ Roses for many years to come, because that’s the place where he truly belongs in music. Well, as everything must come to an end, after the masterpieces Nightrain, Patience and Paradise City, together with a cover version for The Seeker, by The Who (which could have been easily replaced by another classic like “Think About You”, “Used To Love Her”, “Don’t Cry” or “Yesterdays”, or even by “Madagascar”), it was time for Axl, Slash, Duff & Co. to say goodbye to the awesome Toronto crowd after almost three hours of concert and get ready for the next city. No one knows if they’re coming back to Canada soon, but based on the reaction of the fans and the smile on the faces of each band member when the show was over, I doubt it will take another 20 years for us to see those guys in action again.

Setlist
Looney Tunes Theme (Intro)
The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Coma
Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Band members
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, keyboards
Slash – lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Richard Fortus – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Melissa Reese – synthesizers, keyboards, programming
Frank Ferrer – drums