As part of the relaunch of this blog, I decided the first regular column will be one on albums that don't or didn't get their due. It could have been for a multitude of reasons, one being perhaps that the style of metal was not popular for the time, lack of record company support, etc. As a result, many classic albums don't get their proper treatment by the masses or critics. One band that comes to mind is Ice T's Body Count. Not to say they are the second coming of Black Sabbath or anything, but specifically their self titled debut album's notoriety was achieved for the wrong reasons, and the reasoning not having much to do with musical content.
Why the inclusion in "Forgotten Treasures"? Because the album's controversy overshadows its content, mainly being known for the political firestorm that the song "Cop Killer" (removed from later pressings) had brought forward in 1992 and 1993.
Also, many metalheads seem oblivious to the album, and many major metal internet sites have scant mention of it, including a glaring absence of an entry of the band at all at the infamous "Metal Archives"!
Whether this is a result of the debate of how "metal" their albums actually are (I would say that the band has many traditional metal elements that outnumber many groove or metalcore bands mentioned on the archives, including fully formed thrashy riffs, guitar solos, and enough double bass to qualify, as well as non rapped vocals), so whether its lack of foresight on the editors part, or even perhaps subtle racism (as controversial as this statement is) is not known.
Either way, I thought I would give this album (as well as other albums in the future) its full due.
And how the story goes is this: Ice T always had a rocker/metalhead side, even albums such as "Freedom of Speech/The Iceberg" had Beastie Boys/Run DMC style hard rock/rap hybrids such as "The Girl Tried to Kill Me".On his albums, he had already collaborated with future Body Count guitarist Ernie C on such tracks. Drummer Beatmaster V had also been a longtime friend. In the 70's, Ice had temporarily lived with an older cousin in LA who had played him records from bands such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. So in young Ice's mind, the seeds were already planted. Not only for his rap career which had also been a burgeoning musical interest, but with a taste for the heavier rock that would come up in his later career.
While it may have paved the way for the onslaught of mediocre "rap metal" stars that were prevalent in the late nineties/early 2000's, along with bands like Biohazard and others, it actually functions as one of the best "crossover" punk/metal albums of all time. Ice T has always been one of the most witty, intelligent, and t funny rappers in my eyes, and with this album he branches out and does a metal band. Not only is the album a statement on the early nineties in the United States, it has a lot of messages that still apply. The band is all black, and nearly all of them are from south central Los Angeles, a fact that still seems unbelievable considering the circumstances and the fact that metal music is primarily made by middle class white males.
They have enough talent though, to put bands like Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, and DRI in their place, and their similar crossover thrash style is the best example of this music from that era.
The music has monstorous riffs and playing, from the doomy "There Goes the Neighborhood" to the speed metal "KKK Bitch".
Ice T is surprisingly good in his transition from rapping to more hardcore/metal type vocals and even has a (slightly strained) but passionate vocal in the power ballad about crack addiction "the Winner Loses".
Other songs touch racism, politics and growing up in the ghetto, but more humor comes out of such tracks as "Voodoo", "Evil Dick" and the satirical "Mommas Gotta Die Tonight". In the aforementioned song, Ice uses horror to convey the horror of racist indoctrination that many parents give their kids.
He plays a young black man who brings home a white girlfriend to his racist mother.
Then the song climaxes into a Misfits style tale of the macabre. Body Count's songs are angry and full of velocity, full of enough dynamics to keep the music interesting. Its too bad they had to pull "Cop Killer" off the album, which is ironic since one of the first tracks still on it is a skit in which a man kills a police officer. Subsequent Body Count albums would recycle elements from this first release, but not with as much wit, message, and panache as this first album, which stands as a classic, fun, hilarious and terrific thrash/crossover metal album.