Sound — 7
Body Count is a '90s band that combines thrash metal with the violent "gangsta" rap popularized then by LA scene groups like NWA. Ice-T, the lead singer of Body Count, had some success as a rapper. In fact, his song "99 Problems" was the basis for Jay-Z's lauded song of the same name. However, he was a fan of many heavy metal bands, so he formed Body Count, with guitarist Ernie C, as a crossover between the two genres. Of Body Count's five original members, only two are alive (one was the victim of a drive-by shooting; the other two succumbed to disease).
Sadly, Body Count lost relevance after the release of their first album. By 1996, after two ill-fated releases, it seemed that Body Count's career was over. Yet, here they are, alive and kicking. This album is the band's fifth and their first since 2006. Overall, the album is just a rehashing of what Body Count's previous work. Still, it hits me as a breath of fresh air. After slogging through the over-produced, trumped up, computerized rap of today, it is great to find that rap music can be written well with traditional instruments.
It is also nice to hear rap that is well thought out. It seems that Ice-T has matured over the years; the lyrics of this album are actually quite thoughtful. The music, which is just traditional thrash metal, maybe a bit lighter, molds itself around the lyrics in a cogent fashion. The music never obstructs the vocals, yet at the same time, it manages to cut out a good deal of sonic space for it to be heard and appreciated. The guitar parts are more subdued than those of normal thrash metal, but they are also more melodic. The guitar solos are especially melodic, or at least more so than the typical shredding that is often packaged with fast metal bands.
Also, in a couple of cases, the songs come across as catchy. The catchiest song on the album is a rock remix of Ice-T's "99 Problems." Despite the song's coa-se lyrics, I find myself humming the song after a couple of minutes. Of course, I now feel what I felt after listening to Steel Panther's album: the urge to hum the songs aloud combined with the restricted/embarrassed feeling of not being able to do so because of the (almost hilariously) explicit lyrics.
In any event, I would rate the sound of this album as average, maybe slightly above, because it is raw enough to spur moshpits at a concert, yet thoughtful enough that there are some melodic parts to temper said rawness. And, again, the music does a good job of putting the vocals center stage.
Lyrics — 9
Ice-T's vocals are what really make the album shine. His voice is what I would describe as a typical rap voice (however, I am not a rap expert). He wants to sound like someone from the "hood" (which, in fact, he is) and he does a great job personifying that character.
But where Ice-T's real talent shows is as a lyricist. Do not judge him by the lyrics in "99 Problems." Those, it seems, are from a dramatically different point in his life. No, Ice-T spends the majority of the album either satirizing or plainly decrying gang/hood life. For all I know, he is the millionth rapper to dedicate an album to this topic. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to hear the good guy sentiment over some of the other lyrics put forth by rap/metal artists (Emmure's "Bring a Gun to School" comes to mind). Of course, he does play around on some of the songs, but overall, it seems, his message (that gang life isn't as other rappers portray) is clear.
Aside from the credit given to Ice-T for the content of his lyrics, more is due for the manner in which he conveys them. He does not spew the words forth in a single, protracted breath. His raps are comprehensible. They are fast enough to be effective as raps, yet fluid enough to be completely understood on the first listen. In addition, Ice-T does not chirp incessantly with the same words repeatedly. Yes, he does put in choruses. But, the lyrics to each song do tell some sort of story; they are not just the misplaced ramblings of a has-been. It is also worth noting that not all of the vocals are rapped; some are traditionally done.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this album is not strong enough to rescue Body Count from the obscurity that it has been trapped in for the better part of two decades. Although, in and of itself "Manslaughter" is a solid album, it is not special, certainly not enough to catapult this band back to fame. While I enjoyed the novelty of hearing good rap combined with good metal, this alone is not enough to give the album staying power. In reality, there are only a couple of powerful and unique songs that would grab someone's attention.
While this album as a whole is decent, you only need to listen to one or two songs to get the idea. I recommend the rock mix of "99 Problems" or "Wanna Be a Gangster."