Ever since their return with Manslaughter in 2014, Body Count have been experiencing something of a second zenith, mirroring the traction that made them the beast they were in the 90s. Since then, there’s also been 2017’s Bloodlust – a world-beater, up there with the very best of their discography. Now, bringing the show to London’s KOKO, they’re accompanied by steadfast thrashers Crisix and grime-punk outfit Astroid Boys who between them appease the two facets of Ice T’s career.
The lush decor of the venue is an odd place to be watching the Californian crew but what Body Count show tonight is just how spectacularly bands in their vintage years can be, bringing both a vibrant relevancy and commanding a reverence that only the creme-de-la-creme of bands really have.
Now here’s a damn good band. First up were Crisix, Barcelona’s prime export in retro thrash. The world of throwback metal (particularly thrash) is awash with a lot of sub-standard bands and shameless parodies but Crisix exceed this dirge for a mixture of genuine conviction and overt, flamboyant fan-boy-ism. Their sound is heavily influenced by heyday Anthrax and Testament, as are their onstage mannerisms and 80s street aesthetic.
It’s with this that they make awesome use of the stage, filling it with their decadent antics. Juli Bazooka particularly is an incredible frontman, extolling all the virtues of Joey Belladonna, clad in patches and spanning at least three, possibly even four vocal octaves (I wasn’t counting, I was too busy losing my mind). Their style is as much based around the riffage (of which there is plenty) as it is their tendency to switch up the pacing, from double-time to half-time etc, in the same way that makes Power Trip the amazing band they are.
While the cuts off their records are awesome, the high-point is indisputably their mish-mash medley of metal classics. With their look, their sound and these songs, it’s like watching scenes from Clash Of The Titans (the tour, not the movie). Swapping up their instruments in true “I’m The Man” style, they leap from Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” seamlessly into Metallica’s “Hit The Lights” and Pantera’s “A New Level” finishing up with Anthrax’s “Antisocial” (it’s quite telling that they’ve been name-dropped three times now).
It’s absolutely class and it really injects some venom into the audience. They’ve clearly won over some fans here tonight for the crossover flavour of the headliners and if there’s any justice in the world, these guys will be playing some bigger shows themselves next time they come around. That was outrageously fun.
In direct sonic contrast to the party-time, mosh-friendly Crisix are direct support Astroid Boys, whose name has been doing the rounds for their excellent merging of grime rap and hardcore punk. Whoever organised this support slot should get a biscuit, they are a great shout to support Body Count.
Playing tracks off last year’s Broke, they’re mainly appealing to Ice-T’s audience from his rapping career despite the hardcore seasoning and the presence of a live drummer and guitarist playing alongside a DJ and rapper. Unlike the first band, Astroid Boys prove to be really divisive in the audience and understandably so with their sparse use of the guitars except for the odd-chug here-and-there. At points their guitarist is sitting side-stage looking on at his bandmates, proving just how much of a different world they come from next to Crisix and Body Count.
Yes, there is a good third or so of the audience crammed right at the front reciting lines back at the band and busting out some of their best moves but generally they’re untouched by the rest of the crowd. It’s no reflection on their music as what they have is something really unique, genuinely interesting and definitely deserving of being heard en masse. Tonight just isn’t their home territory.
It is Body Count‘s however. Hot on the heels of their Download performance, legendary frontman Ice-T walks out with his posse to a king’s greeting. The band emerge replete with hype-men and a bodyguard who presumably is carrying a fake shotgun (though we’re certainly not taking any chances). Launching straight into Slayer covers “Raining Blood” and “Postmortem”, the pit comes alive. Ice rolls through the million-mile-per-hour lyrics in his classic slacker, back-heeled manner with his jaw jutted-out, staring the 1,500 capacity venue down and shooting mean glares right to the back of the room.
The set that ensues is a bombardment of classics from the band’s string of 90s records and the occasional latter-era track thrown in for good measure. Original guitarist Ernie C flanks Ice, laying down some truly blistering solos across the set. While it’s phenomenal that the band can peel out classics like “Copkiller”, “There Goes The Neighbourhood” and “Drive By” with so much ease, the truly remarkable thing tonight is how well the modern tracks are received. “Talk Shit, Get Shot” and “The Ski Mask Way” are two of the biggest songs of the night as is the 2017-beating anthem “No Lives Matter”, though the contrasting virtues of these tracks is strange to think about for too long.
You simply can’t talk about a Body Count show without praising Ice for his impeccable frontmanship both during and between songs. Despite reaching his 60th birthday earlier in the year (and bringing his granddaughter out for a track), he’s on incredible form, commanding both band and crowd. His dedication of “Manslaughter” to the death of real men and “guys who spend more time in front of the mirror than their girls” is amazing while the introduction of “Drive By” to the corrupt police is as rebellious as the leading of “Fuck the police” during “Copkiller”. A rendition of Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized” feels like a cool nod to the old-school fans in attendance tonight before the sprawling epic closing couple of “Mamma’s Gotta Die Tonight” (which has the barrier staff looking very concerned) and “Why We Ride”. Both closers are amazingly theatrical for what is, at heart, a hardcore band that transcended the club ethos of the scene and learnt how to play to thousands of people.
Really good shows are dependent on both the band and the audience firing on 10 and what went down at KOKO was utterly incredible on both accounts. The energy and conviction with which the band fired through the tracks and met the crowd bang-on-in-the-middle in terms of reception validates Body Count as the reigning kings of this. Not only are they still hella fun to watch, they’ve created something of a spectacle with their show that every self-respecting metal fan really ought to catch at some point.
Photos by ShotIsOn Media