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Body Count, A.B. Original, Void Of Vision – Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 02/06/17

LA heavy metal purveyors Body Count’s surprising 2017 return couldn’t have been more timely. Coming to prominence in the ’90s with their hybrid metal-meets-thrash sound and songs addressing social issues plaguing America’s youth, the band’s message is as relevant then as it is now.

Body Count’s self-titled debut was a shock to the system, rocking the establishment and causing mass hysteria thanks to controversial single ‘Cop Killer.’ Despite initial success, Body Count’s future projects never hit the same high until this year’s Bloodlust. Recorded during the US Presidential election, the album resonates with 11 blistering metal tracks dissecting a wide-range of issues including racism, police brutality, class and violence.

Hitting the road in support of the album, Body Count return to Australia after a 22-year absence for a headline performance well worth the wait.

Before Body Count brings the ruckus, Void Of Vision get things under way with an enthusiastic opening set. The Melbourne locals are a frenzy of noise and screaming vocals, doing their best to win over a fairly disinterested crowd.

Hip-hop duo A.B. Original follow, and take things up a notch with a slew of big hitters from their fantastic debut Reclaim Australia. Like their American counterparts, Briggs and Trials are challenging racism along with social and political issues through their music, with the aggressive ‘2 Black 2 Strong’ and ‘Strong Arm (Robbery)’ highlighting their thought-provoking tunes.

Despite Briggs wearing a new flannie for his hometown show, the crowd is still subdued until he jokes, “You thought Margaret Court didn’t like Qantas,” in reference to how she would feel about Body Count playing the arena. Briggs keeps the taunts coming during final song ‘January 26,’ changing the lyrics from “Fuck That Homie” to “Fuck That Margaret,” finally getting a rise out of the crowd.

Cloaked in darkness, the arena is lit by flashing lights as police sirens wail, signalling the arrival of Body Count. Appearing from the shadows they attack with the Slayer medley ‘Raining Blood/Postmortem 2017’ from this year’s Bloodlust. Decked head to toe in black, frontman Ice T is far removed from his Law & Order: SVU character. Ordering Melbourne to “show me some action” before the scintillating ‘Bowles Of The Death,’ he’s soon head-banging his way through ’80s thrash metal throwback ‘Necessary Evil.’

“It took me 20 years to get back, but I had shit to do,” Ice jokes, before going on to chastise those turning up late. With the audience captive, he gets formalities out of the way early, introducing his comrades Juan of The Dead on guitar, Ill Will behind the sticks, hype man and backing vocalist Little Ice, bassist Vincent Price and fan favourite Ernie C on lead guitar.

Ice guides the band through a rocking version of ‘Manslaughter’ and a ball-breaking take on ‘There Goes The Neighbourhood,’ with Ill Will showing off his talents with a hard-hitting drum solo as a few punters crowd surf their way to the barriers.

‘No Lives Matter’ is another new cut that goes down well before ‘Body Count’ has the mostly middle-aged male audience moshing and singing along like teenagers. A member of the crew turns up on stage wearing a Donald Trump mask and Ice makes a few Trump jokes before mock-attacking him. ‘Black Hoodie,’ ‘Drive By’ and the chugging ‘Voodoo’ even have some of those in the seated section on their feet.

The comical yet highly offensive ‘KKK Bitch’ prompts another mass singalong while Ice dons a balaclava for ‘The Ski Mask Way.’ Searching the crowd for the youngest member, a 14-year-old boy is found, prompting Ice-T to tell him his “dad is a bad mother fucker” for bringing him along tonight. Ice goes on to inform the youngster he’s been playing a cop his entire life, eliciting more laughs from the crowd. Telling the lad he’s now his uncle, along with all the men in the room, Ice-T lets him know if he ever gets bullied to look his foe straight in the eye and snarl, “Talk shit, get shot,” before launching into the guitar heavy track of the same name.

Ice-T labels ‘Cop Killer’ the ‘new Australian anthem’ and once again gets the entire crowd saluting with their middle fingers and yelling “Fuck The Police,” despite their being a heavy presence of the men and women in blue outside the venue.

Claiming he’s “too lazy” to leave the stage these days for encores, Ice-T performs what he calls a “virtual encore.” Turning his back as the lights dim, Ice and his band remain this way until the chanting gets loud enough, finally turning around to deliver a three-song finale featuring a mash-up of The Exploited and Slayer’s ‘Disorder,’ the brooding ‘Born Dead’ and slow burning anthem ‘This Is Why We Ride.’

It might have taken Body Count over two decades to return, but the band have lost none of their intensity since their last visit. Treating Melbourne to almost 80 minutes of non-stop, unadulterated thrash metal, Body Count cement their legendary status as not only a tremendous band, but as one of the best live acts from the ’90s era still getting it done.

Body Count’s Australian ‘Bloodlust’ tour continues in Sydney tonight, 3rd June.

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