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Body Count

Smokeout DVD

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say upfront that I've always had a deep respect for Ice-T. The guy has a lot of talent and also seems to me to have a lot of integrity. He was one of the originators of rap metal, too. While there are a lot of more recent rap metal bands that I find to be as entertaining as watching paint dry, both musical styles are ones that I enjoy, and the marriage of them - when it works - can be great. This DVD represents the first Body Count (and the only one) show in years. For those of you who might have gotten lost there, Body Count was (possibly still is) the metal band fronted by rapper Ice-T. This DVD definitely has its problems, but as the only representation of this one off show makes it quite special.

The music here is aggressive, a bit simplistic, but at times extremely entertaining. The musicians featured seem to really love metal, and it's cool to see people breaking down the cultural stereotypes. The lead guitarist must have been a big Sabbath fan because his sound is greatly influenced by Tony Iommi - and that's never a bad thing. The major issues here have less to do with the band than they do with factors outside their control. The only thing I might quibble with the artist on is their selection of songs. Frankly three cuts here are theme song type pieces where the main crux of the lyrics are the words "Body Count." I think one of those to open with would have been sufficient, and then move on to other things.

Still, that brings up one of the other issues here - one of those outside of the band's control. The explanation for this might be the fact that, according to Ice-T from the stage, the show was cut short by the organizers. So, perhaps with a longer set, the prevalence of "Body Count" lyric'ed songs might have been reduced. The group was also plagued with technical problems and even when they ask the crew to take care of it - nothing seems to get fixed. Frankly, the fact that these guys soldiered on throughout such ineptitude shows a definite sense of professionalism. There are other bands who would have left the stage or just started complaining to the crowd about how terrible the festival was. Kudos to Body Count for showing they have more class than that.

Since this show rhythm guitarist D-Roc has died of cancer. That may be why the band has fallen silent. Since there were no more recent shows to be filmed, perhaps that is why they chose to release this one. With all the technical problems plaguing the show had there been other footage, I doubt they would have cut this one loose. Not to mention the fact that the crowd seems a bit lackluster. When Ice-T tries to get them to sing along there is little response (that might just be the recording, though). Other than a mosh pit and a few other people in the crowd a lot of the audience seemed to be just standing around. This is yet another reason I'm not sure I would have released the video were I the group. As someone who has been to plenty of Ozzfests and seen bands not nearly this good get better response from the crowd, I can only guess that the problem was the fans, and not the performance. Again, other than a couple of the typical half hearted slams that bands give (almost as a matter of course) to inactive crowds, the band showed their professionalism in carrying on seemingly without noticing it.

I really hope these guys find the will power and desire to get things back together and start performing and recording again. They show a lot of talent and a sense of the type of workhorse showmanship that makes many great bands what they are. These guys have the potential to be great again. I'd like to see it happen. Until then, this video, while not great, is the only recent video document of their live performance. That alone makes it worth having if this is your type of music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 
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