Body Count, A.B. Original, Void of Vision @Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, 2/6/2017

Leave your nostalgia at the door, Body Count are angrier than ever.

It’s been twenty-two years since the iconic and distinctive American band Body Count has hit Australian shores and Ice-T’s metal collective did not disappoint.

The two opening acts of the night were a curious but appropriate mixture of metalcore and hip-hop which spoke to various elements of the Body Count experience. First up were Melbourne metalcore band Void of Vision, who I had not yet seen but have been making hot news with a prize-winning EP Broken//Bones and a rave-reviewed recent debut album Children of Chrome. Standout for me was the song Fairweather from their recent debut album, with quite intense double kicks rolling behind some cool soloing, including a nice tapping run and effective vocal layering that created a powerful and engaging song. Their set was energetic and uplifting and about as good a metalcore offering as I’ve ever heard.

The second support seemed musically like an anomaly on the bill but thematically a fantastic match for this concert. A.B. Original is the hip-hop collaboration between a winner of the 2015 National Indigenous Music Award for best album, Briggs, and ARIA award-winning producer Trials, whose notable work includes Hilltop Hoods among many others. A.B. Orignal has an NWA-style approach to their sound, which they unite with content addressing the socio-racial problems in Australia. They flowed through some pretty tricky and fast lyrical work and were certainly entertaining. Both artists identify as indigenous, with respectively the Yorta Yorta and Ngarrindjeri clans and their lyrical themes give an important voice to the prejudices and injustices facing Australia’s first people.

Witnessing Body Count live is a whole new dimension to appreciating just how engaging, heavy and passionate this band is. Ice-T is renowned as a lyricist and hip-hop star but the quality and sincerity of his vocal work with Body Count is remarkable. The absence of guttural vocals may isolate some metal fans but in person, the power and rage dripping in every sentence from Ice-T belies the passion he holds for Body Count’s message. It is captivating and overwhelming,

The issues that compelled Ice-T to speak out in the 1990s haven’t disappeared – quite the contrary, they’ve intensified. One of the flagship tracks from this year’s Bloodlust album No Lives Matter would have to boast one of the most brilliant crowd chants of recent years and it’s clear, Body Count still have a lot of axes to grind. Yet, 1992’s Bodycount was just as relevant performed next to 2017’s Black Hoodie – Ice-T isn’t wrong when he declares ‘I’ve been talking about police-instigated racial violence for twenty years…’ It is so refreshing to witness a band with such tangible, real-world rage, its not hard to see why thrash metal vocalists such as Dave Mustaine and Max Cavalera have collaborated with Body Count on the Bloodlust album – its systemic angst that isn’t muted by time or status.

At a spritely fifty-nine years of age, Ice-T’s commanding stage presence has not diluted one iota. I was totally excited to hear KKK Bitch and it’s just as funny and vindictive as it was twenty-five years ago. What I saw was a seasoned performer work the crowd into the palm of his hand, natural and clearly in his element on stage, which improved for my mind every song I have ever heard recorded by Body Count. This is a band that completely slays it live. A strong circle pit built up during Talk Shit, Get Shot, and the crushing breakdowns in Drive By were examples of the sheer heavy brought to the Body Count live set.

It was indeed a treat to hear so many of Body Count’s iconic classics, such as the epically extended version of There Goes the Neighbourhood, with an impressive set of screaming solos by guitarist Ernie C and drummer Ill Will, which left me with the feeling that Body Count may be a musically underrated band. The set formally ended with Body Count’s 1992 classic and controversial song Cop Killer. After a hilarious trial of the ‘virtual encore’, Body Count returned for a profound encore beginning with one of the songs that resonates so powerfully with me, Born Dead. As Ice-T made all to clear, Body Count’s message of anger at racial injustices is relevant to a global audience. In case anyone was in doubt as to what fire burns for Body Count, This is Why We Ride made for a profound and eloquent finale.

In my opinion, Body Count, with inter-genre appeal and the weight of celebrity to boot, are precisely the band to resurface to call out and challenge the social inequities of the current American political climate. Although Body Count stand as one of the defining bands of the ‘90s, it’s clear they are still current, still angry, still thriving.