Ice :: Bad Blood :: In Bloom/Reprise
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Nin Chan

In my continuing efforts to expose Rap Reviews readers to the bizarre, obscure gems of my worryingly large record collection, I have now taken it upon myself to spare some ink to this record, one which has had more influence on my own artistic output than damn near anything I can think of.

Before I embark on a self-indulgent tirade of ceaseless superlatives, I should probably provide some form of introduction to this criminally overlooked outfit and the illustrious artistic pedigree that they possess. Spawned from the fertile imagination of one JK Broadrick, Ice is essentially Mr Broadrick's premier full-fledged excursion into the unhallowed depths of dark, ambient, trippy hip-hop. To those of you in the know, JK Broadrick's lengthy resume includes a brief stint in Napalm Death, one of the most rabid, nauseatingly fast heavy bands of our time, a similarly short tenure with Head of David and a legendary career with electro-metal legends Godflesh, a band that over a 16 year career convinced me that few experiences in life can rival a Godflesh record. Fusing the downtuned guitars, barbarous, bloodcurdling screams and bloodthirsty indignation of grindcore/metal with the syncopated rhythms of jungle and hip-hop, Godflesh managed to absorb electronic and metal influences to create something wholly unique and distinctly grotesque, a monolithic beast altogether more gruesome than anything that had preceded it. To think that such unearthly sounds could be concocted from a primal base of electronic beats and downtuned, sludgey guitars is uncanny.

Anyway, I digress. It is common knowledge amongst Godflesh enthusiasts that JK Broadrick was rather vocal about his passion for hardcore rap, asserting that Godflesh had far more in common with Public Enemy than grindcore contemporaries like Extreme Noise Terror, Sore Throat and Nausea. While he had previously explored hip-hop and dark dub with exploits like Godflesh's Slavestate EP and the remix project Songs Of Love & Hate In Dub, it wasn't until this landmark record that he truly indulged his overwhelming affinity for rap music. Yet, this is far from a predictable listen- eschewing the artistic complacency of so many contemporary rap records, this is a sinewy, brooding, malodorous monster of a record, one that is as much a visceral statement as it is a musical experience.

If you have never heard a Godflesh, Final, Head of David or Curse of the Golden Vampire record, it is quite likely that this record will stagger and confound you upon first listen. While it sounds wholly unlike any other rap record you've likely heard, it is remarkably predictable in the sense that it sounds exactly like a JK Broadrick take on hip-hop should sound- the omnipresent low-end rumbles like a seismic wave, while Broadrick ornaments the sparse drum patterns with walls of oppressive, disorienting white noise. Opener "X-1" builds upon a foundation of live percussion and a plodding bassline, swirling into an apocalyptic, cathartic maelstrom of blips and disorienting, reverb drenched effects. "The Snakepit" employs a similar formula, driven by a mechanical, stuttered rhythm that pulses beneath Toastie Taylor's manic, breathy toasting. As the track progresses, subtle nuances are progressively introduced into the track- tablas faintly echo in the background, as Toastie's vocals and Blixa Bargeld (what the hell is he doing on this record?) are layered on top of each other, creating a suffocatingly dissonant effect that gives the song a uniquely claustrophobic feel.

Elsewhere, like-minded sonic terrorist El-Producto makes a memorable experience on "Trapped In Three Dimensions," delivering a scattershot, stream-of-consciousness verse that sprawls all over the bhangra drums. 30 seconds into the track, A-Syde proceeds to deliver a verse atop El-P's, his vocals panned to the right as El-P waxes poetic on the left. WHAT THE FUCK? Eventually the double-tracked vocals fade to give way to a glorious downtempo breakdown that sounds like prime Massive Attack, Justin Broadrick's sparse guitar plucks drowning in a jet-black, worryingly spacious sea of ominous, gnarly bass and deliberate, leadfooted drums. Only JK Broadrick could succeed in making downtempo trip-hop so deliciously demonic. While Portishead/ Massive Attack used downtempo to convey feelings of loss and melancholy and Wax Poetic transformed it into viable lounge music, Ice injects it with venomous, caustic bile and barbed sarcasm. A note must be spared here for the laudable use of live percussion throughout the record, courtesy of one Lou Ciccotelli. The live percussion gives the record a warm, organic, human feel that juxtaposes beautifully with the otherworldly electronics and droning, cruel basslines used so liberally throughout the record.

I can almost guarantee that you have never heard a rap record quite like Bad Blood. Twisted, uncompromisingly dark and vile, this is a record that you will either adore or detest. For that reason alone it is worthy of your attention- in an age where few records inspire anything beyond casual nods of the head, where much music has no greater purpose beyond being mere background noise, this is a record that will inspire fear, disgust and general uneasiness as it ventures into territory that no rap record has ever dared to traverse. If you consider yourself a fan of music and already have a jones for stuff like Dalek, DJ Vadim, Company Flow, Silver Bullet, The Bug, Soundmurderer etc., you need to give this a listen.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: January 25, 2005