Title: Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Label: Sub Hop
Released: 23 October 2020
Visions of bodies being burned
“Something in this room didn't used to be
Gin bottle to the face, can't fool a G
Laughing at him, he ain't ever scared, though
But he check the lock every time he walk by the door”
Last Halloween clipping released their love letter to the horror genre; “There Existed an Addiction to Blood”. It was one of the best albums of the year, but midway through 2020 the group announced that “Addiction to Blood” was only the first half of two sister albums. They had made enough music during its sessions to apparently deliver an entirely new sequel album, which was supposed to have released earlier this year but was pushed back rather fittingly to this Halloween due to the COVID pandemic. And while I was excited for another clipping album in the same vein of “Addiction to Blood”, especially so soon, the consistency and quality of the first instalment had me concerned that they had used up all of their best content too early and that this ‘sequel’ album would be more a collection of B-sides than anything.
But “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” is anything but that. In fact, this is in all accounts the superior album of the two, keeping in mind that “Addiction to Blood” was already setting the bar extremely high for the group. But “Visions” takes everything its predecessor did well and perfects it. In particular, co-producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes have managed to create an atmosphere of horror and dread in this album that is unrivalled by most films. There isn’t a single moment of comfort throughout “Visions”. From its opening minutes it seems determined to instantly victimise the listener as its prey, instilling the sense of being followed or chased by someone or something. And this is thanks to the incredible work from Hutson and Snipes. They give the album an amazing level of variety while still keeping it within its concept, exploring multiple forms of horror soundscapes and ensuring that no matter what, something on this album will most likely give you the heebie-jeebies.
The other third of the group, Daveed Diggs, once again shows off an absolutely insane level of technical and lyrical ability. It's sometimes overwhelming just how good he really is, such as in the track ‘Something Underneath’, where he breaks into several different strange rhythmic patterns while making it sound completely natural, and somehow maintaining a ridiculous amount of speed. That isn’t to say Diggs raps fast constantly throughout the album for the sake of it, but he instead uses his ability to cycle through different tempos and timing in order to create yet another layer of tension in the music. While Hutson and Snipes are making horror-styled beats, Diggs is playing with the listeners almost like a killer in a horror movie toys with their victims. His level of control is scary. Literally. There’s an unpredictability to it that comes with his technical ability that really adds to the experience of the album, which along with Hutson and Snipes’ production makes for a pretty spooky time.
But what good is an album that’s just there to scare and unsettle someone? The answer to that question might vary from person to person, but the real question that I was getting at was actually “is it actually entertaining to listen to?”. And the answer is a resounding yes. Especially if you’re a fan of horror movies, you will absolutely adore this. The references to the horror genre continue from “Addiction to Blood”, such as Candyman and Scream in “Say the Name” and “’96 Neve Campbell”, and the album uses these as well as its own situations and characters to create an hour of absolute classic horror material. There are varying levels of accessibility throughout, from the trap song “Enlacing” that most people would be able to enjoy, to the straight noise track “Make them dead” which will literally tear your ears to shreds if you aren’t prepared for it. But while the whole album may not necessarily appeal to everyone from start to finish, there is enough of a mixture in accessibility for it to appeal to many.
The album’s features are also great, with some likely inclusions such as industrial rap group ho99o9, as well as some more unexpected credits such as EVP recordings from paranormal investigator Michael Esposito in the track “Pain Everyday”. This track is actually one of the album’s best moments, with a jaw-dropping climax involving some incredible breakbeat percussion and string sections; showing off how unbelievably good Snipes’ and Hutson’s production abilities really are.
“Get into the head where they tried to make sense of senses, start their sixth
Let 'em know the dead levitating just ahead and they best not slip
True, because you bled out doesn't mean you ever left and that's that shit”
“Visions” has a great structure too, with well thought-out pacing both within the tracks and the track-listing. One of the main criticisms I had for “Addiction to Blood” was to do with the 18-minute ambient piece “Piano Burning” on the tail-end of the album. While it didn’t really affect the flow of the album due to the fact that it sat at the end, it didn’t particularly serve the rest of the record at all, despite being a strangely soothing way to conclude an otherwise nail-biting experience. It was also the only real reason I decided to not buy the physical vinyl copy of the album, due to the track taking up the entirety of side D. Owning $60 bits of plastic is already an expensive enough hobby for an entire quarter of the album to just make burning and crackling noises.
But “Visions” doesn’t have this issue at all, sitting at 50 minutes and wasting no time whatsoever. Even the interludes, which could stretch on a little long in “Addiction to Blood”, are more concise and better placed to transition into tracks, such as “Wytchboard” ending abruptly with the opening door knock of “96 Neve Campbell”. And in general, “Visions” just has a great flow between its tracks, which is partly due to the fact that there really are no weak spots in this album. To find any would simply be nit-picky, and diminish what the group has done here, which is make one of, if not the best hip-hop album of the decade so far.
The fact that clipping was somehow able to top “There Existed an Addiction to Blood”, one of the best hip hop albums of the last few years, is incredibly impressive. “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” is a horror masterpiece; and it should absolutely be considered an integral part of the modern renaissance of the horror genre, alongside films such as “Midsommar” and “Us”. While it might not be a part of the same medium as the films it takes inspiration from, it does just as good of a job at encapsulating their atmosphere. Albums like this only come once in a while, and if clipping can somehow manage to surpass “Visions” in the future, it’d have to be almost flawless. In the meantime, if they’ve got another spooky album hidden up their sleeve due for next Halloween, I’m all for it.
“Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned”
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 14/12/20