“Do you like scary movies? What’s your favorite?” drolls Daveed Diggs, frontman of experimental hip hop band “clipping.” on the fourth track in their 2020 album Visions of Bodies Being Burned. The second part of their love letter to the tropes of the horror genre – the band describes it as a sequel to their first horror-core album, this time “with an even higher body count, more elaborate kills, and monsters that just won’t stay dead.” While the album suffers from a long run time and a handful of superfluous tracks, the expertly crafted mood and atmosphere deliver on an experience that is unsettling, chilly, and at some points even scary. All without a need for overarching plot, visuals or jumpscares.
A warning up front – Visions of Bodies Being Burned is not an easy listen. It is dense, piercing and painful, several songs on the album are minutes of noise and those that aren’t are violent and graphic.
The album reads like a horror anthology; each track tells its own, disconnected story. The narrative aspect of each song makes every track unique and makes a musical style that could have been repetitive instead unifying.
The horror of places echoes especially powerfully through an album that can’t have scary looking monsters or jumpscares. The ambience of a swinging gate builds over the ghost story of “She Bad,” the unnervingly polished and modern dance music that Daveed shouts over in “Enlacing” makes you feel like you are the one at a party gone horribly wrong. Indeed, Daveed’s commitment to a detached, 3rd person narration makes you place yourself directly in the action.
That said, the album could do without the several interludes, and there are some misses on the main tracks. “Secret Piece” manages to be unnerving due to its rapid cuts, but feels too different from the rest of the album. This song does not maintain the high that was built up over tracks like “Check the Lock” and “Eaten Alive,” and misses the landing as the last song on the album. Additionally, “Pain Everyday,“ which describes the rage and pain of the undead, tackles an interesting concept but turns out too sympathetic to truly be scary.
Overall, Visions of Bodies Being Burned is a tour-de-force in which clipping. does for Halloween what Frank Sinatra did for Christmas. Best experienced at night with the lights off and headphones.