“Visions of Bodies Being Burned” lacks the initial shock value and thematic cohesion that was present on the experimental hip-hop trio’s 2019 record, making for a similar experience one would expect from a clichéd horror movie sequel.
By Gavin Majeski
Back with a new record after only a year, rapper Daveed Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathon Snipes continue right where “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” left off. “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” is another continuation of the band’s spin on the horrorcore subgenre of hip-hip, featuring violent imagery, lyrical references to slasher flicks and more harsh and abrasive production from Hutson and Snipes.
The group is once again at an all-time high when it comes to production, with tracks loaded to the brim with harsh, manipulated noise and one-of-a-kind samples that make for some of the most unique hip-hop bangers of 2020. The singles “Say the Name,” “‘96 Neve Campbell” and “Pain Everyday” that led up to the release of the album are catchy, thematically potent and are just as strong as any of the highlights from “There Existed an Addiction to Blood.”
All are great examples of Diggs’ songwriting capability with “Say the Name” lyrically delving into the story of The Candyman,“‘96 Neve Campbell” being a commentary on the “final girl” cliché of horror films and “Pain Everyday” being a ghostly call to arms for lynching victims to haunt the white descendants of their murderers.
But while the production is as consistent as any past clipping. record, the socio-political commentary Diggs is known for feels neutered compared to their previous record. Tracks from “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” such as “Nothing is Safe,” “He Dead,” “Run for Your Life” and “Blood of the Fang” feel more relevant in 2020 than their original release year.
The only two tracks that feel remotely potent from a commentary perspective are the aforementioned “Pain Everyday” and “Body for the Pile,” which was brought over from a previously released 2016 Adult Swim compilation album.
The sixth track on the record, “Make Them Dead,” is a stagnant, slow burner that is not complemented by the messy “She Bad” that follows. “She Bad” has a unique instrumental that utilizes twinkling synths that feel like needles pricking your ears, string instruments and samples of what appear to be squeaking doors, but pace wise, feels too slow in the grand scheme of the track listing.
On the later end of the record, “Eaten Alive” features tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and an out-of-tune free jazz performance that does no complements to Diggs’ rapping. The closing free jazz arrangement on the track is comparable to the two minutes of harsh noise wall from “La Mala Ordina” on the group’s last record, yet is nowhere near as potent or fitting.
The closing track “Secret Place” that was composed by Yoko Ono is a polar opposite compared to the closer “Piano Burning” from the group’s 2019 record. Where “Piano Burning” stood out as a closer was with its ability to be the perfect conclusion to the record, representing a culmination of ideas and a metaphor for the burning state of the United States. “Secret Place” is a field recording compilation that is just as ambient as “Piano Burning,” but is a head scratcher in doing its job at wrapping up the record.
Thankfully, these poor tracks are outshined by the handful of highlights that were not previously mentioned, such as “Intro” and “Something Underneath” which feature some of Diggs’ fastest flows to date.
The track “Looking Like Meat” consists of an excellent verse from punk-rap duo Ho99o9 and is arguably the nastiest and grimy song of 2020, with grossly distorted 808s, what appear to be sci-fi laser samples and a lyrical theme reminiscent of the film “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“Enlacing” is the group’s experimental take on cloud rap, with one of the band’s most atmospheric and moody cuts to date. Slow, reverberated vocal samples and more harmonic singing from Diggs is surprisingly well done for how out of his comfort zone it feels.
While “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” contains some of clipping.’s best songs to date, it pales in comparison to their first horror themed record from not only a lyrically thematic perspective, but also a cohesive storytelling one as well.
Favorite Tracks: Intro, Say the Name, ‘96 Never Campbell, Something Underneath, Pain Everyday, Check the Lock, Looking Like Meat, Body for the Pile, Enlacing