Review Summary: You all paid to watch, let's start the show.
Why do we love horror movies?
I'd guess the answer is different for everyone. I'm so easily scared I had to watch The Woman in Black
through my fingers, but even then, I don't really think I was watching horror because it made me jump and squirm. I saw The Shining
at a much earlier age, certainly too young, and even though I watched it with my full range of vision it left a much deeper impression on me. Maybe my adoration of recent arthouse psychological horror tentpoles – The VVitch
, The Blackcoat's Daughter
, Suspiria 2018
– is because they recreate that feeling I got seeing Kubrick's masterpiece around the age of 8. That fundamental certainty that I'm watching something of insidious wrongness, that I'm not supposed to be seeing it.
Of course, none of this means I can't still appreciate a good Woman in Black
-style jumpscare. clipping. mastered the jumpscare on There Existed an Addiction to Blood
. It wasn't even too far out of their sonic wheelhouse, using harsh noise to outright startle in the end of "La Mala Ordina" or suggest something sinister in the gradually building horror of "Club Down". Three separate songs depicting victims being tortured to death clearly established the bleakness of their vision of horrorcore, the shifting time signatures of "Story 7" apt accompaniment for the abrupt changes in direction and tone Daveed Diggs' narratives took.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
begins in a similar mode, a bridge between two albums, opening with callbacks to classic horror icons - Candyman
- and a deliciously cheesy Ouija Board conjuration. Diggs coats his lyrics in gallons of blood, working through slasher cliches and tropes while Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson build beats out of pounded fists on doors and intensifying loud crashes. "Say the Name" establishes a standard of excellence that clipping. have always lived up to, but it doesn't massively depart from the ground laid down by its predecessor.
Then "Something Underneath" takes a sharp turn into nightmare territory, all tribal drumming and hints of something incomprehensible being born like an occult ritual transmuted into song. From here on, Diggs trades in his hook-handed slasher villains for vengeful lynching victims, paranoid gangsters, semi-mythical witches and menacingly alive swamplands. Snipes and Hutson do some of their best work ever once this directional shift occurs. Like the world's scariest painters they craft soundscapes out of creaking fences, animal noises and rustling leaves; the immersion of "Run for Your Life" is taken to the next level in this album-long delve into menace and unease. "Check the Lock" hews closest to standard hip-hop with clattering drums and bass, but the song's vivid portrayal of a sweat-drenched drug lord undone by paranoia is far from the cliches the band once parodied on CLPPNG
The trio haven't forgotten the lessons learned from Splendor & Misery
, that moments of beauty can colour in their outlines as much as darker shades. The end of "Pain Everyday", one of the finest things clipping. have committed to tape, welds a loop of soaring strings to clattering Aphex Twin-style electronics, bringing a kind of grace to the disturbing story of ghosts haunting the descendants of the white bigots who lynched them. Along the same lines, the genuinely moving "Enlacing" moves the inner-monologue club setting of Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools" to the perspective of a protagonist who's actually dying, struggling in vain against accepting his own demise as he dances to the music.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned
is exactly the kind of horror I love. It's cerebral, labyrinthine and self-involved, criticisms levied against clipping. as often as they are against, say, Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria
. The commonality is that, below their glacial, surgical horror surfaces, both have plenty to say beyond the confines of the genre. Similarly to how clipping. sent hip-hop, gospel and slave songs thousands of years into the future for the sci-fi of Splendor & Misery
looks back at the cheesy, charming excesses of horror's 80s heyday, but is haunted by the spectres of real shit, of lynchings and police brutality. "Eaten Alive" is the apex of this and the album in total, drawing a direct line from the swamp killing ground of Italian cult classic Eaten Alive
to trap houses and streets flooded with drugs, where one wrong step gets you dead. "What you see in the static when your eyes adjust?", Diggs asks on the album's most outright horrific minute. The answer is beyond comprehension or understanding, a thing never meant to be seen or spoken of. It could just as easily be the shadow of prejudice and bigotry, of violence being visited on black bodies in the name of white pride, as any supernatural horror monster.
All this ambition may have swung well past the mark if the trio hadn't flawlessly sequenced their diptych of horrorcore albums as one journey. There Existed an Addiction to Blood
wrote a new world, a place parallel to our own where the cops killing minorities were also werewolves stalking the night, where the bullets you carry for self-protection had better be silver. Visions of Bodies Being Burned
ruthlessly pulls at the edges of that world until it falls apart, dissolving back into our own, undoing the illusions its predecessor meticulously created. Maybe the dead cops in "Body for the Pile" were werewolves, it doesn't really matter after they're deceased (the song's cop-killer narrative, despite first seeing light in 2016, will strike a pretty major chord in the light of 2020). The paranoid gangster of "Check the Lock" isn't all that different from the thieving, unlucky soul being hunted in "Run for Your Life". Maybe clipping.'s point is that the alternate world they weave out of horror movie tropes isn't excessively darker or more unforgiving than our own. They decline to play their hand overtly in the final moments of their horrorcore era, the Yoko Ono-inspired ambient haze of "Secret Piece", which features the sound of woods at early morning. Is it a hard-earned peaceful denouement for a weary protagonist, or just a moment of respite in the early morning before the horror begins again the next night, as horror often does? Are all those vengeful ghosts laid to rest, or simply resting?