“Hamilton’s” Daveed Diggs Crafts Chilling Halloween Album

Most well-known for his performance as Thomas Jefferson in the 2015 Broadway hit “Hamilton,” Daveed Diggs has been producing cutting edge and industrial hip-hop with his group “clipping.” since 2014. With each release since then, the group has managed to reinvent itself, shifting their styles with each of their six studio albums. In Oct. 2019, the group shifted directions once again, releasing “There Existed an Addiction to Blood,” a grating, avant-garde odyssey through horrorcore and industrial hip-hop. Just a year later, clipping. unveiled “Visions of Bodies Being Burned,” the second chapter in their horrorcore anthology. The album expands on its predecessor’s themes and styles, and offers an even more horrifying, nerve-racking and distressing auditory journey through noise music, the classical horrorcore atmosphere and violent, industrial hip-hop- all just in time for Halloween.

The album opens with “Intro,” which leads with thundering atmospheric drums that instantly instill a deep sense of dread in the listener. The drums approach slowly and eventually collapse in with distant creaking footsteps to create the beat on top of which Diggs delivers his verse that promises violence and bloodshed with blistering speed.

“Say the Name,” the most accessible track on the record, feels like an instant reprieve from the nauseating atmosphere of “Intro.” The track lends its chorus to the album’s title, which itself is sampled from Getto Boys’ 1991 song “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.” Tracks like “Say the Name,” “’96 Neve Campbell” and “Check the Lock” offer the album’s closest adherence to traditional hip-hop, with largely structured beats that put less emphasis on noise and cacophony and more emphasis on integrating traditional horror soundtrack elements into the beats.

“Wytchboard,” the first of three interludes, features two women using a Ouija Board. In unison over a rising synth note and echoing beat, they slowly spell “HE IS HERE.” As they realize what they’ve spelled, a thundering knock on the door interrupts the track and offers a genuine auditory jump scare. “Invocation” is a full minute of atonal, pitchy synth and string notes that stitch an inexplicable sense of dread into the listener. “Drove,” the final interlude, features a minute of atmospheric farm sounds, including distressed animals bleating over an old, rumbling truck engine. Meanwhile, the knocking on “Wytchboard” also sets up the beat for “’96 Neve Campbell,” whose rhythms are largely based on various knocks and horror soundtrack staples. “Do you like scary movies?” asks Diggs on the track, solidifying the record’s nods to classic horror films.

The anxiety and dread reach a height on “Something Underneath,” a zombie-infested track whose instrumental is perfectly chaotic and rhythmic. Rising and hypnotic tribal drums ratchet up the tension before abruptly cutting off for Diggs’ chorus, and fade back in in the next verse. A single note from a triangle offers the only sense of timeliness and sanity on the record, but even its note is swept away with the drums as the track comes to a close.

Tracks like “Making them Dead,” “She Bad” and “Pain Everyday” spend more time on the band’s industrial and avant-garde angle, utilizing grinding, painful electronic and synth tones to craft the beats. The noise often drowns out Diggs’ verses, with tracks like “Make them Dead” ending in aggressive, wailing and echoing tones. “She Bad” employs a trio of essential horror-esque harp notes that merge with sounds of flies buzzing to create a screaming note that explodes over heavy drums.

The cannibalistic track “Eaten Alive” boasts an instrumental comprised of scraping metal, shuffling, kitchen utensils clattering together and atonal electric guitar notes. Once Diggs’ verses are drowned by the cacophony of sounds, the listener is crowded out of the song by the harsh, noisy sounds that are left behind. The track is the album’s purest nod to the avant-garde and noise scene that it draws so much inspiration from.

“Body for the Pile” quintessentially combines each elemental piece of the record’s themes, hip-hop, noise and industrial and succinctly crafts a progressive auditory experience that effectively encapsulates the record’s 16 tracks. “You should probably take your last breath right about now,” Diggs raps as the track collapses into another cacophony of screaming sirens and radio static.

The album closes with “Secret Piece,” a nod to traditional experimentalist Yoko Ono’s 1960 piece of the same name, which features a single note accompanied by the ambient sounds of the early morning, including trucks rolling by, birds singing and crickets chirping. The piece is a grateful emergence from the harrowing depths of the album, and, like the sunrise it represents, offers a reprieve from the record’s terrifying ambiance. Unlike “Piano Burning,” an 18-minute field recording of the titular event, which closes 2019’s “There Existed an Addiction to Blood,” this closing track offers a sense of finality and escapism from the anthology’s themes.

Somehow, “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” brings together the dissonant musical styles of hip-hop, horrorcore and industrial avant-garde to create an unparalleled, haunting and anxiety-inducing musical journey. Every track feels like its own experience: a mental degradation, a descent into madness or an atmospheric horror landscape. “Visions” is a near-perfect experience, especially with Halloween right around the corner.

Braeden Bowen
Braeden Bowen is a senior Cybersecurity, Political Science, and Russian Language major from Lexington, KY. He has been involved in journalism for nine years and will serve as the Torch's Editor-in-Chief for the 2020-2021 school year.

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