The Doc will see you now


Release year: 2022
Label: S’laughter Visions

As those who follow this site with some attention will have surmised, when it comes to rap, I am a horrorcore guy. It’s not the only kind of rap I like and listen to, but it does take up a worryingly large amount of my time spent listening to rap. But I guess it’s not really surprising, being as I am a fan of horror movies and dark music.

Some time ago I stumbled upon Doc Gruesome on Spotify, and it led me down yet another rabbit hole to discover the whole S’laughter Visions and Cerberus Clique scene, consisting of several artists who frequently collaborate on projects, feature on each others’ tracks and in general associate with each other. One thing led to another, and ultimately a parcel from the Cerberus Clique store waited on my doorstep one day, filled with releases by members of the clique, which I’ll be dissecting in the upcoming days and weeks. Let’s start with Doc Gruesome, who started it all for me.

I guess you can see what the initial appeal in Doc Gruesome was for me. I mean, that cover is just damn cool. Yeah, horrorcore rappers wearing human skin masks will always get my attention. Luckily, the appeal does not stop at the cover.

I don’t know if you can call Doc Gruesome straight up horrorcore, although the dark and gruesome aesthetic is a major part of the package. Trap beats with heavy emphasis on hi-hats and a rather grimy, ugly overall feel to the beats anchor the album also in more modern strands of rap. But, then again, horrorcore doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and where early proponents would often show considerable overlap with gangsta rap, I guess it’s not very surprising to see an artist of the younger generation draw from more modern developments within the genre.

But, rest assured, there’s more than enough of the dark and the sinister here. Horror soundtrack staples such as eerie piano lines, dramatic bells and spooky synths are in a central role in the beats, and the lyrics naturally revolve around themes of violence, depression, derangedness and all things devilish and dark.

There’s quite a wide variety of tracks on the album. Playa Hata$ is a genuine banger, a super catchy track that’s a pretty obvious first track to check out – although it’s one of the least horrorcore tracks, focusing more on gang-style vocals over a boisterous, distorted and grimy trap beat. Renegade Darko slows things down to a cool, chill and laid back delivery full of a mysterious, eerie atmosphere aptly accentuated by Stu J The Vamp’s melodic, autotuned chorus. Luda takes the album in a very classic horrorcore direction with a beat built around ill-foreboding horror piano. Runaway and Cemetery Roads add electric guitars and a more rock beat, resulting in some kind of weird goth rock – horrorcore mutant. Incidentally these two belong to my absolute favourites on the album!

The Doc himself proves to be a versatile rapper, ranging from the abrasively aggressive spitting of Playa Hata$ to the almost gruff and throaty stylings of Luda, to the melodic semi-singing of Runaway and Cemetery Roads. He’s no one-trick pony, showing he can handle both rapid fire spitting flow and more rhythmically laid-back styles. Further variety is added by the many guests: Odprophet is a fellow clique member, whilst the inclusion of Cody Manson, Donnie Menace and Grewsum show that the good doctor clearly aligns himself with the horrorcore scene and roots himself in its history.

But the variety is not only a richness. It is also the only significant downside of the album. Different tracks have different volume levels, which accentuate the patchwork nature of the album. The end result is a disc that feels more like a collection of assorted tracks, instead of a body of work created as a whole from the start. In other words, most of the individual tracks are very strong, but the album itself lacks the finish that would make it feel like a unit.

This small bit of criticism notwithstanding, Doc Gruesome’s untitled solo debut album is a strong effort. The whole S’laughter Visions/Cerberus Clique scene is, I guess, largely unknown at this point in time. But if they continue to put out stuff of this calibre, I don’t think it’ll be too long before they become a significant force within horrorcore.

Check out Doc Gruesome’s links on his LinkTree

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