Welcome to Death Grips 2.0
by Jericho Cerrona
One could have surmised after imploding following the release of game-changing The Money Store in 2012 that Death Grips were done. As in slithering away into the back alleyways of Sacramento's seedy underbelly. As in blowing through major label cash and throwing an erect penis on the cover of their followup No Love Deep Web.
As in unleashing so many online performance art stunts and PR marketing shenanigans that everyone, including their most ardent fans, were forced to shrug them off as some kind of bastard mutilation of the Internet age. Of course, the actual music the band has managed to create, whether through sheer force of will or carried along by the mystical powers of digital algorithms, is something.
What that something amounts to is debatable, but Death Grips are difficult to easily dismiss. In many ways, they are victims of the hype machine as well as obvious beneficiaries. They can blow out of the gate with the passion and energy of old school punk or blitz eardrums through electronic mayhem. They can cancel shows or stage faux-retirements. They can drop albums for free online out of nowhere or take forever to appear in the public spotlight. They can lob out hooks and groove-heavy bangers or upend accessibility with blasts of atonal noise. They are Death Grips, and apparently, they aren't going anywhere.
On their latest effort Bottomless Pit, the band makes good on the tease that was double album The Powers that B, which concluded with last year's Jenny Death. That record was bookended with a noisy instrumental track called "Death Grips 2.0", which seemed to indicate either a new direction or the end of times. Well, if this is "Death Grips 2.0", then MC Ride (aka Stefan Burnett), producer Flatlander (aka Andy Morin), and drummer Zach Hill have taken all the sonic detours over the last five years and funneled them into one blistering stew. The results have the accessible hooks of The Money Store, the electronic overload of Government Plates, the grimy guitars and rock instrumentation of Jenny Death, and the misanthropic lyrical rage of No Love Deep Web. Despite the similarities, however, this is no rehashing of the familiar. At this point, Death Grips have cornered their own unique sound, and yet they still refuse to simply churn out variations of the same thing. Suitably abrasive and hard-hitting, but with mellower edges and some of the catchiest songs since The Money Store, Bottomless Pit is a a nasty plunge into the abyss of glitch-ridden hip-hop/industrial grime that will have fans bobbing and weaving like it's 2012.
The nudge back towards accessibility is noticeable right away with opener "Giving Good People Bad Ideas", featuring some clean guest vocals from Cherry Glazerr's Clementine Creevy and ferocious, near metal shredding work from Tero Melos' guitarist Nick Reinhart. Of course, once blasts of distorted noise and Ride's barking lyrical rants kick in, it's chaotic business as usual. "Hot Head" is a Zach Hill tour de force; a deranged flurry of drum fills and clanging cymbals playing fast and loose over Flatlander's densely layered digital theatrics. Meanwhile, Ride seems absolutely possessed here; rattling off near unintelligible barbs at the start before settling into a a grove of faux-braggadocio with lines like Self-inflicted/ What'd you tell them? I just told 'em hell's existence/ But you know me, don't nobody know my business. "Spikes" is a straight up banger; with a greasy 80s sounding guitar lick, Apex Twin-style bleeps, head-bobbing chorus, and some of Ride's most potently memorable lyrics, including the gem I'm all helter skelter/ I'm on that Faust. Probably the biggest left-field surprise, however, is "Eh", which takes the more restrained angle presented on "Get Got" from The Money Store and present an even mellower side of the band, even as Ride's mantra throughout seems to be a casual fuck-off to his critics.
Overall, Bottomless Pit isn't a "return to form" so much as it represents a synthesis of everything one can either love or hate about the group's particular brand of streaming age provocation. Five years into their whirlwind lifespan, Death Grips have neither surpassed their cultural impact nor devalued it. They are that rare band which continue to make music on their own terms without compromises. If this means that they will never exactly be able to recapture that holy shit one-two punch of Ex-Military and The Money Store, well, that's not really a big deal since they seem generally uninterested with repeating past glories. Whether it be simultaneously mocking and encouraging Internet trolling on "Trash" or getting into some snot-nosed, blood drenched Krautrock-style jamming on "Ring a Bell", there's no doubt Death Grips are trying their hand at an unholy breeding of atonality and gloss, and honestly, would we want things any other way?