Album Review: Death Grips—“Bottomless Pit”

By Adam Piotrowicz, Feature Photo via Pitchfork//taken by Daniel Boczarski

What more is left to be said about Death Grips? Since their start in 2011, Death Grips has etched themselves into the modern, Internet-driven cultural continuum as a band, a multimedia art project, a self-contained art movement, a massive Reddit thread, and a rabid pop culture meme. They are a virally-potent force of shock, awe, and alarm who manage to (momentarily) unify the attention of the World Wide Web with every little twitch they make – usually through their gleefully-confounding use of social media channels. Epic Records realized this very quickly when the trio leaked their third studio album without the label’s authorization from a hotel room at the Chateau Fairmont after realizing they weren’t a label priority anymore. Death Grips also garnered significant notoriety for spontaneously canceling tour dates, becoming the bane of promoters and label officials and the heroes of the internet gutter (read: 4chan).

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Album art for bottomless Pit

For an experimental group frequently dismissed as nothing more than try-hard, pixelated miscreants, they still managed to play a sold-out set at Coachella this past April (Tyler, The Creator and Eric Andre can be seen in the moshpit). The late David Bowie also cited their music as a major influence for his final record Blackstar. However, behind all the digital hat tricks and apparent media stunts, Death Grips are three guys that make honest and confrontational art in an era of mass confusion and misinformation. They are a band that truly moves with the speed of the Internet; relentlessly appropriating a myriad of pop (and internet) culture elements into a nightmarish sound and visual collage that embraces the frantic and disjointed nature of our digitally-veiled modern reality. Whether you like it or not, Death Grips will pummel you and leave you helpless, joyful, frustrated, angry, and/or empowered. It’s truly something you have to experience, if you haven’t already done so.

Bottomless Pit feels, in many ways, like the album that Death Grips has been working to create over the course of the past few releases, starting with 2013’s excellent Government Plates (I’m really biased because I’ve literally listened to this album five+ times a day since it was released). Last year’s The Powers That B showcased two very distinct and contrasting sides of Death Grips’ creative approach, while Bottomless Pit largely returns to the every-track-is-a-banger format of 2012’s The Money Store – abandoning a larger thematic concept in favour of rounded standalone tracks that are positively dowsed in hooks.

The result is thirteen songs of no-bullshit digitalized rage that showcases the band at their active peak. Opener “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” erupts with heavily-overdriven guitars and blast-beat drumming that instantly recalls the energy of black metal, except with vocalist Stefan Burnett spitfire rapping over the wall of pulverizing noise. The track’s vocal hook, performed by Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr, puts a bizarre spin on an already insane formula. At this point in the album, you’ll either get mad and turn it off or you’ve been sucked in so far that you never stood a chance. The final album mix of “Hot Head” features a manic chiptunesy hook that makes the whole track fall somewhere between the soundtrack to F-Zero and the sloppy aggression of grindcore, hammered home by drummer Zach Hill’s ADHD jitter-fills and blasts.

There’s an underlying rock-&-roll sensibility to the record, with tracks like “Spikes” echoing the vibes of Death Grips‘ arguable spiritual predecessors The Prodigy. The broken-glass intensity of “Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” – with it’s absolutely-infectious buzzsaw synth hook – cements it as an instant favorite. The dismissive attitude of “Eh” is exactly what it sounds like – boredom and the mundane in an era of total information overload – and the breakthrough honesty and self-awareness in the lyrics ends up having a hilarious effect: “Then I forget shit like Death Grips / like eh / I wave them off, I wave them in.”

The album is a dark and intense ride – nothing new to seasoned Death Grips devotees – with the tail end rounded off by the industrial clap of “BB Poison”, the abrasively-hooky “Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood,” and the nihilistic pulse of “80808”. The Can-sampling “Ring A Bell” is another highlight, ripping a segment from the group’s 1973 record Ege Bamyasi before breaking into a pseudo-Nine Inch Nails riff-chugging that is so mad it becomes hysterical (the hilarity is accentuated by the track lyrics – “America, America / now I’m coming Africa / my death is money” – easily my favorite vocal segment from the whole album). All of the songs on the album are distinct from one another, wedged somewhere in between punk, hip-hop, metal, and the various fragments of digitalized popular culture that Death Grips weaves into their aesthetic.

In conclusion, now is a better time than ever to jump on the Death Grips train, and Bottomless Pit provides a perfect boarding point for those previously unexposed to this wonderful monstrosity, while providing some new toys for longtime fans. Either way, the Death Grips train is going to keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ – and it stops for no one.

YUH! (Third World and Harvest Records)

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