Album Review: Death Grips – ‘No Love Deep Web’

Hype is a fickle mistress, however, in the internet age there is no quicker way to make headlines then by generating a little controversy and inspiring debate. Death Grips, the musical project of singer/rapper Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett, drummer Zach Hill & keyboardist/producer Andy Morin, have mastered this process. Death Grips are a band who take their own approach to hype, they use it as a vehicle to grab audiences’ attentions and to ensure their music does not go unnoticed.

Death Grips receive a lot of criticism and divide opinions with the way they promote their music, however, I would argue that as sensationalist as some of their stunts are, the band are worth the attention. Most importantly they deliver on their promises, as anyone who was swept up in the buzz of Odd Future and in particular the release of Tyler, the Creator’s album ‘Goblin’ will attest, nothing is more disappointing then when an artist fails to deliver on hype.

There’s an understanding which accompanies their relationship with hype, for Death Grips the attention allows them to communicate their music on a wider platform, after all their music would go ignored without it. Despite winning the plaudits of many online music publications last year for their free mixtape Ex-Military, Death Grips’ music went relatively unheard. Perhaps this was mostly due to the fact that their music was a cacophonous mix of Experimental Hip-Hop, Noise Rock and Hardcore Punk, with lines like “Feel my fists push black holes through your bitch ass décor/ Split it back like a whore and make you shit your fucking drawers”, Death Grips were not for the fainthearted.

Their debut album on Epic, The Money Store, turned a few more heads, in many ways it was when Death Grips went Pop, the raw and abrasive nature of their music had been streamlined so that now those initially alienated by songs about executions and vandalism could experience their music. It may well be the experimental crossover of the year, as a casual Death Grips fans prior to the release of The Money Store, I was astounded at the attention they received. The album also contained my favourite lyrics of the year “The table’s flipped now we got all the coconuts bitch”, for sheer ridiculousness alone, I tip my hat to you, sir.

Furthermore, the whole album was through the lens of hype, Death Grips received a lot of attention for the cultish devotion of their fans as well as the anarchistic tendencies of their music. They were picked up by more mainstream media outlets as a means to scare their middle-class audiences, countless 20-somethings guffawed their neck beards off watching their music infiltrate and violate the masses. John Carpenter once said that “the art to a good Horror film is you find the edge of what is acceptable, in a moral and social sense. Then what you do is you run a razors edge along it because the second you go over that line you’ve lost your audience.” In a lot of ways this feels eminently applicable to Death Grips.

So onto the matter of No Love Deep Web, the immediate aspect is that the album bares more similarities to Ex-Military then The Money Store. If anyone felt the latter sacrificed its abrasive edge in exchange for accessibility, they’ll find solace in this album as it serves as a return to their earlier work. Death Grips are pushing the boundaries of their music once more, but not in a way which will win them any fans, but will perhaps solidify the ones they already have.

MC Ride has never been more violent as a front-man  on opener ‘Come Up & Get Me’ his vocals go from rapping to all out screams as his voice is audibly strained by his delivery.  His lyricism has once again outdone itself to find a way of teaming up a sadistic and demented persona with a stream of consciousness approach; “See myself come spin through top of you/ My flint lit slit that attitude/ Lil brain got confused/ Choo choo train of thought in my logic loop”.

Musically No Love Deep Web is far sparer than its predecessor, whereas The Money Store filled every space with loud and brash electronic samples and beats, No Love Deep Web is content to have lone synths do the work. This works to the effect of creating a skeletal atmosphere to the album, you aren’t so much overwhelmed as you are hollowed out by it.

However, it’s not always so sparing, on ‘No Love’ Death Grips amp up the abrasive edge of their music once more, the Bass and Drums come crashing down, assaulting your ears. MC Ride determinedly takes no prisoners “You’re fit ta learn the proper meaning of a beat down/ Madness chaos in the brain/ Let my blood flow make my blood flow through you mane”, his demented voice drills its way into your head and is inescapably unsettling.

Perhaps the starkest development to be introduced by No Love Deep Web is the final track ‘Artificial Death in The West’, a six-minute spacious electronic quasi-ballad about paranoia and The Illuminati. Soft string synths and MC Ride’s most reserved delivery on the album play off one another chillingly, even at their most subdued Death Grips still find a way to unnerve. “Watchin’ me, Watchin’ me, Watch them Watch me” chants MC Ride as the song slowly slithers along.

I think the aspect which people miss when they talk about Death Grips is the fun of their music (bear with me), as much as I’ve been disorientated and alienated by Death Grips’ music, I’ve also shared in this experience with many people. If you’re in a group of people & you discover that someone else has heard Death Grips there’s almost an immediate affinity between you & that person. Audiences it would seem love to revel in the ridiculous nature of Death Grips’ music and to celebrate the stark difference of the band. I’ve had lengthy conversations about attempting to classify Death Grips to a genre, my personal favourite being my friend’s invention of ‘Homelesscore’, hereby making Death Grips the scariest tramps you’d ever come across, a compliment of sorts.

When it was announced earlier this year that they would be playing Bodega, Nottingham’s core of music nerds assembled en masse to greet them (only to have our dreams quashed as they had to cancel their tour due to Epic’s demands for No Love Deep Web to be finished by the end of the year). In a lot of ways Death Grips are musical marmite, you either love them or you hate them, but if you hate them, chances are you just haven’t given them a second chance. I prefer to think of it in this way; there are two types of people in the world, those who love Death Grips, and those who haven’t listened to their music enough.

Perhaps, No Love Deep Web does see Death Grips go too far with the hype, however, it seems appropriate that the band caused such a stir when it was pretty evident that they were incredibly angry with Epic, an empassioned response to a volatile situation. Reading through the band’s tweets in the run up to the release of the album for free via their website (which at one point was apparently taken down by Epic, a claim refuted by the label) you can see why they released their album the way they did. “The label wouldn’t confirm a release date for NO LOVE DEEP WEB “till next year sometime”. The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you. THE LEAK IS ON.” Whether or not you choose to believe the hype, Death Grips still remain one of the most important and thrilling bands of the moment. Their music is provocative and a firm testament to the fact that new music still has something to offer, even if at first it seems a little unorthodox.

Ben James

Ben is listening to Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

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