Despite having a relatively new career, Death Grips has already made a significant name for itself. The Sacramento trio has released five records, two instrumental projects, an EP and a mixtape in the past six years, completing each in almost rapid succession and occasionally without any prior notice to the public. Its music has attracted the attention of Icelandic singer Björk, Robert Pattinson (of “Twilight” fame), and even Adidas. Through mixing genres of metal, punk, hip hop industrial and electronic, Death Grips has become one of our generation’s most compelling music phenomenons, which is strange considering its members decided to call it quits after releasing their “final album,” The Powers That B, in the spring of 2015.
Of course, that wasn’t the case, as they announced late last October that they were embarking on a world tour and were in the process of creating their newest album, Bottomless Pit. Though they continue to showcase a tireless ambition and impeccable craft, it was only a matter of time before Death Grips’s music became predictable. In addition to being the band’s most chaotic and harshest record to date, Bottomless Pit lacks the captivating hooks, hard-hitting lyrics, cohesive thread and gravity-defying heights of its previous efforts.
For a band known for having an erratic, experimental sound, Death Grips keeps its material relatively polished. Yet Bottomless Pit feels like an unfortunate misstep, with 13 songs piling on top of one another and creating a numbing, messy listening experience. Tracks like the heart-stopping opener “Giving Bad People Good Ideas,” the unnervingly noisy “Spikes” and electro-punk thrasher “Three Bedrooms In a Good Neighborhood” are irksome compared to songs from 2012’s The Money Store and 2013’s Government Plates. Like the band’s past works, these tracks are injected with a nihilistic abandon and an abrasive sound, but they don’t seem to push hard enough to break Death Grips’s thematic and sonic mold. Promotional single “Hot Head” starts with a promising muzzled synth loop, which is then gradually drowned out in a muddled heap of raucous guitar riffs and twitchy electronic blips. “BB Poison” is similarly frustrating, building off an irritating warped sample that verges on giving a listener a migraine. The zany “Bubbles Buried in the Jungle” weaves in and out like a dangerous driver on the freeway as it changes tempos unexpectedly twice within the song.
However, Bottomless Pit is not without the strengths and creative talent of its producers, drummer Zach Hill and instrumentalist Andy Morin. With frontman Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett’s feral roar and stream-of-consciousness raps, the three Death Grips members elevate the album’s tired formula on certain tracks. Jittery highlights “Eh” and “Trash” find MC Ride voicing his frustrations with society, the former thrusting him in a sea of problems he could care less about and the latter venting about the negative effects of consumerism. The album’s shortest song, “Ring a Bell,” is also its best, exhibiting all of Death Grips’s best qualities while adding a shimmering guitar riff to boot.
Undoubtedly, Death Grips will continue to perplex, amaze and mystify audiences. Though Bottomless Pit may not be the ideal example of the trio’s current state as artists, Death Grips doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon — unless the band momentarily disbands again. Perhaps if they shift and tweak their conceptual focus, Death Grips can propel forward into much darker, more emotionally taut territory.