Death Grips – No Love Deep Web
Genre: Hip-Hop/Experimental Hip-Hop
Death Grips, if you haven’t been caught up in internet hype recently, is the three-piece Sacromento-based band who are known for their noisy and experimental hip-hop. Fronted by MC Ride (real name Stefan Burnett), percussion provided by noise-rock warrior Zach Hill and synths, samples and general production is handled by Flatlander (real name Andy Morin). Earlier in the year I reviewed their first album of 2012, “The Money Store”, here. Now we have their greatly anticipated second full-length release of 2012!
How do you even start a review with all the backstory that comes with this? Earlier in the year, the band pulled out of all organised live dates to work on the album, which led to many disappointed fans. Then Death Grips, apparently unhappy with talks by label Epic about pushing the release date for “No Love Deep Web” back, decided to suddenly release the album on the 1st of October, announcing “the label wouldn’t confirm a release date for NO LOVE DEEP WEB until “next year sometime ” . the label will be hearing the album for the first time with you.” via their Facebook page.
If that wasn’t ballsy enough for you, the album cover, well… Google it. Then, the official Death Grips website got shut down, the band throwing accusations towards their label, who denied it. Whether this is all a planned promo set up or a genuine set of events is unclear at the moment, but it has definitely drawn the attention of both lovers and doubters of the band.
However, the music is what matters most, and Death Grips have changed their approach once again. MC Ride is generally a lot more vicious, abrasive and at times bitter than on “The Money Store, moving closer towards his vocal style on “Exmilitary”. However, the overall sound of this album heads further away from both previous full-lengths, heading towards a more depressive direction. If “Exmilitary” was the insane, sex-obsessed and violent meth addict and “The Money Store” the ecstasy and frantic-minded boozer, then “No Love Deep Web” is the heavy comedown of both in thirteen tracks.
The first track Come Up And Get Me opens with a thick, bassy glitch beat with metallic claps, going through stages of distortion before the first verse hits – and the beat just spins through the left and right speakers sickingly, almost nausea inducing at loud volumes. The lyrics are just as manic, as Ride announces at one point “I’m epiphanic amnesia / I’m in Jimmy Page’s castle / I’m off the planet”. Then there’s Lil Boy, which is as belittling as it sounds. The sounds of the synths on here range from the sounds of static electricity crackling in a rhythm, minimalist crystal keys and bouncing techno lines – all together, in rotation, never letting you feel at ease.
No Love is probably the first track to be a bit more upfront and brash, just featuring this dirty and maddening beat that bludgeons your senses, as Ride just gets inside your head, challenging you. The drums are a lot more clear too, and Zach’s hard-hitting style enforces the brutality of it all. At the 1:18 mark, there’s a synth/keys moment that sounds like a drugged version of the keys in the instrumental build-up of Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t It Be Good – followed by Ride shouting “I got too many hoes in my motherfuckin’ meal / Asking if I know how a motherfucka feels”. It’s just a musical beating.
Fourth track Black Dice takes a lighter tone, with very airy synth lines, before a simple bongo-sounding beat as Ride rhymes alone. The main synth line is one of the few moments that sounds similar to something you might expect extracted from “The Money Store”, with a trance-like vibe. World Of Dogs, with its monotone chorus of “It’s all suicide / It’s all suicide, suicide”, feels schizophrenic, especially with the drums going at an urgent tempo. One of MC Ride’s more impressive lines comes up too, with “I’m nothing, feed me to this world of dogs / Barely breathing, in this world of dogs / Foam of feral reality forming on mountains of teeth / Devour the hand spit out the leash, crown the beast”.
Then there’s Lock Your Doors, a track that hints towards a witch house sound, with its low, moody bassline and it’s nervous drum kicks along with the reverbed sample of screaming crowds -topped off by the angsty lyrics “I got some shit to say, just for the fuck of it / Don’t ask, don’t ask, don’t even ask me”. Over halfway through the album, there’s a dilemma. Whammy pops in with high-energy drum rolls and a sample looped of a female vocal – but while the sample and “Wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha whammy” chorus staple themselves in your memory, the track has no real stand-out value, otherwise forgettable. Unfortunately, this goes for Hunger Games too, just feeling really bland for Death Grips track – despite the commical use and exaggerated delivery of “swang” in the first few seconds. The lyrics go along the same nonsensical style as “The Money Store”, but with no depth or any hidden meanings.
Deep Web thankfully changes the tide for a moment, starting similarly to the Black Google song they put up on Youtube last year. But then this titanic throbbing bass abruptly smashes into place with almost celebratory woops, almost an anthem for the apocalypse. The track is an equal contender to No Love as the most punishing tracks on the album – let alone featuring one of the more disturbing lyrics in Death Grips history: “I’m the coat hanger in your man’s vagina”.
Tenth track Stockton returns to the standards of Lock Your Doors and Whammy, again frustratingly sub-par despite a catchy lyrical moment (this time the loud and exaggerated delivery of the plosives in the chorus). Pop brings it back with a more aesthetically pleasing instrumental side, with shimmering keys and effects with soft and light drums – although there are slightly droney rising synths at parts that interrupts the… well, niceness of it?
Bass Rattles Stars Out The Sky almost throws back to the “Exmilitary” with the chaotically organised collage of sounds while Ride prowls over it – like the soundtrack to a car of drugged-up clowns performing a drive-by on rival gang members. Then the last track, Artificial Death In The West, brings a sombre finish to the album, with dramatic 80’s-sounding synth keys while Ride sounds like he’s heartbroken (really!) during the chorus, despite it featuring the line “She shoot pussy through your chest, you die”. It’s really a sober end to a Death Grips album.
In conclusion, this may just be the first album by them that, personally, doesn’t have the appeal to slam the play button at the beginning over and over again. By no means is this a bad album, far from it, but in comparison to previous material, “No Love Deep Web” doesn’t have the infectious repeat-value or the varying dynamics as “The Money Store” did. Along with the fairly (and it’s almost hurts to say it) forgettable tracks, this just isn’t as appealing as the previous albums so far.
That said, Death Grips definitely take a step back into obscurity, and while not quite in the Clockwork Orange ‘hyperviolence’ theme or style, this is perhaps an overall more morose take, with injections of angst. The title tracks are definitely highlights of the album, are probably the most memorable tracks of the album. Needless to say, it’s a must for Death Grips fans, whether or not it’s to your personal preference is another thing altogether. But there are bound to be two or three tracks that will get your arms swinging in good ol’ Death Grips aggression.
Favourite tracks: No Love, World Of Dogs, Deep Web.