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WPGM Recommends: Death Grips – Bottomless Pit (Album Review)

death grips bottomless pit
Descending into chaos. That’s the best way to sum up the experience of Bottomless Pit. It’s a visceral, transcendental journey into an apocalyptic chasm of fire and disaster. Have you seen the Lars von Trier film, Antichrist? The scene where the decomposing Fox utters “chaos reigns“, that’s exactly what Death Grips‘ sixth album is. Chaos in its purest form, reigning above the music industry.

Since their inception, Death Grips have been anarchic, confrontational and quite frankly, rule-breakers. They’ve built their career on foundations of what’s wrong with society, empowerment and animalistic instinct. The Money Store was their introduction to the ‘mainstream’ with catchy hooks and a backdrop of ferocious, electronics reminiscent of what many people know as Hip-Hop. Their second effort was futuristic, it set a standard for music, period. It was an example of creativity, an unrelenting force of artistry that made waves.

The Money Store flung Death Grips into the limelight and from that point forward, its been a Dante’s Inferno level of twists and turns. You could say they self-sabotaged their career, by leaking No Love Deep Web… Their record label Epic wasn’t too pleased with their behaviour nor album. MC Ride and co have always strived to go against the grain, maintaining their individuality without compromise. A major label prohibited them and in turn, they rebelled, ending up with them being dropped. The whole fiasco played out on in front of Death Grips’ most loyal audience, the internet.

After No Love Deep Web, came Government Plates, receiving a lukewarm reception. I didn’t enjoy the latter. To me, it was boring and uninspired for a group who are trend-setters; it sounded like they were out of ideas, like an old dog trying to demonstrate new tricks, which were merely recycled.

Their fifth effort, The Powers That B is evidence that Grips listened and realised that their prior release wasn’t the calibre that their die-hard, feverish fans expected. It injected life into their music again, with fresh sounds and reborn ideas, MC Ride sounded energised once again, and more importantly, passionate. The sheer musical annihilation that The Powers That B created was important, it was going to be the trio’s swansong.

They announced they were done with music, and their time was up. It had been a mind-bending career so far, the highs were stratosphere breaking, and the lows reached the depths of hell. It was a rocky, tumultuous musical voyage culminating in five bodies of work, all embodying the essence of Death Grips, in varying degrees. The fans were gutted, yet understanding that the curtains had been closed…

Not for long. Enter: Bottomless Pit. From the ashes, like a Phoenix, Death Grips have returned with their best album. It’s a testament to the trio’s dedication and artistry. It’s a perfect example of their sound, it’s the purest Death Grips record to date.

Beginning with “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”, an inescapable introduction riddled with menace, instrumentally sounding more like a Black Metal anthem than experimental Hip-Hop. It’s propelled by furious blast-beats and muddy guitars, with bubbling synths accompanied by pained MC Ride vocals. What makes the track so menacing and trailblazing is the juxtaposition of the female vocals that are the chorus, colliding and being surrounded by a truly chaotic atmosphere, even the way the vocals are sung, there’s a sense of urgency and fear.

Throughout the thirteen tracks, Bottomless Pit is a rampant, sonically violent and overwhelming experience. It’s cataclysmic and at times, unbelievable. The vast sounds, and song compositions come together to create should-be musical abominations, which thanks to Death Grips, are stylistic, fantastic pieces of work. Every track works, having a level of unmatched bastardry, it’s vile, beautiful and exhilarating.

It’s hard to talk about individual tracks, when they’re all defined and superior in their own way. The instrumentals on this album are an audio representation of insanity. They feel like a stream of consciousness, representing a wide spectrum of feelings, thoughts and emotions. They encapsulate MC Ride’s state of mind on each song, enhancing his delivery.

There are fine examples of Death Grips perfected formula within this album, two examples would be “Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” and “Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighbourhood”. The former has a Yeezus-esque introduction, with a sampled scream, or distorted synth, whatever it is, it’s terrifying. Followed by discordant, robotic synths mashed with one of MC Ride’s strongest demonstrations of his flexible flow. It ranges from charismatic to military; spitting lyrics with an alpha male bark.

The latter, “Three Bedrooms…” is one of the more Hip Hop inspired songs. From the beat to MC Ride’s flow, harkening back to his trademark raps a la The Money Store, rather than his snarling, neck-breaking rhyme spitting comparable to a dog with rabies. His flow bounces and interjects with the grimy, 90s inspired beat. The drums are rapid, the bass fluctuates, as the synth pierces the chaos, rising to the surface every so often, coming together to create an unusually catchy rhythm.

In its entirety, Bottomless Pit offers a lot sonically, and there are many stand-out moments throughout. Every song has a moment that signifies and establishes its identity, the depth and construction of each song is commendable, and examples of musical genius. The layered nature of the instrumentals alone is akin to being buried alive, which particular moments portray well. The brooding, dissonant keys in “Trash” echoes a sinister moment from a horror film, with MC Ride delivering his rhymes in a deliberately slow, eerie manner.

There are points on the album where Ride excels himself, pushing himself to limits unknown to the listener, I never realised he was capable of manipulating his voice and flow so dynamically. You’ll even hear MC Ride singing on “Ring A Bell”, an aggressive, industrial driven track with an 80s pop break, followed by Ride harmonies. It’s bizarre albeit refreshing. That’s another highlight of Bottomless Pit, vocally it goes toe-to-toe with the atmosphere, never falling short or out of place.

Lyrically, MC Ride gives us cryptic metaphors and quirky songwriting. It wouldn’t be Death Grips otherwise. That’s not to say that the lyrics aren’t emotionally charged or important. His impassioned delivery stresses the importance and meaning of the lyrics, whether it’s to himself or to his audience.

It’s well-rounded. The trio released the lyrics so we, the listeners could delve into their world, excavating meanings and creating our own interpretations. Amongst the vocal fury, there’s heart. Amongst the vulgarity and weirdness that can trickle from verse to verse, there’s meaning and personality. There are some gems such as “I’m gonna f**k you in half”, from the title track, a personal favourite of mine.

The overall sound is a ‘bottomless pit’ (nice pun, right?) of influences and distinct sounds, from Industrial, Metal and classic Rap/Hip Hop. Generally, it’s a never-ending assault on the senses. synths topple each other, with bass lines stampeding between the rubble. Among the layered, precise mess lies various effects, and other instrumentation. It’s a wild concoction, whether it’s finger-splitting guitars or cultured drum patterns, theres a depth expressed in the music that simply can’t be explained in writing.

You need to hear it, to fully appreciate it. Although the album is fantastic, dominated by a weirdly welcoming bludgeoning, there are moments of relief, where the instrumentation is mellow. The change in pace and nature, doesn’t change the over-arching feeling of impending doom and urgency. The calm is momentary, a moment to gather yourself and breathe. There’s a definite sense of an apocalyptic nature, or a feeling of personal crisis throughout Bottomless Pit. It evokes desperation and darkness. If you wanted an audio representation of a bottomless pit, this is definitely it.

Furthermore, the level of cohesion from start to finish is exemplary, helping contain and handle the noise. Without cohesion, Bottomless Pit would feel like a sloppy mess and it’d be truly overpowering. Death Grips find a nice balance, never pushing the listener too far and when it feels as if they’re about to, they throw a curveball, switching up the direction completely.

Even so, after listening to it a few times, mentally, I’m exhausted. After my initial listen, I sat back in my chair and honestly felt a pressure in my skull, but it only encouraged me to listen again. It’s addictive. Once you begin this twisted listening experience, you want to finish it and then you’ll want to listen to over and over again. The replay value is high.

It’s quite hard to gather your thoughts after an album such as Bottomless Pit. It’s an eviscerating, pummelling journey. It leaves no prisoners, you’re either with the chaos or you’re chewed up and spat back out, unworthy of the musical massacre Death Grips have once again created. Somehow streamlining the music without losing any complexity or impact.

Bottomless Pit is the nature of the beast, it’s the experience of being torn apart by animals, being beaten and left bloody, or being intoxicated by drugs and transported to a new world, comparable to dystopia. A Death Grips album is a masochistic experience, Bottomless Pit is their most affecting and brutal album yet, it’s superb and a carousel that you never want to get off, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Jake Gould

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