For a band who supposedly retired just last year, claiming to be over because “we are now at our best”, Death Grips are surprisingly busy. They’ve always been a provocative band – both musically and in their approach, whether it’s faux retirements, not turning up to shows and leaving a death note on a screen onstage, or releasing albums out the blue, you can always expect the unexpected from Death Grips.
And yet, musically you always know where you stand – the sound of a Death Grips record is unmistakable – powerful, aggressive and confrontational. Which leads us on to ‘Bottomless Pit’ – very much more of the same, while pushing their sound forward.
Opener ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’, announces their return with their most anthemic, potentially accessible song to date. From then on, it’s very much business as usual. Ranting over an abrasive blend of basslines and synths, Stefan Burnett sounds rejuvenated, barking his way intensely through the likes of ‘Hot Head’ and ‘Spikes’. There’s a powerful rage to his delivery which has been evident throughout Death Grips’ whirlwind career, but here he sounds at his most focused and energetic.
Lead single ‘Eh’ is a potential turning point for the band. It is the most restrained moment on the record and probably in their entire back catalogue, as Burnett chooses to adopt a more languid approach over a classic Death Grips instrumental. Lyrically it’s a confrontational brush off to their critics – and they’ve had a few given how they’ve approached their live shows in the past. The message is clear – they’re back, like it or not.
What’s noticeable about this record is how concise it is – it stands at thirteen tracks long, but rarely does a song breach the three-minute mark. One criticism of Death Grips has been that for all their energy and intensity, they have a penchant for self-indulgence. Not so here, which only serves to emphasise the rage at the heart of Death Grips. A case in point is album closer ‘Bottomless Pit’, which sees clashes a furious riff with Burnett’s brutal, sinister delivery as he frantically repeats “I’ll fuck you in half” – it’s weirdly euphoric and everything Death Grips do so well.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s to predict the unpredictable with Death Grips. There’s no point believing a word they say or trusting them to deliver a perfect album next time around. All that matters is that for now - they’ve nailed it.