The legendary experimental hip-hop, electronic, metal, enter-genre-here three-piece band named Death Grips have announced a new tour in the imminent 2023, exciting fans for their first live taste of the trio in nearly four years. The band’s most recent tour ended in August 2019 following the release of their latest full-length effort, 2018’s Year of the Snitch, an anomalous record even by the elevated standards set by Death Grips themselves. New Texas show dates include October 3rd in Houston @ The Bayou Music Center, October 5th in Austin @ Emos, October 6th here in Dallas @ South Side Ballroom, and a tour finale once again in Austin @ Emos on October 7th.
The tour announcement follows a year of two isolated social media posts (a golden offer on 12/5/21 and a presumed song snippet on 5/12/22), as well as a couple of recent festival appearance announcements. The lead up to the band’s tour announcement this past December 6th leads many observers to the same question: New Death Grips when? Though it may be wise to wait for this potential new release to write an article of this nature, I’ve simply been putting this list off for far too long. It’s time for the Death Grips discography ranking.
8. Government Plates (2013)
Though Government Plates begins with an explosive start, a trend well established for Death Grips by the time of their fourth LP, the rest of the record simply fails to come close to the level of energy, creativity, or intrigue attained by “You Might Think He Loves You […]”. As the only record I would not consider at the very least “good” from the band, it’s tempting to forget altogether that this project ever happened. While the more aspirational sides of this album shine from time to time, particularly the EDM leanings of Flatlander that would receive a greater realization in the Björk-pervaded N****s on the Moon, too many components of the project solely as an auditory piece hold it back.
Although Ride’s vocals are not subdued with respect to the vocals themselves, they are subdued in the sense that his appearances throughout are far more limited, chopped to hell, and predictable in their repetitiveness. Even looking past the lack of Ride, the production side of the record also feels as though it is often forgetting something important. The last place location for Government Plates here is a no-doubter.
7. N****s on the Moon (2014)
On paper, N****s on the Moon sounds like it should belong among Death Grips’ best. With the production of this first half of their forthcoming The Powers That B, Zach Hill performs entirely on a Roland V-Drum kit, rather than his standard acoustic set. This choice often pays off, with cuts like “F**k Me Out” and “Voila” presenting complex, mind-boggling drum patterns. The Björk samples on each track also frequently land, as with the shrieking “Up My Sleeves” forcing listeners to cede control of their voice. However, this record can occasionally fall victim to some of the same faults found on Government Plates, though it is to a lesser extent.
At first, N****s on the Moon registered with me as eccentric, as with any other release of theirs. But one day, the record just clicked. Everything made sense: Björk’s eternally confined vocal snippets, Zach’s rattling drum performances, and especially Ride’s aggravated, yet emotionally severed appearances, which all summed to an incredibly cohesive whole. Since then, however, the album has unfortunately fallen out of favor for me, with some of the same predictability and dryness of Government Plates becoming more and more apparent with N****s on the Moon over time. Regardless, this project was a noble detour for Death Grips, and merited some of the band’s more forward-thinking tracks for the time. This one lands at 7th.
6. No Love Deep Web (2012)
One of the most infamous releases in Death Grips’ discography considering the album rollout, No Love Deep Web certainly has an intriguing backstory to shed light on the band’s motivations and artistic choices made for the record. The raw direction taken both in terms of production and vocal performance indicate a desire to communicate primal thoughts and urges, an idea exemplified by cuts like the detachedly prurient “Artificial Death in the West.” Of course, the “deep web” side plays a large factor as previously seen in The Money Store, contributing to some of Ride’s most descriptively manic and paranoid verses ever. The punishing “Come Up and Get Me” is an unrelenting narrative of Ride’s desire to escape a mental institution, highlighting the greatest levels of aggression a voice can convey.
No Love Deep Web can be endlessly praised for reaching great heights in the extent of the human voice, exemplified by Ride’s guttural performances through and through. Andy and Zach’s production efforts also amount to excellence, with tracks like the visceral “No Love” being among the most unnervingly barbaric of the group’s entire catalog. With that being said, the album does lead astray of the mark at times, significantly around the midway point with the inane “Whammy” and the overly-minimal “Hunger Games.” Regardless of these shortcomings, No Love Deep Web as an artistic work is worthy of much attention, largely due to its achievements in the scope of human expression. It fits squarely at 6th place.
5. Exmilitary (2011)
Likely Death Grips’ most rugged release, Exmilitary served as the band’s kick-in-the-door introduction to many. Acting as a debut full-length record, the project was released outside of streaming services due to the large number of samples deemed unclearable; for example, Death Grips pulled excerpts from the likes of Pink Floyd (“I Want It I Need It”), Bad Brains (“Takyon”), Black Flag (“Klink”), and more rock and reggae legends in order to carry out their vision. These samples were essential in crafting the sound of Exmilitary, a perfect reference point for the choices the band would make later on in their career.
Each group member brings their A-game time and time again on this record. Most notably, “Spread Eagle Cross the Block” is a quintessential Death Grips track, with some of Ride’s most memorable lyrics and performances (“I fuck the music, I make it come,” “Shit is mine! It’s all mine!”), backed by Andy and Zach’s maddening flip of Link Wray’s “Rumble”; not to mention the mindblowing intro of Ride’s glitchy “Spread eagle cross the block!” This is precisely what we are offered at Exmilitary’s best: off-the-wall vocals, innovative production, and a novel experience inspired by repurposing aged sources. Even so, Death Grips does falter on Exmilitary, however infrequently that may be; the verses on “I Want It I Need It” grow more monotonous as the time passes, as does the superficial production on the acclaimed “Guillotine,” among little else. This album is great, but Death Grips would come to do better. Exmilitary comes in at a close number 5.
4. Jenny Death (2015)
As the long-awaited second disc to The Powers That B, Jenny Death excelled in filling a yearning pit for many fans of Death Grips, who, only nine months prior, were informed of the group’s disbandment. Just as a few of the band’s prior releases could be categorized as them trying their hand at one genre or another, Jenny Death is very much Death Grips setting their sights on heavy metal — though, this is done in a typically warped Death Grips fashion. Although this leads some to consider it one of the band’s least “experimental,” this certainly doesn’t hold the record back in any way; the music succeeds at what it sets out to do.
Beginning the record is the wonderfully fast-paced, adrenaline-charged “I Break Mirrors With My Face In the United States,” another defining track for the band. Taking a punk rock ethos in nearly every aspect, the song once again highlights the group’s ability to reformat any genre they attack to their liking. Flatlander also proves their vital role in the band with “Inanimate Sensation,” where the motorized beats of The Money Store are renewed in the duo’s choice to include a frightening chorus of voices to echo the same sound. Zach Hill’s best performance comes with “Turned Off,” displaying a spellbinding drumming performance more deserving of a hardcore two-step than any other track I’ve ever heard.
Though most of the tracks are deserving of a solo review, perhaps none other is more deserving than the penultimate cut “On GP.” With Ride opening up to the audience here more than ever before, we receive an introspective, dark description of his frequent feelings of woe, frustration, and defeat. He contemplates ending his life, though it fortunately never comes to that. The track acts as yet another cornerstone in establishing Ride’s purposely obscured identity. “On GP” and much of the rest of Jenny Death delivered, a bullseye in the target of a remarkable metal-focused project. Jenny Death is an outstanding merit on Death Grips’ resume, earning itself a 4th place spot.
3. Year of the Snitch (2018)
Death Grips’ most self-aware, tongue-in-cheek release to date, Year of the Snitch is the greatest oddball member of their catalog. It’s a bird’s-eye-view perspective on the evolution of the band, pointing to past releases and moments in the band’s career that are only appreciated in full by knowing what preceded the album. With another mound of samples supporting the project, it’s clear that Death Grips’ view on music has changed since the outset, as they’re now most fond of sampling their own records. Perhaps no album is more present in this sample-blowout than Exmilitary, indicating that the band no longer needs to pull from classic music sources to stimulate creativity in their own career; Death Grips is the source.
Year of the Snitch receives a flawless introduction in “Death Grips Is Online,” a drug-fueled race — or perhaps a fall — through a never-ending tunnel. It’s important to begin the record with this track, as it not only tells the listener of the dark, nightmarish noises to follow, but also shows that the band is diving fully into their online persona developed over their eight years in the limelight of experimental music. “Black Paint” might be the trio’s angriest song ever, which is saying something; the guitar sections speak their own piece, holding the track down through Ride’s furious screams. The song is reminiscent of a ‘60s classic rock piece, to an extent; of course, Death Grips does a great job at disguising this by filtering it through their pitch-black artistic lens, incorporating only the most haunting of sounds.
The fake-out “Outro” precedes the real closer to the project, “Disappointed.” A satirical statement on what the projected reception would be to the album, Death Grips attempts to beat fans and critics to the punch by indicating that they hated it first. The song itself is addictive, with alluring aspects found everywhere; the sound-test intro, Ride’s solo-duetted yelling, and especially the helium-voiced choral inflections of “duh-duh-duh-disappointed” all work off of one another to form one of the band’s most unique-sounding cuts. This track, as well as the album as a whole, exemplifies what Death Grips can be at their best: unpredictable, highly fascinating, and morbidly pleasurable. Although the band takes the trolling a bit too far at times (“Linda’s In Custody,” “Little Richard”), Year of the Snitch is the perfect snapshot of the band. Though it may not be the best, most accessible, or easiest Death Grips listen, it is certainly the one that is most representative of their attitude and approach to music. Year of the Snitch makes its way onto the podium, finishing at 3rd.
2. Bottomless Pit (2016)
As much as Year of the Snitch saw Death Grips doubling down on their sound, nearing a full-on mockery of the band themselves, Bottomless Pit saw the group attacking previously visited ideas, only… better. Most significantly, the hardcore instrumental inclinations of Jenny Death are revitalized, as Zach Hill’s enraged drumming performances are demonstrated once again alongside invigorating guitar strokes. What’s more, the band incorporates more prevalent and fulfilling electronic elements on the album, and while this choice might cause the two sounds to clash in realization for any other group, Death Grips make a chaotically harmonic show of it.
Ride’s lyrics on Bottomless Pit work excellently as a predecessor to Year of the Snitch, with topics becoming increasingly more conscious of the band themselves and their internet following. The opener “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” is a direct message to fans, outlining the influence that the band’s music can have on listeners; this is done in standard Ride fashion, with relentlessly cryptic messages lain throughout (“Those who can’t adjust ten-fold dismantled pus / Operandi minus modus, my phlegm you to dust”). Ride aims the crosshairs at Death Grips’ own output on the subsequent “Hot Head,” a half-satirical take that mimics what the band must sound like to first-time listeners and disapproving onlookers. The contemptuous sentiment continues on “Trash,” an admission of guilt to contributing to the ever-growing wasteland that is the internet.
Simply put, much of Bottomless Pit attains a level of energy that we only see from the band at their very best. Instrumental entrances on cuts like the title track evince the group’s true capacity to express rage, a reliable habit for the band. The compelling Bottomless Pit finds itself a runner-up placement on this list; though there is very little wrong to be found with Bottomless Pit, there are a few nitpicky things to get into with the project, most prevalently among those being the apparent lack of “originality” in terms of its sound. I wonder where the project found its inspiration…
1. The Money Store (2012)
Let’s not kid ourselves here. What else could the number one pick have been?
Though not a “greatest hits” record for Death Grips by any means, 2012’s The Money Store absolutely would be for any usual band. A loud, maximalist statement, The Money Store successfully fused experimental elements of hip-hop, electronic, and rock music. It begins with “Get Got,” as a flurry of drum kicks and 808s barrage the listener’s ears; it’s a mind-expanding moment, introducing just a taste of what Death Grips can offer to extend the bounds of music. Ride rattles off on the intro, delivering somewhat of a tongue-twister hook before the beat drops into a destructive progression of synth chords. For those that deemed Exmilitary too unpolished, too feral, or too crude to enjoy, “Get Got” served as a deliberate punch in the face, demonstrating what the band could reach sonically as well as dissect lyrically.
Much of the record focused in on the electronic themes sought in Exmilitary, adding in what sounds like pure electricity into cuts like “Lost Boys” and “Double Helix.” These elements are often laced between Zach’s fervent drum performances, which remain persistently unsatisfied until something is broken. The trio also makes waves in more accessible territory with “I’ve Seen Footage,” a dance-centric cut that explores what the darkest reaches of the internet bring to the world; as Ride describes it, “I’ve seen crazy shit, man, crazy shit.” It’s a monumental track for several reasons, one of which is that it’s able to serve multiple purposes at once: introducing new listeners to the band, analyzing the fear that the internet age has inspired in Ride, or simply to enjoy as a pulsing banger.
The group ends the album with “Hacker,” an emphatic finale foretelling a web dystopia. Analogizing hacking as being contemporary theft, Ride densely packs the track with line after line of threatening, yet skillful bars about the modern-day wild west. “I’m in your area / I know the first three numbers, I’m in,” he claims, a clever double entendre referencing area codes and pin numbers. It’s all done over a marvelous techno-house beat, stirring the listener once again in an epic conclusion to the band’s tremendous, paranoid saga. The Money Store is a perfect record; it’s an achievement, serving to push the envelope of what can be accomplished by music. Though this project came out over 10 years ago, had it just come out yesterday, it may have been equally as impressive. It’s a testament to the brilliance of Death Grips, earning itself the top spot in their discography.