Death Grips - Exmilitary
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Sometimes, a musical act rises from the depths of obscurity and completely blows you away. Death Grips are an act like that. Intense and grungy, these Sacramento natives defy genre stereotypes and have completely set themselves outside the realm of categorization. Formed by drummer Zach Hill and two other unnamed participants, they blend a large variety of influences that include hip-hop, punk, and breakbeat into an intense musical concoction that's hard to swallow but even harder to forget. Unique sampling and vocal delivery help to further set Death Grips apart from the rest of the musical world, and their latest mixtape Exmilitary showcases this thoroughly.
The opening track “Beware” begins with a vocal sample from none other than Charles Manson, who denounces the leadership of others with one of his famous tirades. It soon becomes apparent that the subject matter of the tracks sets Death Grips apart just as much as their instrumentation. Their use of apocalyptic imagery adds a dark layer of mystery to every line, compounded by the repetitive beats that back up the vocalist's hard delivery. “Lord of the Game” continues these themes with the odd addition of saxophone and vocal samples that form the basis of the whole track. The lyricism turns the music scene into a literal battlefield using stark visions of war and vehement proclamations of supremacy. While the vocabulary and rhyme structure are less than impressive, it's hard to get hung up on them when bombarded with such unique instrumentals.
Exmilitary hits its stride with the introduction of “Takyon (Death Yon),” a heavily industrial track that features some of the best flow the mixtape has to offer. Dismal production matches with the vocalist's hardcore lyricism and vocal delivery almost perfectly, filling the contours of the music as it bangs through to the track's conclusion. The following instrumental “Cut Throat” offers a perfect segue to the the album's second half, but still highlights the same intense features as the rest of the tracks with a mix of record scratching and grating synthesizers.
While much of the mixtape's subject matter is put forth in a very violent manner, it helps connect Death Grips' views of the world around them to the music in a very organic way. Images of police brutality (“Klink”) and crooked government (“Thru the Walls”) are hard to paint with a rosy glow, so the decision to present them in the harsh light of reality really helps get the message across. Comparisons to Odd Future are easy to make for the casual listener, but where the Wolf Gang use violent imagery in an attempt at humoring themselves, Death Grips' lyrics carry an impassioned weight that truly sets them apart from their peers.
Exmilitary is the perfect example of an album everyone needs to experience for themselves. Any combination of adjectives and nouns would be an extreme disservice to the sonic trip Death Grips have crafted within the mixtape's confines, because every component will hit individuals in a completely different way. Exmilitary is an abrasive and traumatic ordeal, rife with production that's on-point but completely jarring at the same time. Death Grips are authoring an engrossing chapter in today's music scene, and I can't wait to hear what they come up with next.