At a point in time when the abundance of genre terminology means anything can be classified and filed away with expert efficiency, Ex Military is a lone rebel. Death Grips is a mysterious collaborative project, the two best known members being MC Ride and Hella drummer Zach Hill. They are a rap group, but one that takes heavily from noise, the glitchier end of electronica, and punk aggression. The output is brutal, unnerving and sinister in both its sound and lyrical content, and not only refreshingly inventive but exhilaratingly listenable.
From the first movement, the album attacks on all fronts. ‘Beware’ set the tone with a spoken word sample from the kingpin symbol of pop culture darkness, Charles Manson. Manson’s words seem tame once MC Ride takes the mic, rhapsodising on an empowering nihilism that permeates the album (“I am the beast I worship”).
His style is an aggressive, militaristic bark, which expresses itself in both complex rhymes and guttural, agonised shouts (See the yelps of pain on ‘Guillotine’, or the rhythmic screams of ‘Klink’). It seems perfectly at home in its musical backdrop. Unlike the consistent brutality of the vocal delivery, the musical tactics are varied. ‘Takyon’ is all pulverising bass, while ‘Guillotine’ creates its tension with eerie low end tones, slow drums and screeching dissonant electronic noise. The lyrics are dark and violent, but not in the conventional horrorcore way. ‘Spread Eagle Across the Block’ may talk in the language of sexual violence, but seems to say more about having a visceral reaction to music. ‘Klink’ is a vicious anti-police anthem perfectly matched to a sample of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’. “Culture Shock” switches from an attack on how media dulls to senses to rambling, depraved surrealism.
What Death Grips have made is dichotomously cerebral in its avant-garde construction and execution, but thematically rooted in the base instincts of sex, violence, and power. To what extent its allegorical or literal is down to how the listener takes it. Put simply, it could become hip hop’s answer The Drift or Jane Doe, an album known not only for its brutality and ugliness, but also for its innovation.
Free to download at: http://thirdworlds.net/exmilitary.php