Until now, wiz kid drummer Zach Hill was best known for his brief stint in surf pop band Wavves, a band of such breezy stoner gentility it’s hard to believe it exists on the same planet as Death Grips, his new aggro-rap project.
The group, fronted by MC Ride with backing vocals provided by someone called Mexican Girl (Death Grips is one of those outfits that likes to be mysterious for no good reason), released a mixtape, “Exmilitary,” in April. Except “released” may be the wrong word: “Exmilitary” was lobbed into blogland like a hand grenade.
It’s a fascinating, pugnacious mess — a gnarly, knotted fusion of black metal, punk, hip-hop, random beats, sound effects, scratching noises and howls. It’s what it feels like to be yelled at for 40 minutes while simultaneously being beaten over the head. It’s a pre-Occupy Wall Street mix of Odd Future-type calculated anarchy and old-school Rage Against the Machine-style righteous indignation. It’s loud and terrible and fascinating, and sometimes great.
“Exmilitary” starts off with an extended Charles Manson rant and doesn’t let up. It’s exuberantly, extravagantly mad — at the government, at consumers, at listeners. It’s at heart a rap album with a heavy-metal brain, which is why its political metaphors are couched with plentiful references to violent deaths, witches’ cauldrons and serpents.
There are indications that when Death Grips figures out how to focus its bountiful energies, it’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The amazing “Klink,” an anti-police brutality manifesto wrapped in a Black Flag sample, is a tribute to its betters and a statement of purpose, all at the same time.