Blitzkrieg of noise

Death Grips bares its teeth at its live debut at The Press Club last week.

Death Grips bares its teeth at its live debut at The Press Club last week.


Death Grips perform on Tuesday, June 14, at Low End Theory in Los Angeles—you know, if you happen to be in the area. Find out more and download Exmilitary at

It goes, it goes, it goes:
Maybe it was fitting that an uncharacteristically disgusting day in June—thick, gray clouds covered the sky like a dark veil—was the same day Death Grips unleashed its first-ever live stage show. The band that’s been causing a minor scene on the Internet over the past few months has left the blogosphere (ah, fuck me, I just said blogosphere) scratching their heads in unison, wondering who’s actually in the three-piece thrash-hop outfit. Turns out, Death Grips is Sacramento’s Stefan Burnett (vocals), Andy Morin (keys/samples) and Zach Hill (drums), and together they bang out some of the scariest music, which never relents (even if the listener begs politely for them to let up for a second).

Yes, Death Grips has commandeered a dark corner of the Internet. But, unlike Wiz Khalifa and his glitzy manhandling of cyberspace, its hype machine is based solely off the music (in fact, the band’s refreshingly not press-friendly). Bloggers have been comparing the band to Antipop Consortium, which is a stretch. Death Grips sound more like if the Wu-Tang Clan formed a gang with Gorgoroth and Agnostic Front and then began to enslave classic rockers. The sound is completely different than anything you can imagine, unless, of course, you’ve been institutionalized or are plagued by satanic nightmares. The drums are loud, the bass fuzzy, samples (Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Charles Manson, etc.) jarring and waves of noise twiddle over apocalyptic landscapes.

The words—they are brutal. Check out these lyrics, from “Beware”: “In the time before time eyes ’bove which horns / curve like psychotropic scythes / and smell of torn flesh bled dry / by hell swarms of pestis flies.”

It’s basically the best thing ever written.

Burnett (he reminds me of a skinny, punk-rock version of Rick Ross), whose eyes bulge with hatred, is like a modern-day Robert Browning with a pen made of goat horns. He screams the lyrics without the tricky wordplay of an underground rapper. He yells like a psychopath, sometimes bending his voice upward to suggest exclamation when he can’t possibly go louder. The music is polarizing and so confrontational that it can be off-putting to some, especially if you don’t have proper background in hardcore rap, hardcore punk and satanic metal. Luckily, Sacramentans have doctorates in scummy music, so the prospect of witnessing this exciting band caused a local stir.

Which is why The Press Club was packed. People were obviously intrigued by what they’d heard online (most likely in the form of the band’s free mix tape, Exmilitary, that’s been circulating quickly).

The energy was unmistakable as Hill and Morin took to the stage with Burnett pacing around like a caged beast. The band leapt quickly into a wash of ominous synth as the crowd screamed for blood—which Hill offered in the form of a drum solo over a wall of noise that sounded like barges carrying dynamite crashing into loading docks. Morin jumped around his keyboard like a priest on fire. Hill turned his cymbals into scrap metal. And Burnett came through (a thousand-fold), looking like he wanted to bite everyone in the face as he growled the lyrics to “Lord of the Game,” a weirdly chopped up, somehow catchy, danceable, blitzkrieg of noise.

“I am the beast I worship,” he snapped, while the crowd, slack-jawed, drooled for more.

After the show, somebody said, “This makes Odd Future look like a dog park.” I agreed—but now that I’ve thought about it, I have no idea what that meant. Aren’t dog parks gnarly? Full of pit bulls and rabies and shit?