Coming hot off of their blistering 2016 record Bottomless Pit, expectations for industrial hip-hop group Death Grips’ sixth album Year of the Snitch were high. From their tech-phobic masterpiece The Money Store, (recorded in 2011 at the height of the Wikileaks scandal) to 2015’s synth-laden trap double EP The Powers that B, the Californian trio have carved out a discography designed to resonate with some of the more extreme anxieties of the modern age. With this being their first record since the election of Donald Trump, it only seemed fitting that the bombastic nihilism they’re famous for would take a markedly political route. As the viral material dropped ever closer to the release date (including, but not limited to, news of the director of Shrek’s involvement and a blacklisted video you can search at your own discretion), Death Grips have proved again in their own unique fashion that they’re nothing if not unpredictable.
Year of the Snitch‘s opener, “Death Grips is Online”, is a sublime love letter to the meme culture that has kept them afloat the last seven years, and sets the tone with plenty aplomb. With a punchy bridge commenting on the superficiality of the modern music industry and krautrock inspired instrumentation, the muted aesthetic proves a competent departure from the crisp trap metal of 2016’s Bottomless Pit – all the while never losing track of the chaotic, beat-poet inspired lyricism the fans love them for. The upbeat subject matter takes a quick turn, however, in Snitch’s sophomore track Flies. Conceived almost like a supernatural Gothic tale, the song is hardly unique in Death Grips’ discography in conveying powerful and acute anxiety, but the switch in genre and tone nonetheless feels wholly refreshing. Lyrics like ‘should the opportunity arise, vomit me flies’ are gruesome and claustrophobic in their vividness, but frankly to come away from a Death Grips album without feeling a little bit overwhelmed could be considered a failure in of itself.
a discography designed to resonate with some of the more extreme anxieties of the modern age
From there, Year of the Snitch truly reaches its stride. Dipping in and out of a broad array of musical influences, the album re-affirms the band’s knack for sheer inventiveness whilst still remaining true to their musical roots. From the heavy metal “Black Paint” to the Euro-disco stylings of “Dilemma”, there is rarely a dull moment to be had. For sure, there are moments when some of the momentum is lost. The instrumental “Horn Section” seems a little flabby when sandwiched between great tracks like “Linda’s in Custody” and “Hahaha”, whilst by the time we reach the album’s finish where the band typically excels, the meta lyrical refrain in “Disappointed” unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.
Whilst never quite reaching the heights of some of their finer efforts, fans new and old alike will still find a lot to enjoy and, dare I say, obsess over, in some of the superior tracks of Year of the Snitch. It is after all an incredibly solid album that is deserving of praise and further re-affirms Death Grips’ reputation as one of the most tonally daring and inventive bands out there.