Death Grips – Exmilitary [Review]

Death Grips - Exmilitary [Review]

By Nicholas Evans

[This album features explicit lyrics that might not be suitable for all Daily Chomp readers.]

Death Grips is awful.

If you’re first listening to some of their music, you’re going to think one of two things. Either, “this totally rocks, why don’t they have any more music?” Or, “why is this man shouting into my ears over the most irritating sounds ever?” They’re very confusing and can be hard to describe. Technically they’re considered an “experimental hip-hop trio,” but it’s more rap, punk, garage rock, electronic, (metal?), and what feels like thousands of other genres mashed together, with their styles changing in some way with every release.  It can sometimes feel like your ears are being stabbed; and yet, they have 3/4 of a million monthly listeners on Spotify, and have collaborated with people like Björk and Justin Chancellor. They can be very hard to digest at times, but if someone gets into their music, they really get into it.

…and that’s what happened to me a few months ago.

I was at the record store inside of the Greenwood Mall, Hard Copies, and decided to buy the CD for their album, The Money Store, after hearing a few of their songs. I listened to it later that night, and it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Of course, I had also just listened to 1000 Gecs the previous weekend, so it felt like the bar was set pretty low music-wise.

But enough about my experiences, what about the band?

Death Grips comes from Sacramento, California, and was formed around 2010 or 2011. It comprises of Zach Hill, the practically invincible percussionist that has been known to drum so intensely to the point of bleeding, Andy Morin, (who is also sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Flatlander”), the sound engineer, responsible for the production of the music, and Stefan Burnett, also known as MC Ride, the aggressive vocalist, clearly straining his voice during every performance. Like I stated previously, the music is very hard to describe. However, there is one thing that I can absolutely pick out; it’s angry. It can be pretty hard to digest sometimes; I mean, the first time I heard them, I couldn’t get a few seconds in without being bored. But when it goes through to you, my god, does it go through to you.

So, I think now is a good time to get into why you’re really here. The music.

In 2011, Death Grips released a self-titled EP, and then released a mixtape, (or their first album, depending on who you ask), a few months later titled Exmilitary.

It’s a lot different from the rest of their music. Like yeah, it can be weird, but this is the closest you’ll get in their discography to a traditional hip-hop effort. Specifically like a 90s mixtape in some ways; lyrically, yes, and with a slightly less refined production.

So, enough stalling. Let’s get into the music itself.


I’m the king, man, I run the underworld, guy! I decide whose does what, and where they do it at! What am I, gonna run around and act like I’m some teenybopper somewhere, for somebody else’s money? I make the money, man, I roll the nickels, the game is mine!

Beware starts with an instrumental sampled from Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Up the Beach,’ under a clip of a Charles Manson interview. This isn’t the first time the Charles Manson story has been intertwined with the music of Death Grips. In fact, the title of their 2018 album, “Year of the Snitch,” is a direct reference to Linda Kasabian, a former member of the Manson Family who testified against Charles Manson in court, with her, therefore, being the ‘Snitch.’

Immediately after that, the song kicks into gear, with the Up the Beach sample continuing in tandem with what I think is the simplest drum riff in a Death Grips song, (with what only seems to be a snare, bass drum, and a hi-hat being played at a slowed and relaxing tempo), and an echoing, Beware, God is watching,” that’s repeated throughout the song. Then Ride starts with the lyrics.

I close my eyes and seize it

I clench my fists and beat it

I light my torch and burn it

I am the beast I worship

According to Genius, “Beware follows an unnamed protagonist as he abandons his humanity, giving in to the anger and frustration in his mind and becoming a sort of monster among men. The song explores several, admittedly dark, themes, including sacrifice, satanism, violence, intolerance, greed, rage, witchcraft and magick, and suicide.”

And yet with such dark topics, Beware is one of the most calming, even uplifting songs in their discography, one where you can feel the words flowing through you, and it’s an excellent start to their album.

It goes, it goes, it goes, it goes,


While it is very close, Guillotine is not the most popular song in the Death Grips discography, but it is by far the most recognizable if that makes sense. It’s their most viewed music video on YouTube, with over 11,000,000 views. So, chances are, if you were on the internet a few years ago, you’ll probably recognize a static-engulfed MC Ride yelling in his car.

Oh, hey, remember when I said that some parts of this album would be weird? Behold; Guillotine.

This is a very weird song. First off, Ride is starting to be aggressive, which, great, good for him, and second, the instrumental can pretty much be boiled down to a distorted, booming, warping bass… thing? Looped over and over for most of the song, over some drums. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s noise, alright. It’s very gritty, I think the best way to describe it is to say it feels like it’s being pushed through something. At least, that’s what the instrumental is like until there are around 57 seconds left of the song, where it goes into the, “most irritating sounds ever” category. I mean, you would think it would be irritating, and I’m sure alone, out of the context of the song, they would be, but the noises don’t affect me in the slightest when I hear them in the song. I think I would even go as far as saying that it adds to the flow of the song. Either way, the song is a very strong contrast to Beware, it’s almost crazy.

Lyrically, there’s a bunch of stuff going on. But I think for the most part you can boil it down to the song stating that, like how an actual guillotine cuts off heads, Death Grips cut away the silence.

Spread Eagle Cross the Block

You’d believe me if I said this song started, right? Because it really starts. Okay, that makes absolutely no sense; what I’m trying to say is that this song starts out of nowhere. I’ve heard this song a few times, and yet I still jump a little every time it starts.

As soon as you click play, you hear Stefan’s voice saying the title of the song, but it’s edited in a way where it’s loud and piercing, jumping back and forth from each of your ears. And when I say piercing, I don’t mean in the good way that Death Grips has somehow figured out. It just hurts.

Luckily, that doesn’t last very long. It’s only about 5 seconds. Right after that, it starts with a sampled instrumental of Rumble by Link Wray, from 1958. Ride is known to be a fan of classic rock, so this doesn’t really surprise me. I think this may have also been sampled in the title track of their self-titled EP, but don’t quote me on that. I’m not sure how to say this, but the instrumental, coupled with the way the vocals are edited, feels tropical, in a way. Specifically, it reminds me of being in some sort of vacation, exotic-themed restaurants. I know that doesn’t make sense, and I have no idea what experiences I’ve had that makes me associate that with the song, but they give off the same energy. If you listen to the song yourself, you may get what I mean. 

Lord of the Game (ft. Mexican Girl)

Okay, I want to get the obvious thing out of the way first. No, ‘Mexican Girl’ is not a real artist. Her name is Liz Liles, and she allegedly dated either Zach or Andy for a while. I don’t think she’s done any more music or much of anything in the public eye. However, she’s actually featured on the album art for the Death Grips album, “Bottomless Pit.”

So, the song itself. Some of the percussion is sampled from Blue Devil’s ‘The Ditty,’ also sampled later on the album in ‘Klink,’ the song ‘Hacker’ on The Money Store, and I think it’s even sampled in the following track. The way the drums are treated in the song almost makes it feel primal, and adds to the flow of the song in a surprising way.

Takyon (Death Yon)

Oh boy. This is a good one.

This is probably the most popular song on here besides Guillotine, it’s by far the most popular on their barely-used Soundcloud, with over 31.1k likes. This song was also carried over from their EP.

Lyrically, I’m still not all that sure what the song is about. A good chunk of it may just be about the actual particle, tachyon, for all I know.

Other than that, it, like many songs on this album, has a pulsing, bass-type beat that, although actually being very simple, feels like it’s holding Stefan’s vocals upon a golden throne. The song just has such an incredible flow to it.

Cut Throat (Instrumental)

I don’t think there’s much to say for this one. It’s just a great instrumental track. It has, (you guessed it), pulsing bass that feels like it’s simultaneously being pushed towards and taken away from my ears. Along with that, there’s this constant sound in the background, that I can only describe as being in the middle of 2 glass cups sliding into each other, and 2 plastic cups sliding into each other. Around 45 seconds in, it switches to about pure melodic noise that I can’t describe, and it ends with a few record scratches that transition into Klink. You should definitely listen to this yourself, it’s only about a minute.


Klink is a very, very good song.

I’m not really sure how to transition into anything else about it, so I might as well just jump straight in: Klink is about the negatives of the police. Actually, not just the general negatives, but Ride’s own negative experiences. Of course, this song has been gaining a bit more traction recently with, not only the heightened awareness of police brutality, but a rise in police brutality as a whole. There was actually a really good fan-made music video made a few months ago with absolutely disgusting footage of police brutality set to Klink, but unfortunately, it was taken down after just a few days.

As for the instrumental, it’s half a looped sample of Stefan yelling over a drum beat, and half a very fitting sample of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above.’

As a whole, this song has the political messages and rockability of Rage Against The Machine, and the pure rebellion of NWA’s ‘F— the Police.’ It’s a great listen.

Culture Shock

I’m just going to be upfront here. I don’t have a single clue what this song is about. Not one.

Either way, after a sampled opening of David Bowie, and a really unsettling fade out, the instrumental turns into what I can only assume is chopped up pieces of Ride’s vocals, glitched and distorted. Plus, there’s also a text-to-speech sample of a voice saying “you need to vibrate higher,” whatever that means. Along with that, the vocal delivery is very calm in contrast to his aggressive tendencies on the rest of the album. Not the best song on here, but I come back to this one a lot.

You need to vibrate higher so you can capture the opening of the portal that connects this Earth of  3D to one Earth of 4D or 5D. Going to the


There is very, very, very little I can say about this track. It’s a 43-second instrumental track that transitions directly from Culture Shock. I can only really describe it as galactic elevator music; it’s really just an interlude of the album.

Thru the Walls

This is one of the songs in the album that I always forget about. It’s a shame, too; listening to it again to write this has really started to make me realize what I’m missing out on.

First off, the beginning of this song is chaotic, but in a good way. It starts with an airhorn, (which was probably the main deterrent for me), followed with part of the main instrumental, then Ride starts yelling, “Why can’t I just float through the walls? Through the walls,” followed by a sample of the famous “Mental Help Hotline” video, “If you’re delusional,  press 7 and we’ll transfer you to the mothership,” and then it feels like the instrumental is trying to be brought to a screeching halt, but just can’t be.

As for the actual instrumental, I think the best way to describe it is like a constant, digitized car horn, along with a digital screeching. I may describe it in a very bleak way, but it’s very upbeat and fast, and very easy to headbang to.

Thru the Walls is a very good listen that I don’t want you to miss as I did.

Known for it

Behold, the other song that I always forget about. I like this song too, but it didn’t really blow me away like Thru the Walls did. It has a synth-type instrumental that kind of reminds me of Ring a Bell from Bottomless Pit, but a lot blockier, if that makes sense. There’s also a heavy guitar on this track, which I very much like. Unfortunately with that, I can’t describe anything else of note. Again, not a bad track, but it isn’t that big of a deal to me.

I Want it I need it (Death Heated)

Behold, the song I constantly thought about while writing this, and yet, completely forgot about until a few lines ago. This song, much like Takyon, was carried over from the self-titled EP, previously being titled ‘Where’s it at.’ I absolutely can not talk about the lyrics here, but I don’t need to. The instrumental is largely sampled from Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd, and it really helps Ride’s vocals stay afloat when the sample is used.

I don’t have much else to say about this song. It can definitely rock sometimes, but the in-your-face lyrics can kind of taint the listening experience for me.

Blood Creepin

Blood Creepin is the culmination of Exmilitary, and it shows, for the first time of many in their discography, that Death Grips know how to end an album.

First off, unlike the rest of the album, this song doesn’t have a transition into it. It feels like it wasn’t meant to be apart of the album; almost secret in a way.

The song starts with a very unsettling instrumental, even though it’s just a bunch of electronic notes. After that, another layer is added to the instrumental. I’m not sure how to describe it, it’s not a scream or a yell, more like a call from MC Ride that’s cycled throughout the song.

Lyrically, it describes Ride and one of his friends, (or, at least, another person), in a car, tensely trying to escape a police hunt, and possibly dumping a body on the side of a highway.

This song is exactly what you would think; haunting. There’s a good chance every time I listen to this that I’m going to feel anxious. If you’re not dancing in your chair, you’re probably totally still, having everything that’s happening in the song swirl around in your head. And if that’s not enough, the last minute of the song is totally instrumental, leaving you to process what just happened. This is one of the best songs off of the album, if not the entire Death Grips discography.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Exmilitary, despite being very unpolished, is a very good start to the career of Death Grips, and the rest of the music that would soon come from the group.

Favourite tracks: Beware, Guillotine, Takyon, Klink, Thru the Walls, Blood Creepin