Review Summary: Dark undertones, catchy synths, and Reznor's influence - It's an interesting step for the well-known EDM producer, and, despite a few songs, it probably isn't for die-hard House/electronic fans of his earlier work.
Deadmau5's seventh studio album comes with a handful of new ideas and material that surprised many long-time fans. And, although a new release, it is rated significantly higher than most of his other work. To some, his work may sound like somewhat of a tribute act to Trent Reznor and his long-time collection of melancholy piano material. Despite a portion of this album sounding darker and like a "less traditional", deadmau5 album, this new direction is a thrilling listen that gives each listener their own interpretation and appreciation of an apparent new sound and direction.
Zimmerman incorporates some enticing elements into his new work. He kicks off the double album with lead single, "Avaritia", sounding like a lost remnant that could have easily been found on his 2008 work, Random Album Title. With a hook comprised of hard-hitting bass and a mellow intermission, Zimmerman kicks off the album with something familiar. As the album continues, it offers more depth than ever before. I was excited to see that Zimmerman included a couple amped-up versions of his 'all piano' EP, 7. Listeners will also find a handful of tracks that could be based in a downtempo-like genre. Continuing on, many of the tracks will remind listeners of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' soundtrack for The Social Network, which won awards around the board and received critical acclaim from the film industry. Reznor fans will find tracks like "Bleed" and "Creep" dark and enticing. Along with the obvious influence, Zimmerman included two remixes of tracks originally recorded by Reznor, "Survivalism" and "Ice Age", the latter being from his side-project How To Destroy Angels. Some may argue that these are the weaker tracks on the album, but they fit the overall theme and add to the "darkness" of the album.
Wedged between these melancholic piano tracks, Deadmau5 delivers to his usual fan-base, as well, with tracks such as "My Pet Coelecanth" (and it's unruly "***" sample), "Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer" (a sprawling 9-minute track, reminding us all that Zimmerman can still produce an excellent EDM track that long-time fans will advocate), "Terrors In My Head", "Phantoms Can't Hang" (another pre-release), "Mercedes", and "Pet". These vintage tracks are tracks where Zimmerman revs his engines and does, what most will consider, his best and briightest work. These tracks time-out at about 64 minutes and the leftover is an exquisite 141 minutes of Reznor-influenced "fan-fiction". Drawing influence from Four Tet, Rockwell, Aphex Twin (his quieter, less compex side), and even Depeche Mode on track, "Errors In My Bread", Zimmerman explores an entirely new sound. Fillers like Coelecanth I/II are still welcome transitional tracks that set up his "larger" work. Still, songs like "Monday" deviate so much from the Deadmau5 that we know, it is hardly recognizable as something Zimmerman would include on the album.
Closer "Seeya" doesn't offer much to the album. I was surprised to see this track at the end, as it is considered catchy enough to be the album's second single, yet still my least favorite. It is a futuristic, funky track featuring Colleen D’Agostino, that disappointed many fans when it was first released.
The arrangement of the songs is interesting to me, as well. Sandwiching a brilliant song like "Mercedes" between the likes of "Superbia" and "Bleed" was a controversial call to some people who already have given the album a good, few listens. This album still flows nicely as a whole and gives fans a whole new taste of a musically refined, yet diversed album, as opposed to his always prevalent club tracks.
Standout tracks include:
"Somewhere Up Here"
"My Pet Coelecanth"
"Errors In My Bread"
"Troubles In My Head"
"Infra Pigcart Racer"
The rest of the album is just as enjoyable to me and will help concrete the fact that Zimmerman has found a "new creative aura" in his producing. This album is obviously carefully planned and is filled with brilliant moments. Here, he has created an ambient atmostphere, for the first time, that fans of many genres will enjoy.