Skrillex
Quest for Fire


3.2
good

Review

by K Bowman STAFF
February 18th, 2023 | 121 replies


Release Date: 02/17/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: come on, what's the best that could happen

last year, i wrote a little blurb about why i didn't include beyonce's massive critical and commercial success renaissance on my end of year list. i basically said it was good, great even, but i was massively disappointed that an artist with as many incredible opportunities for collaboration couldn't make something more singular, more awe-inspiring, more summative of the enormously important house scene she worked with. i feel similarly about this latest skrillex lp - it's really cool on paper, a showcase of obvious and enormous talent with an extensive feature list that manages to satiate fans’ long-awaited fantasies while still giving them opportunities to explore new discographies. yet somehow it still ends up much smaller than the sum of its parts, particularly the main star.

before i get to that, i want to discuss something that will be obvious to any edm heads (at least, any with a vaguely open mind) - skrillex is an extremely good producer. there's a reason he's the one who brought dubstep (call it what you want) to the mainstream, and that reason is that he was able to make it sound vivacious and angelic at the same time. of course, i can name many other artists that i felt the same way about in the earlier dubstep-adjacent scene - from mala to burial all the way back to horsepower productions - but i'm a nerd, and if you recognize those names, you probably are too. skrillex was able to make a weird genre appeal to millions of normal people by making it even weirder. if you want to say that heralded the death of traditional dubstep, brought about the resurgence of bro culture in edm, forever destroyed the importance of subtlety in the marking of good taste, etc. i won't necessarily disagree with you, but the point i'm making is, he's special. and that shows through the way he produces, from my name is skrillex to his billboard moment in the mid-2010s ("sorry," "where are u now," remixes for "humble" and "sicko mode") to this long-awaited follow-up to recess. regardless of your personal taste, these songs are crisp, defined, exciting, and different. if you like the way artists like sophie and flume design(/ed, RIP) their tracks, you will probably appreciate this. all of them produce like they’re not recording from a computer, instead making sounds blossom out of your earbuds, sharpen to an edge, talk to you in a way no human being possibly could and somehow sound more personal than one.

because of this, songs like "rumble," "good space," "XENA," and "inhale exhale" all sound almost completely distinct. and those are all just really good songs, regardless of their distinct sonic footprint or general sound design quality. they're fun, energetic, fresh, and i hope to hear them in the future from various djs, or even just on car aux cord spotify shared queue sessions. part of the problem is, even though virtually all of the music on here feels very new and precise in the way almost only he can do, not all of it stands up to the standard of quality his believers know he's capable of. "butterflies," for example, while not bad by any means, is somehow much, much less than the sum of its parts. it’s like someone made a venn diagram of the artists working on it (skrillex, four tet, and the ever underappreciated starrah, whose other feature on this album is a perfect fit) and erased everything that wasn't in the intersection of all three. "too bizzare (juked)" is also frustrating, capitalizing on the pop-punk/emo-rap/whatever revival of the 2020s to mixed but mostly uninteresting results - there's a cool bit around the bridge and final chorus with some convincingly passionate background vocals, and the "shut up"-repeating breakdown at the very end works really well, but the rest feels like a poor match for the way he works, wasting a perfectly good swae lee hook. "hydrate" immediately follows up in similar fashion, now-frequent collaborators flowdan and beam's vocals being the only thing anchoring the otherwise formulaic drop. bonus points for whatever 24k magic-esque stuff was happening at the end of that though.

the low point of the album, for sure, is "warped tour '05" (i'm not trying to do a track-by-track, i swear, this third quarter is just by far the worst). it's basically just an tony blair interview sample with a musical undercurrent (i.e. blonde), with the interviewees being pete wentz and skrillex before he was skrillex (legal name: sonny moore), back when he was in the successful post-hardcore band from first to last. this interview is very clearly placed there to focus on his rise to success from relative obscurity before even his time in that band to his mega-star status today. this attempt to garner sympathy as if he’s had some kind of underdog story feels completely misplaced, especially given his recent seeming support of known homophobe, transphobe, sexist and racist jordan peterson (and if you don't think that's adjacent enough to the music to matter, consider his collaboration on this very album with mr. oizo, a producer who has publicly expressed those same things multiple times). not that he didn't go through his fair share of hard times, but to try to platform an "i earned this" moment (further pushed into an actual album theme by the final song's lyrics) while making music that is by its very nature entirely indebted to minority artists that skrillex has, at best, worked with. i'm all here for (most of) the music, and i don't think he shouldn't be making what he's making, or shouldn't be proud of himself, but pushing the idea that he was the one who really got himself where he is today is both misleading and insensitive.

with that being said, if you're able to stomach that (which, given his primary fanbase and the general demographics of this website, is likely), it's just an annoying and boring interlude by an artist that doesn't need one to keep people interested. if there's anything skrillex has been working on his whole career, it's how to balance the hyperactive chaos the world knows him for with the subtleties and beauty that attentive listeners have known about since "with you friends." and this is a more successful attempt at that than any of his previous projects. the drops on quest for fire actually make sense within the context of the rest of the album, which won't stand out to people who followed his career over the past decade but might be a pleasant surprise for the normal people i mentioned in the second paragraph. but on that note of normal appeal, i'd like to finally return to my initial contrived comparison to renaissance. besides their one blatant connection (skrillex helped produce "energy"), they might seem to have little in common. but to me, it's simple. the reason i'm so harsh on quest for fire in this review, despite liking it and giving it a positive score, is because i don't want to celebrate an artist with none of the normal limitations on his creativity artificially limiting himself, which is exactly how i feel with beyonce's latest. they have both proven over and over again to be some of the most talented artists in their specific scenes, earning massive respect from many of their peers, particularly the ones who grew up on them. so it's really frustrating to see them each make something that feels like it was built to be respected, projects that are barely even cohesive (songs flowing directly into each other does not define cohesion, sorry) riding on the fact that they don't need to be. it's not that their music is bad, or even just mediocre. it's just brimming with potential, and they're both decades into their careers, at a point where there is absolutely no doubt that they could work with whoever they want (songwriters, critics, executive producers, you name it), there's no point when you're making music so obviously inspired by others to not just work with them entirely. why didn't skrillex do more with hyperpop or dariacore producers that clearly idolize him, or cash in on the many stars he's previously worked with who could have written more interesting songs for him (a$ap rocky, fka twigs, the weeknd, lady gaga, etc.)? why didn't beyonce take more input from the many, many underappreciated house legends who admire her rather than mostly just paying homage to them? i appreciate the effort they both made into making their newest albums sound diverse and interesting, particularly within the context of their past works, but i can’t help but imagine how much farther they could have gone. maybe this is just their creative vision, but is this really all they can see anymore? if you had the power to break every rule, or at least try harder to make something that excels within those rules, and be celebrated for it either way, why wouldn't you?



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user ratings (99)
3.1
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
JoyfulPlatypus
February 18th 2023


830 Comments


Huh. Didn't think we'd be getting a new Skrillex album in 2023, let alone a decent one. Might have to check this out.

granitenotebook
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2023


1272 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

ty to jotw for editing this



proud to say i didn't make fun of the title once, i'll leave that to y'all

ToSmokMuzyki
February 18th 2023


11423 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

shock me sonny make me your bitch

ToSmokMuzyki
February 18th 2023


11423 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

oh no not jordan peterson

ToSmokMuzyki
February 18th 2023


11423 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

was that fucking navi

Jash
February 18th 2023


5012 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Rumble is 2023’s dubstep anthem, no need to listen to anything else from this

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2023


18340 Comments


Didn’t even know this dude was still making music. Will check this

vult
February 18th 2023


2377 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah i fuck with this

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
February 18th 2023


4055 Comments


brilliant review

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
February 18th 2023


9897 Comments


Very interesting review, agree with norma, I learnt something

unclereich
February 18th 2023


12106 Comments


from first to last in mid July 2005 on the volcom stage, who else was there?

Tundra
February 18th 2023


9801 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

House music, some cool moments, not many though

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2023


5504 Comments


forever thank u for your commitment to lowercase
had no idea this was coming out lol, good for him tho

Pekke
February 18th 2023


15 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's great fun

pizzamachine
February 18th 2023


27349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review

Sinternet
Contributing Reviewer
February 18th 2023


26617 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i will not stand for butterflies slander that song fucks (altho no idea why its here when it came out two years ago)

ToSmokMuzyki
February 18th 2023


11423 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

lower caze rulz

Cormano
February 18th 2023


4170 Comments


artwork is sick, will forever love Sonny but probably wont be listening to this

DocSportello
February 19th 2023


3383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

wtf did not expect this on apocalypse bingo 2023

Odal
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2023


2208 Comments


great review, although I think it is a bit overly harsh and kinda disagree with the premise. I think this album works as both a work that is intended to be respected and "I'm back" moment as well as being fun and fairly forward thinking. I think you can certainly argue whether or not he himself is pushing boundaries -I think he does a better job popularizing ideas rather than creating new ones- but I think the quality is undeniably there and hits the mark for me in a way that I felt Renaissance bent over backwards to try. The Jordan Peterson stuff is really disappointing though



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