Quest for Fire
Owsla and Atlantic Records
Dubstep is an often misunderstood genre. It is an icon of the early 2010s zeitgeist; it is clunky and wild, in your face, and most importantly, energized. The late 2000s and early 2010s represented a peak of dance music in the U.S. and dubstep was the next step in that journey. And the one who is most synonymous with this time is the DJ Skrillex. He was the face of dubstep, and, to many, still is. But long after the height of dubstep, Skrillex emerged from the woods with two new albums: the lackluster “Don’t Get Too Close,” which came out one day after the subject of this review, “Quest for Fire.”
To start, this album has everything. Missy Elliott, bass house, The Legend of Zelda samples, future trap, Hilary Duff samples, clips of Pete Wentz from 2005, a song in Arabic and Swae Lee. “Quest for Fire” seems less like an album and more like a carnival, or so Skrillex tries. The tunes here aren’t cranked to 11, which is unexpected for a Skrillex project. Instead, there is more bass music; more reminiscent of JOYRYDE than the Skrillex of the past. But songs like “A Street I Know” are trying to get the listener up and moving but don’t give the listener anything worth grooving to. Eventually, there will be a point while listening to the album where the listener will realize that the songs feel longer than they actually are.
But there are plenty of highlights on this LP. “RATATA” is a formulaic Skrillex song (interesting vocal sample or feature plus a beat that sounds like it’s from a ’90s video game plus the drop=a Skrillex song) that didn’t get repetitive after the first 60 seconds. The Missy Elliott feature is… slay. The remix of “Supersonic” sounds like a trap remix circa 2016 in the best way possible.
The main problem that holds this album back is Skrillex getting in his own way. “Still Here (with the ones that I came with)” at five minutes is the longest song on the album and it always feels longer. It sounds like half a song that Skrillex just tossed onto the end of the album because he could. “Inhale Exhale” is as exciting as sitting on a bench. “Hazel Theme” is an attempt to make a more ambient intro to “Still Here (with the ones that I came with),” but it sounds hollow and uninteresting. And some of the features sound wonky, looking specifically at Flodan on “Hydrate.”
These issues do stop “Quest for Fire” from being a great album, but the rest ranges from solid to pretty good. “Butterflies” has a boiler-room–type beat that curates a grimey atmosphere, even if the lyrics sound like Starrah is copying Cascada’s homework. “XENA” uses a vocal sample of the Nai Barghouti song “Ghandara” as the center of the track to great effect, even if the drop is a tad mid. And “Rumble” and “TOO BIZARRE (juked)” are great party anthems that Skrillex excels at.
Overall, this album overstays its welcome, lacking a coherent direction that would allow Skrillex to stay on course. “Quest for Fire” is a solid return for this electronic artist, but was anyone really asking for more Skrillex in 2023?