Skrillex – ‘Quest For Fire’ review: hectic return from a huge character

The EDM titan’s first full-length solo release in almost a decade features 25 guests and bountiful genres. The return largely lives up to the hype

Skrillex has been on a sonic adventure, alright. The title of his long-awaited second album, ‘Quest For Fire’, reflects the journey that Sonny Moore has ventured on in the decade since the dubstep scene-leader dropped his game-changing ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ EP in 2010. In the period that followed, he’s worked with everyone from Diplo and Justin Bieber to J Balvin and Ed Sheeran.

His debut album ‘Recess’ arrived in 2014, and while releases have been steady, a full collection has been elusive. Created between LA and Japan over three years, this long-awaited second album is feverishly hyped, and he enlists megastars present and past, as if to prove his pop cultural impact is no less relevant than it was last time around.

Tapping into the TikTok-driven zeitgeist, PinkPantheress stars on drum’n’bass roller ‘Way Back’ while Moore teams up with Fred again.. for ‘Rumble’, a new staple at Moore, Fred and Four Tet’s recent surprise live shows. First released in May 2021, ‘Too Bizarre (Juked)’, which boasts a potent screamo verse from Siiickbrain, receives a sped-up makeover – clearly, Moore’s finger remains firmly on the pulse.

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Contrastingly, ‘Quest For Fire’ – which features 25 credited guests across 15 tracks – often channels nostalgia. Dubstep prominently features: the sub-bass-heavy ‘Tears’, a link-up with genre pioneer Joker, and the skittering ‘Supersonic (my existence)’ stay true to Skrillex’s sonic origins. The breakbeat-driven ‘Good Space’, featuring rapper Starrah and dolphin-noise-synths, sounds like what Skrillex and Diplo would make under their Jack Ü moniker in 2023.

The throwbacks continue to come thick and fast. There’s ‘Warped Tour ‘05 with Pete Wentz’ a time capsule referencing Moore’s time in post-hardcore band From First To Last. The 47-second interview-based interlude’s inclusion serves no discernible purpose, other than reminding the listener of his pre-Skrillex project.

Moore packs disparate ideas into each track; keeping the listener guessing from each song to the next has long been his USP. This is particularly true of the explosive ‘Xena’, on which Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti’s ethereal vocals swoop over percussive claps, before the track is spun back, transforming into a techno-paced workout. But some songs, like opener ‘Leave Me Like This’ simply run out of steam. The submerged drop that follows the promising EDM-style progression of Aluna collab ‘Inhale Exhale’ falls flat, especially queued after ‘Butterflies’, a house-leaning collaboration with Four Tet.

By the album’s penultimate track, Moore acknowledges the breadth he’s covered in 45 minutes. “Almost there guys, sorry; one more minute of this” he says at the start of the piano-based ‘Hazel’, attempting to find a moment of stillness and calm amongst the noise.

Covering so much ground (‘Hydrate’ even bridges dubstep and reggae) means the album lacks a clear narrative or overarching theme. Perhaps that was Moore’s intention: to deliver a collection of genre-blending tracks that push things forward while succinctly showcasing his seemingly endless versatility. Yet by fusing the past, present – and once again setting a blueprint for the future of music – Skrillex’s status in modern music remains unchallenged.

Details

Skrillex - Quest For Fire

  • Release date: February 17, 2023
  • Record label: OWSLA / Atlantic Records
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