Skrillex – Quest For Fire Review

Introduction (Petar)

Skrillex’s sophomore studio album, Quest For Fire, is the definition of mind-consuming. In this album, we see Sonny sticking to his roots while incorporating everything he’s learned in the last nine years since his first album release. For long-time fans who’ve been listening to his collaborations throughout the years with artists such as JOYRYDE, Diplo, Travis Scott, J Balvin, ZHU, Korn, Yung Lean, Ty Dolla Sign, etc., this album makes perfect sense. Skrillex’s capability to pull from so many genres like Tekno, UK Garage, Drill, Hip-Hop, Pop, and more, while holding a consistent sound, makes it clear that he’s been studying and taking notes from his collaborators. With all this being said, Skrillex is still able to make these genres and artists work for him. What’s quickly noticeable is how Skrillex doesn’t overproduce, we can thank his partnership with Four Tet and Fred again.. for that. 

Rather than incorporating a plethora of synths, percussion, and effects, each instrument is used to its fullest capacity thanks to various effect automations, musical variations, and recurring motifs. Every component evolves throughout each track, making it straightforward while never letting go of the listener’s attention. Nothing in this album feels like a repetitive loop with Skrillex’s forward-thinking sound design. In Quest For Fire, we also see Skrillex approaching drops differently. Rather than keeping the energy at 100%, there are multiple sections throughout the tracklist that feel ambient and soothing, which only makes the drops hit ten times harder. We also get subtle and smooth drops with songs like Inhale Exhale, and sudden in-your-face drops with songs like XENA. As fans, we couldn’t have asked for a better collection of songs. 

Each track from Quest For Fire will be discussed by KZUU’s Zeke, Abel, or Petar.

Leave Me Like This (Petar)

Leave Me Like This is the perfect introduction to this project. Not only was it constantly teased in live shows by Fred again.. and Skrillex as means to excite fans, but it also clearly states to the listener what they’re in for. It starts with ambient, washed-out vocals and synth notes that become a recurring motif throughout the album. The drops on the other hand, have some of the most memorable bass lines in recent bass house music. 


While Leave Me Like This might represent duality between Skrillex’s double album release, RATATA feels like a true opener. It doesn’t give the listener any room to breathe in an efficient, no-nonsense approach to hip-hop influenced bass music. The condensed power of Skrillex and collaborating producer Mr. Oizo is fully realized with relentless bars from the legendary Missy Elliott, and while some might think the lyrics are mostly braggadocious hyperrealism, they add to the energetic bounce of the rhythm instead of detracting from it like many vocalists do on EDM tracks. Again, the mixing is unfathomably good, weaving sounds in between each other effortlessly, with moist clicks and big sub basses building a structure of noise to fuel your next gym session.

Tears (Petar)

On Tears, we see Skrillex tastefully incorporating elements of UK Drill. The track is full of various extraterrestrial-sounding vocals mirrored by a plethora of psychedelic synths. What makes this song unique is the dark in-your-face pluck that almost feels alive. The song finishes off with a subtle beat switch into a minimal percussive synth beat. The song also includes a sample of Navi from The Legend of Zelda

Rumble (Abel)

Rumble was likely the most hotly anticipated track off of this album, and for good reason. Skrillex teams up with the most recent EDM artist to find mainstream success, Fred again.., and the final product doesn’t sound like anything either of them could have made individually. The track is quintessentially dubstep in its most pure pre-brostep form, and yet it flows so drastically different from everything similar to it. If you hear it just once, there’s no way you won’t end up repeating “killers in the jungle” under your breath randomly throughout your day. The sub wobbles are so rapid that they almost transform into stabs, but never interrupt the classic 2-step rhythm. Less than two months after it was released as a single, Rumble has already cemented itself as an era-defining track in the genre.

Butterflies (Zeke)

It’s no secret that Skrillex holds electronic veteran Four Tet in high regard. They’ve performed back-to-back and reportedly worked together several times by now. Butterflies, however, is the only collaborative project from the two that has seen an official release. It received an initial drop in 2021 following hints from an interview and some cryptic tweets, making it the first single from the album.

Starting with Sonny’s iconic vocal chops on loop, Delawarian songwriter Starrah introduces the hook of the song: “Everybody loves somebody/I know you’re not just anybody/Butterflies when you touch my body/Electric love, baby, shock me, shock me.” Butterflies’ drop impacts with a heightened vocal loop, airy kick, and shifting FM bassline that welcomes Starrah’s first verse. Near the end of the track, Four Tet makes his presence clear with an instrumental bridge made up of clear-as-a-bell synths as dynamic as they are intricate. Butterflies has many high-energy moments that are no doubt perfect for a dance floor if not just a car ride sing-along (guilty), but it’s the final few seconds of the track that showcase the strength of its production. Skrillex and Four Tet clearly put focus into giving the house track a more acoustic feel by introducing ambience, reverb, and sampled drums that help it “breathe” in a way most other songs in the genre don’t.

As a house song, Butterflies feels somewhat distant from the jagged drum-and-bass- inspired soundscape the rest of Quest For Fire follows. Though it is well-produced to the nth degree, it also stands out when compared to much of the album, perhaps being a better fit for Don’t Get Too Close. Regardless, the collaboration is no doubt one of the strongest singles from QFF.

Inhale Exhale (Petar)

Inhale Exhale is absolutely menacing. In this song, Skrillex takes a slower, more bass-focused approach while including some trap influence in the primary percussion. He also simultaneously manages to incorporate a short but powerful techno switch-up when the listener least expects it. What I enjoyed most about this song was definitely the bass, which is the driving component of this song. It evolves beautifully through the track and feels like it’s flowing in and out with its off-beat-sounding note placement. The random changes in tone and effects give the feeling that the bass is talking to the listener. 

A Street I Know (Zeke)

Compared to much of Quest For Fire, the album’s seventh track almost feels tame. With no standout hook, A Street I Know instead focuses on looping vocals that can be interpreted as the title of the song. Supporting them are intricate drums courtesy of New York producer Eli Keszler as well as throbbing bass inspired by the early 2000s dubstep that was the roots of Skrillex and many other pioneers. Though the track fits right into the rest of the project, it fails to deliver anything not already seen prior in its tracklist. If one were to remove Aluna’s vocals from the aforementioned Inhale Exhale, the differences between the two would be few and far between. Additionally, the song’s drop struggles to deliver the contrast and impact expected from Skrillex. So much so, in fact, that one could mistake it as yet another pre-chorus. 

Fans of 20-year-old UK dubstep would likely have no issue headbanging to the song, but modern followers of Skrillex and the 2010s unhinged “brostep” sound might be disappointed by its slow tempo and comparatively subdued bassline. A Street I Know suffers the fate of Fuck That on 2014’s Recess: displaying an older sound exciting for a niche subset of dubstep fans, but somewhat out of place on a major studio album.

XENA (Abel)

Strongly reminiscent of older Skrillex cuts like 2018’s JOYRYDE collaboration AGEN WIDA, XENA is a pounding rhythmic trap collaboration with Palestinian vocalist Nai Barghouti. The drops all utilize a hypnotizing tribal drum sound, creative uses of reverb and extreme polish to the point where it sounds almost like autotune (even though it’s just a drum). Nai Barghouti’s vocals lend an interesting new style to Skrillex’s repertoire, and the buildup vocals to the drop transition very suddenly from erotic to horrific in a way that always catches me off guard. This track was released as a single a couple weeks before the full project dropped, and it’s still in heavy rotation. The only complaint I have is that the song goes on through a third drop, which follows in the footsteps of common bass music trends these days and opts for a carnival four-on-the-floor style drum pattern, which feels a little lazy, but the dembow pattern in the second drop works very well as a nice switch-up.

TOO BIZARRE (juked) (Petar)

TOO BIZARRE is Skrillex’s attempt at making an emo hip-hop rager. Although most aspects of this song are incredible, the choice to include Swae Lee on vocals is questionable. More vocals from trap metal artist Siiickbrain or the inclusion of an artist like JPEGMAFIA or Danny Brown would’ve been preferable. Despite this, I still see myself throwing this on at a party or in the car due to the song’s screaming samples, violent metallic synths, and screeching bass lines. 

Hydrate (Abel)

The closest thing that comes to a posse cut on Quest for Fire is the low-frequency head-bopper Hydrate. Collaborating with the ever-unique PEEKABOO on production and utilizing the vocal talents of BEAM and Flowdan, Hydrate is a pulsating dubstep heater straight from late-2000s Britain, despite being produced by two Americans. It’s tracks on this album like Hydrate where we hear one of the main themes I interpreted from the album in general: the rejection of the brostep and complextro wave that Skrillex inadvertently ushered in in the early 2010s. This new sound is like if Skrillex’s earlier music didn’t exist, which is a style of music I have been pursuing since hearing tracks like gyrofield’s Save Ur Soul. The theme of rejecting this Americanized, noisy, glitchy EDM is reminiscent of the discography of one of Skrillex’s friends, Porter Robinson, who blew up on the scene with his Spitfire EP on OWSLA. Full of complex unpredictable rhythms and unsubtle synthesizers, it brought Porter into the mainstage of the scene. While he probably is very grateful of that project, one of the last songs on his debut album Worlds, titled Fellow Feeling, is an operatic, slow-paced epic that climaxes twice: one with a completely deranged incomprehensible complextro drop; and another that erupts in an emotional catharsis of pure bliss. The vocal samples explain the concept behind the song, describing the former drop as ugliness, and that “it will all die out. And now, I cry for all that is beautiful”. Like Porter Robinson, Skrillex is honing his sound into something more refined and less robotic than the brostep he popularized over a decade ago.

Warped Tour ’05 with pete WENTZ (Abel)

Warped Tour ‘05 with pete WENTZ is quite the chaotic track title, until you realize it’s an interlude sampling an interview clip Sonny Moore took part in before he adopted the Skrillex moniker, and was the lead vocalist in post-hardcore group From First to Last. In the clip, Sonny is paired with integral Fall Out Boy member Pete Wentz, where they discuss “getting girlfriends and going to Disneyland” and how amazing it is to have put in the work to make it to where they are. There isn’t much else to the track, but it works as a fun reminiscing moment that would almost work better as an introduction to the closing track, Still Here (with the ones that I came with).

Good Space (Zeke)

On Good Space, Skrillex once again recruits the singing and songwriting abilities of Starrah with a verse that quickly devolves into white-hot gibberish courtesy of the producer’s vocal chopping savvy. It’s these chops that carry most of the energy of the song, as the kick is only used to accent the beat; a groove calling back to several Skrillex tracks from several years ago such as Mumbai Power, Face My Fears, and The Island, Pt. 1 (Dawn) [Skrillex Remix]. As with many other QFF songs, Good Space leans on drum and bass loops that sets the project as a whole distant from his previous albums. These elements propel the song into a surprisingly effective dance song perfect for Second Sky Festival. The only problem with Good Space is its length. The song’s runtime of just over two minutes is more reminiscent of an interlude, and feels like a disservice to the soaring drop and masterful vocals that make it such a powerful moment twelve tracks into the album. Regardless, it steps into a sonic space not heard since the Skrillex of 2019, and manages to use completely different methods to match the energy of the song that follows.

Supersonic (my existence) (Petar)

Supersonic is a collaboration between Skrillex, hyperpop producer Dylan Brady (one half of duo 100 Gecs), Drum n Bass duo Noisia, and vocalist/producer Josh Pan. The song begins with soft and whispery introspective lyrics, which are suddenly disrupted with one of the most powerful beat drops ever created. The listener is slapped in the face with glitched-out kicks and vocal chops over a wall of harmonized automating basses and synths. Each time I hear this song, I get chills as if it were my first time listening. 

Hazel’s Theme & Still Here (with the ones that I came with) (Zeke)

Closer followers of Skrillex might be confused by the title of the interlude Hazel’s Theme. After all, it isn’t much more than a somewhat reworked version of 2020’s SoundCloud drop Kliptown Empyrean. What sets the two renditions apart, however, are the growing chords and vocals from the following track. More attentive 2000s kids will have caught on to the out-of-nowhere sample from the Lizzie McGuire movie that had the internet scratching their heads when the original first released. Hazel’s Theme serves little more purpose than to offer the closer to Quest For Fire with a more gradual beginning.

When Still Here (with the ones that I came with) kicks into motion, a shuffling groove carries 

Bibi Bourelly’s singing of the song title before heavy-hitting bass pushes the listener into a sense of security. It isn’t until halfway through the song when things start to get interesting. In a recording from a live show, the words “Is anybody here with your best friend?echo above a roaring crowd, expressing the reflective nature of the closing song. After this, the unmistakable walls of saw waves from Porter Robinson add a surprisingly sentimental element to the dance track, enhanced further by Robinson’s signature piano touches reminiscent of his Worlds-era sound and all but unheard of in his latest project. 

Still Here offers an ending much more melodic than one might expect from the razor-sharp Quest For Fire. It still, however, manages to recruit enough snappy drums and wobbling bass to feel right at home on the project. It also acts as a good segue into QFF’s sister album Don’t Get Too Close. Though the song may feel out of place on the dance floor or in an EDM playlist, the cheering ambience rising and falling under the music proves it’s as ready to close a festival as it is Skrillex’s first album in 9 years.

Abel’s Rating: 8/10

Petar’s Rating: 9.2/10

Zeke’s Rating: 7.5/10

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