Album Review: Deadmau5 “> album title goes here <" (Ultra Records)


Joel Zimmerman, the edgy, electro-house musician from Canada who prefers to go by his stage name, Deadmau5, has spent the better part of the last six months attacking other musicians rather than creating new music. He bashed Madonna for her unnecessary stage antics during Avicii’s headline set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, and also thoroughly insulted a good majority of DJs for their lack of producer skills and tendencies to just press play. These aggressive outbursts are not the best strategy to win over new fans.

His 13-track LP, > album title goes here <, was officially released on September 25th, and similar to his last record, 4×4=12, it is a compilation of unreleased material that spans a variety of genres. Primarily influenced by EDM, ambient/downtempo, noise pop and trip hop genres, his sixth studio album (and third without a formal title), has been withheld for a few weeks from Spotify and other U.S. streaming services. Deadmau5 is out to challenge expectations and in the end would clearly prefer to create an album that showcases his complex inner-feelings, rather than introduce a sweepingly innovative disc that advances the electronic dance music (EDM) industry to new heights.

Strangely enough, the professional mixed martial arts league known as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently formed an odd partnership with Deadmau5. The reasoning behind their collaboration? “The thing with music and culture is we can bring in millions of fans at a time. You’ve got to have the balance between the two strategies if you want to be successful. Any brand, in order to grow, you’ve got to have a strategy that sustains your current fan base. But every brand, if you’re not growing, you’re losing fans. This is a complementary strategy that is building our fan base for the future.” UFC used the song, “Professional Griefers” (from this record) for a music video to promote their sport more broadly.

While I will get to the substance of the disc shortly, some of deadmau5 recent activities should be detailed as background for this new work. In a recent interview, Deadmau5 claims that the original idea for his signature mouse head for live performances came from admiring the 70’s glam rock band, KISS:

“The big turnaround for me was going to a Kiss concert. They’re terrible. They suck so bad. I hope they don’t read this. But their show is a (expletive) show. They put a lot into making it entertaining. At one point, the guitarist pulls out a fricking bazooka and blows off a bit off the stage. How things have changed. I remember when [Nine Inch Nails frontman] Trent Reznor used to bring out a crappy old keyboard and smash it up, and everyone would say: ‘Oh wow, that was so cool, we were at the concert where Trent snapped and smashed up his keyboard! (expletive). He used to do that every night. I loved the theatrics. It’s about spectacle. That’s what I realized.”

He even went on to add that he has become so used to playing in front of countless fans each night that the only thing that still gives him a good adrenaline rush these days is high stakes gambling.To top it all off, word on the street is that he is currently dating 30-year-old celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D (Katherine von Drachenberg), the Mexican/Argentine scarlet from the television show, LA Ink. To each their own…I guess?

In terms of the record itself, Deadmau5’s most recent effort has not yet led to his fall from the top of the electronic music pyramid simply because of his strong brand, supreme studio production skills and the strong relationships that he has established with other musicians. It is difficult to have a deep appreciation for the album given the expectations from previous work, but one can still admire the subtle nuances from the songs’ intense chord progressions, multifaceted textures, sophisticated melodies, more-than-thoughtful transitions.

“The Veldt” is probably the closest example to these unrealistically high expectations thanks to the whimsical vocals, steady beat and thoughtful lyrics: “Every night they rock us to sleep, digital family! / Is it real? Or is it a dream? Can you believe in machines? / Outside, the beating sun, can you hear the screams? / We’ll never leave, look at us now. So in love with the way we are here!”

Another commendable song is his collaboration track, “Channel 42,” which is soaked with the most typical/predictable club sound of any tune on the record. With Deadmau5’s hard bass line and Wolfgang’s near-flawless melodies, it is hard to find a critique. Just make sure it is heard through either a nice pair of headphones or a quality sound system. Otherwise, listeners will miss out on all the intricate details that Deadmau5 so frequently raves about, no pun intended.

As a whole, > album title goes here < feels incomplete and halfhearted since it is comprised solely from unreleased tracks. Some are unquestionably timeless, but they simply do not fulfill the audiophile’s desire for bassified perfection. “[this record] is like a yearbook to me – where I was, what I was doing, because the album seems more to me like a compilation of projects rather than something that was done like The Wall, which is what I’m aiming for next time – to have an album produced from opening to closing.” Fine. Until next time, Señor Mau5.

Top Track: “Professional Griefers” feat. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance
Weakest Effort: “Take Care of the Properwork”
Favorite All-Around Sounds: “The Veldt”
Scariest Vibes: “Telemiscommunications” feat. Imogen Heap (just in time for Halloween)
Top Collaboration: “Channel 42” feat. Wolfgang Gartner
Most Unconventional: “Take Care of the Properwork” feat. Cypress Hill
Best Instrumental: “Sleepless”