Unpredictability should be excepted from Zeds Dead. The Toronto-based duo has been around since 2009, and gained many early fans by creating dubstep in the vein of Skrillex. Since then however, Zeds Dead has kept things interesting by fusing genres and stylistically jumping around from one release to the next.
Earlier this year, the group announced that they would be forming their own label, Dead Beats. With the new label comes a new step for the group, as they release their first full-length album. ‘Northern Lights’ sticks to Zeds Dead’s eclectic tradition. Each of the 15 tracks has a unique sound, ranging from reggae inspired to hip-hop, pop and, of course, their original dubstep sound. The album features guests on all but three of the tracks, including Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Pusha T, Diplo and Dragonette.
Though the songs are all energetic, the vibe often shifts from one to the next. This creates many tracks that are totally in control of their vibe, but also makes for a somewhat stylistically disjointed package as a whole. Zeds Dead has released a multitude of single tracks and EPs, but they have never tried their hand at a full release before, and this might be why. As an album, the sum feels less than its parts. There is no apparent artistic reason to release these tracks as an album, as opposed to multiple EPs or single track releases.
The lyrical quality ranges from repetitive snippets that detract from the overall song, to somewhat thoughtful verses that are plagued by clichés. The lyrics offer more style than substance, as the vocalists chosen are all at the top of their game.
Zeds Dead should either stick to short or single-track releases, or rethink the concept of an album altogether. If they do chose to create a second full length album, the best way for them to grow would be an attempt to look at the album as one work, instead of as a medium to deliver multiple unrelated songs. While listening to the album from start to end is not a seamless experience, the quality of the individual tracks on display is undeniable.