Dubstep. Or brostep, if you prefer. It seems like it’s the only thing people are talking about nowadays. At least, that’s the case here in Miami. And of course, there are a million amateur producers that are clogging up the pipes with nothing but cheap emulations of the greats, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still quality music to be found. Joshua Mellody, better known as Zomboy, has been absolutely killing it in dance clubs across the globe. He’s a natural at heavy dubstep production. His sophomore release, The Dead Symphonic EP, came out in September of this year, and never before have I seen so much energy and quality packed into a six-track EDM release. I had the good fortune of seeing this man perform a live set in Tampa a few weeks ago, and I consider it to be one of the best dubstep shows I’ve ever attended, even rivaling such heavyweights (pun intended) as Datsik and Kill the Noise.
Zomboy works within a genre that is defined by fairly universal sound production methods, so the fact that his music is easily distinguishable from the sounds of his peers is certainly commendable. He does pull heavily from the well-known styles of Skrillex and Knife Party – “Vancouver Beatdown” calls to mind the memorable “Devil’s Den” (Skrillex and Wolfgang Gartner), while “Deadweight” bears a striking similarity to Knife Party’s “Centipede” – but rather than casting the ugly shadow of unoriginality over his work, he uses such resemblance to establish himself as a bold player who can hold his own in the big leagues.
Time and time again, it is conclusively proven that producers with a firm grasp of music theory will emerge on top. Now, I’m not entirely clear on Zomboy’s background in musical knowledge, but I do know (courtesy of his Facebook bio) that he studied music production at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, UK, and that is definitely something that shines through in his tracks. All of his music has a distinctive edge that causes it to punch through. So why is that, exactly? Bottom line, Zomboy’s music is just so sonically interesting. A rather vague statement, I know, but accurate nonetheless.
Alright, so let’s get down to specifics. As a dubstep artist, he succeeds unequivocally. I’m not going to focus much on his heavy bass sounds – at this point, I think it’s enough to say that they’re mind-blowing. Any fan of the genre knows that they’re most likely going to be stupefied by the sheer dirtiness of a great dubstep producer’s bass wobbles. Now, of course that’s a tremendous accomplishment on Zomboy’s part, and not something to be devalued in the slightest, but if that were the only reason why I enjoyed his music, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post right now.
No, the reason that I’ve been inspired to write this post is because Zomboy has done an exceptional job of blending those crazy sub-bass frequencies with an impressive sense of musicality – not a very prevalent combination in the dubstep community. The music on The Dead Symphonic EP is jam-packed with rhythmic syncopation, rapturous harmonies, and true headbanger riffs. Each song has its own distinct mood, or atmosphere, that it creates. “Hoedown,” for example, does a terrific job of bringing the epic drama of the Wild West to modern-day dance music. And with Zomboy’s use of twangy guitars, string sections, and choir pads, it’s absolutely believable. Similarly, in “Vancouver Beatdown,” the listener is immediately transplanted into a car chase scene from the 80s, complete with retro synth orchestration and police sirens. I would even venture to say that this song is very reminiscent of that classic Daft Punk style at times. That’s not all, though; as soon as you’re comfortably settled into the original vibe of the song, Zomboy flips it on its head with an insane and totally unexpected triplet feel on the second drop. This is the work of an artist who has a drive to constantly keep his music inventive and interesting.
The Dead Symphonic EP, as a whole release, works extremely well. The overall flow of the EP is fantastic, and the ordering of its six tracks is perfectly chosen. It starts off with the laid-back(-ish) dub energy of “Nuclear (Hands Up),” and then finishes up with the indescribable “Gorilla March,” where Zomboy blends everything from dubstep, drum & bass, moombahton, and orchestral arrangements into one song, and even that description doesn’t do the piece justice. And as The Dead Symphonic EP comes to a close, you come to the sudden realization that you just listened to one of the most interesting, entertaining, and masterful dubstep releases that you’ve ever heard. An absolutely incredible musical effort, through and through.