Three years ago, strange black masks appeared on advertisements around the country, along with base 64-encoded imagery, lines of source code, QR codes, and physical lockboxes containing USB flash drives.
Naturally, as people began noticing this bizarre guerilla campaign, questions arose. What did these lockboxes contain? Where was the source code pulled from? Who was behind the masks? And what did it all mean?
A WILD DEATHPACT APPEARS
The clues began adding up, and all of them pointed to an arcane entity known only as Deathpact, a shadowy figure shrouded in a hood with a mask—similar to the ones that appeared on the advertisements—concealing their identity. Launched off of that brilliant campaign (now known as a "Deathdrop"), the enigmatic electronic music act's CIPHER ONE EP was released.
But that didn't mean the overall mystery was solved.
Shortly after CIPHER ONE's release came another deluge of questions and feverish analyses by skeptics. Then the Deathcord was launched.
A Discord server where those already intrigued by the Deathpact mythos gathered, the Deathcord now provided a space for fans and code-breakers—and those who just wanted to know what the hell was going on—to collaborate on solving each riddle. The Deathpact community would go on to grow before eventually cracking the code on CIPHER TWO.
THE PLOT THICKENS: CIPHER TWO
Decrypting messages hidden in a photo posted to social media, the community dove headfirst into a rabbit hole that took them through digital and physical activations, and eventually to a Wikipedia page with an embedded code that led to New York City.
There, another lockbox contained a flash drive with Deathpact's next release on it. It became clear that Deathpact was more than just a music producer, and the greater enigma surrounding them was an ARG, or augmented reality game, that the entire Deathpact fanbase was actively playing with each Deathdrop.
DIVING DEEPER: DEATHDROP THREE
The third Deathdrop followed in 2019 and finally revealed more about the lore behind Deathpact. Uncovering an email address, the community discovered "Project Eternity," another mysterious entity that was somehow associated with Deathpact.
Those who reached out to the email address received a cryptic reply. Project Eternity had been terminated for some reason, and all applications to follow would be handled by the xOS system, the digital system behind all of Deathpact's perplexing ciphers and riddles.
After the third Deathdrop, Deathpact finally began to appear in the public eye in performances cleverly referred to as "materializations." A takeover of Diplo's Revolution SiriusXM broadcast in May 2019 was followed by Deathpact's debut live performance—or materialization—at Shambhala Music Festival on August 11th, 2019. They also performed at the virtual Digital Mirage festival, which was their only materialization during the pandemic.
Still, Deathpact remained cloaked in their disguise, leaving nothing out in the open and coaxing fans into digging ever deeper into the thrilling conundrum.
Even more releases came soon after. The cryptic "Nix Orbis" video followed Deathdrop 3.5 and Deathpact's appearance at Earwig Discord Music Festival, and revealed the producer's US debut at Lake Tahoe's Snowglobe Festival in December 2019. Three more landmark performances at Camp Bisco, Electric Forest, and Meow Wolf were also scheduled, but abandoned due to the impact of COVID-19.
However, with only a handful of these materializations to date, Deathpact remains as mysterious as ever as fans try to unravel the secret day by day.
All of this has led to the next Deathpact riddle: Split // Personality, Deathpact's first extended body of work. Spearheaded by a plethora of remixes from some big-time producers and musicians, Split // Personality will immerse fans in the world of Deathpact like never before.
SPLIT // PERSONALITY AND THE PUZZLE AT HAND
February 9th saw the start of the remix releases, beginning with stateside drum & bass artist and fellow masked enigma REAPER's remix of "Catalyst." Claude VonStroke's take on "Coalesce," hardcore punk outfit Code Orange's rework of "Bloodline," and a remix of "Song Six" from bass queen CloZee followed, each released just one day apart.
After that, the next few days saw remixes of "Hiatus," "0506+506," "Interference," and "Split Personality," by Russian producer Biicla, New Zealand's Opiuo, post-metal band Deafheaven, and legendary electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre, respectively. Jarre's take on "Split Personality" is the iconic artist's first remix release in a storied career of over 60 years, signifying his ever-evolving status as one of electronic music's bona fide pioneers.
Spanning multiple genres, the remix releases encompassed Deathpact's inspirations and interests outside of electronic music, an important note and yet another possible clue to their real identity.
The cover art of Split // Personality, a collaborative project between two fans, is essentially a microcosm of the decentralized nature of the Deathpact project. 26-year-old Georgia-based artist Kadabura devised the illustrations and multidisciplinary artist Numosis did the 3D modeling, conjuring Deathpact's "We Are Deathpact. You Are Deathpact" modus operandi with a gritty edge.
But when the final remix was released, the day also heralded the beginning of yet another maddeningly classic Deathpact puzzle. The Deathpact website became a simple e-commerce page, offering only one item: vinyl pressings of the unreleased masters. After users purchased the vinyl record, the website shifted into a page with code entry boxes and a "PROCESS" button below them.
The next step was cracking the code to enter on the site's page. Clues were hidden both on the vinyl's packaging and within the audio itself, sending fans on another deep-dive into the code-breaking culture that Deathpact has fostered for the last three years. It would take them across the Deathcord, various microsites, SMS auto-response numbers, and many other unique mechanisms to solve the cipher key and unlock the website.
In effect, Deathpact left Split // Personality's release date up to the fans, who needed to solve the puzzle in order to "unlock" the EP, Part One of which was then distributed to digital service providers earlier this month and contained the original versions of "Catalyst," "Hiatus," "Bloodline," and "Song Six."
The remainder of Split // Personality is yet to be released. As the Deathcord quickly approaches 3,000 members, more and more fans are being drawn into the astonishing world that Deathpact has created. Rich with complex narratives and hidden clues in a National Treasure meets Hackers style universe, Deathpact continues to thrill and impress with their incredible productions, enthralling materializations, and the overarching mystery surrounding what Deathpact truly means.
That mystery is still not fully answered, and based on the last three years of this Kafkaesque thrill ride, we'll really only know who Deathpact is and what all of this is about when they want us to know. Fans continue to decode the dystopian puzzle and add information to a fan-made Deathpact Milanote timeline, which is perhaps the best jump-off point for those looking to begin their journey into the unknown.
The mask and the clues are constantly changing as the plot thickens and Deathpact continues to build their murky universe through augmented reality. Part One of Split // Personality is out now, but the rest of the story has yet to unravel and more clues lie within as it unfurls. Are you ready to join the Deathpact hunt?