Once again, I have emerged from my cave. Sometimes, I deprive myself of the music I love most so that I can come back to it and go absolutely crazy, but you should know that it takes a lot of stimulus to draw out a hermit who is so picky about music. My Hardstyle senses decided to make ‘Whispers of Twilight’ my lullaby for tonight, so I couldn’t resist writing about it.
After a few cricket noises, the track starts of with a connected string of long notes, held by a lady with a wonderful voice. Was it intentionally manipulated to sound unnaturally connected? Or did the lady take a super deep breath before she sang? I don’t know, but the technicalities don’t matter here. It was a risk that paid off. If this unsettling segment went on for too long or repeated too often, I would have gotten annoyed and lost interest early on. Thankfully, this unnatural vocal component only lasts briefly, allowing this segment to become an interesting intro that doesn’t turn people off for sounding too whiny.
This hint of artificiality from the beginning marks the beginning of an epic journey. I feel as if Nightfall wanted to sprinkle this handful of magical sand from the get go, causing his listeners to become unconscious and unable to comprehend the words that were sung. As the darkness descends and listeners fall “in the dark”, they slowly awaken in the alternate, magical realm. The main melody slowly begins to emerge amidst well-controlled variations of volume and compression: Subtle, balanced and not too frequent or drastic.
I would disagree with the part where the MC says “all hell breaks loose”. In fact, the imagery I conjured in my head was rather different: Drifting across the Sahara desert on a dark night, we marvel at the aurora lights. I can imagine the sound waves, reflecting or refracting navy, neon pink and violet lights across the night sky. Honestly, this track can light up any stage. The rich, ascending chords of the chorus are gracefully enveloped by the velvety kicks like mist around a pond. Of course, one must also acknowledge the amazing screeches, which are not too sharp because they are kept under control with the right amount of compression. As a whole, every element of this track is adequately balanced.
Hardstyle doesn’t have to always be about chaos or hell. It takes a lot of skill to produce a piece that is beautiful yet powerful at the same time. I don’t know if my interpretation and feelings towards this track goes against the composers’ or the MC’s intentions. All I can say is, this track is magnificent to my ears.
To hear such a title from B-Front and Alpha2 was something I didn’t expect. As soon as I hit play, the sombre intro gave me an indication that this was going to be interesting. In fact, it didn’t disappoint, for what it had to offer gave me an emotional experience.
The majority of the track consists of dark kicks. Its depth and low pitch adds weight to the track and keeps it grounded, allowing it to match the piano and wispy vocal echoes perfectly. The vocals serve a somewhat important purpose despite their muffled and minimal involvement. In fact, its hardly audible quality is what makes this track universal. No matter where you’re from or what language you speak, hearing those vocals sing in that tone instantly evokes a feeling of sadness.
B-Front and Alpha2 maintain a balance between intense impact and soft cries of sorrow, soothing their listeners despite their use of contrasting effects. Although there will be times when you feel lost in a deep sea of troubles, you’ll still find solace from music that conveys your feelings perfectly. I consider this to be one of those tracks.
When I first heard the this song on Unleashed 034 and heard the chorus, I instantly thought of ‘Carol of the Bells‘ and wondered whether Hard Attakk got their inspiration from that piece. After all, even Zatox turned to classical music for ideas and Da Tweekaz certainly didn’t mind snatching a cradle melody. It’s always great when you can find links between different genres. Of course, what’s even more satisfying is knowing that it can be turned into utterly devastating monstrosity.
The kicks for this piece are quite abrupt and the tempo is just a little bit faster than the usual Hardstyle tempo, which is cool for those who have an appetite for fast impact. On top of that, the radio edit wastes no time with bringing its listeners straight into the crux. You can sense the impending evil even when the chorus melody is in its phase of decompression.
What I also love about this track is the way Hard Attakk brings in about three or four different kick variations, featured in brief intervals right before the next breakdown. Each of these are special in their own way, but the track would have been quite messy if the intervals were longer than what they were in the radio edit. In addition, the original kick that was used for this track is charming enough to leave me entranced. This led me to wonder whether the little segments of these kicks were a way of displaying the kick development process: How it evolved into its final, chosen form.
Get dirty, get gritty and get your gabber gear ready. Kick up some dust with this nasty bass and don’t miss out on the fun!
PS – I may be a bit late to the party, but as I always say, better late than never!
The Nightfall duo, DJ Jeffrey and producer Sven, were signed to Fusion quite recently. Around the time ‘Distorted Reality’ was released on the 2nd of November 2015, it also managed to gain the support of Digital Punk on Unleashed 032.
Compared to Nightfall’s first EP release with Fusion, ‘Boom Like’ and ‘No Surrender’, ‘Distorted Reality’ is a pretty big improvement. To make a specific example, their first EP placed too much reliance overpowering, high-pitched melodic segments. Fortunately, ‘Distorted Reality’s melody was more twisted and compressed, allowing the powerful kicks to have the attention they deserve. There were even moments where Nightfall isolated elements or turned it down to create suspense, before bringing up the volume to create an impact. This is a rather simple effect to apply, and some may think of it as a cliche. However, I think the dark force contained within the track had such a strong ability to engage its audience, that they could easily let that slide. I know I’d just be super keen to get to the point where everything is at its loudest whenever that happens. Nightfall certainly knows how to keep the party people on a hook!
Side note: I thought I already wrote about this track, but I didn’t! I was so sure that I even did a search on my own blog to make sure. Usually, when I repeat something a lot, I have every intention of writing about it afterwards. I was probably either too busy or just forgot about it. Anyway, I’m glad I remembered!
On a dark laser night, a set was interrupted by a voice emerging from the very decks that they were playing on. The DJs, intimidated by its commands, started spinning at various speeds. Unsatisfied, the voice threatened them, and that seemed to be just the thing they needed to make things right.
No, this is not based on actual events. The aforementioned paragraph just seemed exactly like the story the track could be telling. I thought of beginning this review with very typical remarks, but felt that they won’t do justice to just how amazing the track was.
My amazement doesn’t just stop with the voice clips. The main attraction – the kicks, are absolute showstoppers. The static noise that pulses and fizzes as it diminishes, the deep bass that doesn’t lose its depth and weight no matter how fast Digital Punk and Adaro manipulate the tempo. Of course, the fizzes become less prominent when they are slightly overpowered by the melody in the climax, but think of that as a variation rather then a letdown. After all, the dark bass and harsh punches are to die for.
‘Whiplashed’ was released on Scantraxx Records on the 2nd of December.
I briefly scratched the surface of some of the more recent Hardstyle releases through both my inbox and YouTube today. That allowed me to find two releases I’d like to mention here: One from D-Block and S-te-fan, and the other from Da Tweekaz and Neilio. The reviews of these tracks will be combined into one post for two reasons: One, because both are considered to be melodic tracks; Two, both of them still manage to make decent tracks just by keeping things simple, which is something I think any budding producer should learn how to master.
Let’s begin with D-Block and S-te-fan’s ‘Higher’. Personally, I felt as if the introduction built up to the climax more slowly than the other Hardstyle tracks I’ve heard. However, this also allowed for any variations that followed to stand out. Specifically, when the low-pitched vocals said “let the music take you higher”, snippets of the ‘er’ syllable get repeated, then tuned into notes that form a melody, merging itself into the rest of the composition. This was followed by alternations between chord notes and notes of the main melody. Very blissful indeed. Unfortunately, the biggest weakness of this release is repetitive lyrics. Catchy and addictive, but repetitive. I would have loved to loop this more if there were better lyrics.
The next track by Da Tweekaz and Neilio, titled ‘Freedom’, is an attempt to make something that Hardstyle lovers can dance to gloriously. I used the word “attempt”, because although I did enjoy the melody, I felt as if the words carry a lot of weight. Those lyrics may be more suited to something rougher or tougher, like Ran-D’s Defqon.1 2015 anthem. However, I didn’t find it difficult to let that slide, because if anything, this track can still make people feel something on the dance floor: It’ll make people want to celebrate. The octaves in the kick-chord-kick-chord alternations sounded like a carnival theme. Combined with a twinkling melody and synth twists, you can’t help but imagine colourful lights flying past your eyes.
If you’re a producer looking for some introduction to the very core of what makes Hardstyle work, but don’t want to dive into the depths of ancient history, these new tracks are certainly worth looking into. ‘Higher’ has been released through Scantraxx Records and ‘Freedom’ from the Dirty Workz label.
Sometimes, no matter how cliche a track might be, it can still strike a chord within your soul. Although Atmozfears’ ‘Release’ shares similarities with other melodic Hardstyle tracks that were recently released, I still had an irresistible urge to play this at work, again and again.
I thought about how I only wrote about Atmozfears a few weeks ago about his incredible raw style, only to be struck by another one of his more emotional creations so soon. Despite its downsides, I suppose I can consider it a guilty pleasure to play this on repeat. Without further ado, I shall now write about the most positive aspects of this track. If you would like to read about its weakness, feel free to refer to my previous review of ‘Our Dreams‘ by Bass Modulators, because both ‘Release’ and ‘Our Dreams’ have the same flaw.
The reason why ‘Release’ sounds so uplifting is not just because of its lyrics and soothing vocals, but also the intervals in the melodies and the way it was mastered. The echoing effect seems to spread across a vast space, which really enhances the ethereal feeling produced by the ascending intervals. Instead of an explosion of anger, this track pops a great big balloon that was inflated with joy. Contrary to dark themes, it reminds its listeners of what it feels like to be on the top of the world.
I only need four words to sum it all up: Exhilarating, exciting, energetic, ethereal. Even if I might get tired of it at some point, I’m glad I enjoyed this at some point of my life.
The melodic sounds of Bass Modulators are sensational and at times, hypnotizing. Their most repeated track on my iPod of all time is their ‘Anthem of Summer’. Even in the coldest winter’s nights, the track can instantly make me think of warm rays of sunlight. Today, I noticed that they were responsible for composing this year’s Dream Village 2015 anthem. After listening to a whole lot of monotonous Hardstyle releases, this certainly gave me some much needed relief.
I adore the free, adventurous and positive theme of this song. The wording of the lyrics were well written and chosen. That is, if you exclude the slight disconnection between the lyrical declaration “I will never ever give you up” and “we’re running wild…”. It really suits the vibe of an outdoor festival, where everyone can dance to their hearts’ content in a huge, grassy field. Definitely worthy of being sung by a huge crowd.
Although their ability to compose wonderful melodies and lyrics does not leave room for much doubt, there was a down side to the track: There were re-used high-pitch notes and synthesising techniques between the vocal parts. All you have to do is compare it to the choruses of Atmozfears’ ‘Release‘ (released a few months before ‘Our Dreams’), Adrenalize’s remix of ‘Starlight‘, and Bass Modulators’ very own ‘Oxygen‘. It even reminded me of Code Black’s releases ‘Starting Over‘ and ‘New World‘.
Is this recycling phenomenon good news for all the DJs who want to link tracks in a set? Are the producers just following a formula of success? Is it just a trend that will pass? Or, if it will pass, how much longer do I have to wait for it to evolve? I don’t know. Maybe, remembering too many details of Hardstyle tracks like this makes me an absolute party pooper. After all, ‘Our Dreams’ is not bad to the point where I’d walk away, so I can still convince myself to enjoy it. Not to mention, I’m sure the people who love getting drunk at festivals all the time won’t even notice, right? Maybe some people would hope so.
Hello to the darkest corners of the internet! I’ve been super busy with some commitments in real life, so I’m struggling to find more time and inspiration to write more frequently. I’m basically taking full advantage of my urge to express my feelings about Digital Punk’s release right now, before I collapse on my cosy bed.
There was a time when I really liked Digital Punk’s style, particularly back when he was still releasing tracks through Tillt. However, after ‘Bringing The Funk’, I felt as though he delivered less than what I had been expecting. During the last time I saw him live at Sydney’s Bass Control, Digital Punk relied on playing several G4H tracks in a row, which was kind of disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate G4H or raw Hardstyle, but playing tracks from the same artist too many times in a row isn’t exactly the most creative way to play a set.
Anyway, let’s leave the past in the past. At this moment in time, I declare a change of heart. My doubts about Digital Punk were cleared after I heard his remix of Brennan Heart’s Hard Bass Junkie. For those of you who haven’t heard the original piece, play the clip below and you’ll hear the squeaky cheekiness combined with a catchy melody. It’s certainly one of the most addictive Hardstyle tracks that brings out the feelings within every Hardstyle fan.
In the remix, Digital Punk’s kicks are deep yet crisp and impactful, which makes things devilishly satisfying. This remix of Brennan Heart’s ‘Hard Bass Junkie’ cuts to the chase. Every kick acts like a blade that stabs straight into the toughest core. Nothing like Digital Punk’s collaboration with Hard Driver in ‘Crash ‘n Burn’, which seems to take too much time in building up to a chorus that doesn’t really hit the spot. I was also reminded of similar techniques that were used in my favourite track titled ‘We Still Don’t Give A F*ck‘, especially when I heard the compressed breakdown cause the vocals to sound like it was combined with a whispered version.
Digital Punk’s kicks are, without a doubt, among one of my favourite Hardstyle sounds right now. I’m looking forward to hearing what Digital Punk will come up with next and I’m going to pay close attention to his next original mix.
Sub Sonik has released a raw track titled ‘Go F*ck Yourself’ under its sub label WE R Raw. I would usually consider this label to be one that has its forte in more melodically uplifting styles, so this is quite a surprise for me. Though, perhaps the fact that I didn’t know about the sub labels until now probably means I’m just slightly out of the loop. Heh.
In segments where there are repetitions of three notes, operatic chants, taunting messages and a temporary slowdown of the kick tempo, the track really projects the picture of a gangster crew, confidently strutting down the middle of a deserted road and facing the enemy they’re about to beat up. The chorus primarily consists of ascending chords, contrasted by descending chords in the breakdown. Although the techniques used are not new, they have all been combined and timed quite well to create suspense.
On the other hand, although I am a Hardstyle fan who loves these raw elements, upon repeating this release, things gradually moved towards dullness. For starters, as Kronos seems to have hinted in one of his Instagram videos, lots of artists rely on repetitious profanity to add attitude to their Hardstyle track. Also, although the track reminds me of rebellious attitudes, as the title indicates, the entire track is focused on musically interpreting the phrase ‘go f*ck yourself’ and verbally repeating the phrase. This causes elements of this track to heavily hone in on one premise, rather than allowing different elements to be ever so slightly and subtly unique in its own way.
In my opinion, Sub Sonik have applied the techniques and arrangement very well in this piece. Unfortunately, the lack of originality made this track lose its charm after a few plays.