Killshot and Nolz – Rauwdouwer

Nolz and Killshot - Rauwdouwer

Languages are weird. Some languages sound quite aggressive in a regular tone, so when you really know how to stress the most aggressive bits, things go off the walls! Start it off with a few cliche gangster notes that are simple yet repetitive. You’ll start walking funny, feel like the king of the world, feel rebellious, feel like shooting someone…Okay, please don’t do bad stuff, but, you get the idea.

Of course, that’s merely what the track starts with to really hook people in, before it explodes with the roughest kicks. Good things come to those who wait. The kicks that come in at some point aren’t harsh in a sense that there’d be a high-pitch that would pierce your eardrums in an unpleasant way. In fact, it acts like the rough sandpaper that caresses freshly cut wood, or the smooth coffee that awakes and soothes those addicted to it. It perfectly satisfies the craving of Hardstyle lovers like me.

Of course, if you’re not keen on having Hardstyle mixed with other genres, like how some people don’t like fluff in fiction, or how some people don’t want anything else with their shots, this might turn you off from the beginning. However, if you ever hear the main bit played in a set, you might skip to the good part and give it another chance. It might be worth it!

‘Rauwdower’ was released as part of Nolz’s new album, ‘Nocturnolz’, on the 11th of May 2018 via record label Minus is More.

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Da Tweekaz – Komon

DWX451

I never thought I’d ever use these words to describe how much I love ‘Komon’: I. Am. Mindf*cked. I have never heard a Hardstyle producer combine vocal and style elements of Trap, Dubstep, Reggae, K-pop (I think there’s a sample is from Psy’s Gentleman‘) and Hardstyle into one until now!

Let me get the forgivable aspects out of the way before I give more praise: Cramming everything into such a short edit makes things quite messy. I wish they spent a bit more time on each genre combination, just so I could have time to revel in it, or let it seep into the deepest parts of my soul

Even if they decided not to cram it all in one short edit and just release different versions with multiple genres grouped together, I’m sure people who love genre mashes would still buy every single version. I wouldn’t even mind seeing a super, unusually long, extended version of this. Just imagining the potential release formats or versions that could have been considered for this piece makes my eyes light up.

Yet, being the impatient person that I am, who gets all fired up about something and can’t wait to get it done once I get that strong urge, this would have been something I couldn’t wait to show the world. Maybe they felt the same. Finishing such an ambitious project in time was probably not an easy feat to pull off. I suppose I can let them off the hook just this once.

As for the chorus melody, I find that Da Tweekaz’ recent releases (including ‘Bring Me To Life‘) have rather tame choruses. They don’t exactly have notes that take me to the peaks. Instead, they sound rather like military anthems. Solemn yet inspiring. I personally prefer crazy, dark melodies these days. However, the exciting fireworks generated from this genre-mish-mash just makes up for that melody.

This track opens up possibilities, fun, excitement, ears, mind and soul. I have never heard anything so thrilling in such a long time! Da Tweekaz have always fearlessly incorporated mainstream genres into their music. I love them for it. I just hope they don’t rush more of their releases. Please take time to really make a track shine. Uncover its true potential!

Brennan Heart and Jonathan Mendelsohn – Follow the Light

Brennan Heart and Jonathan Mendelsohn - Follow The Light

Ah, the melodic territory. Something I haven’t immersed myself in for the longest time. To return to this spectacular sub-genre, to a track composed by none other than the veteran, Brennan Heart, is an absolute honour. This is one of those moments where I feel blessed to have ears.

I would never have imagined that ‘Imaginary‘ (pun intended) could have a sweet little sibling. Mendelsohn’s vocals, in this particular song, gave me strong Coldplay and Maroon 5 vibes. If I ever heard this live, I’d like to say to the person next to me: “I promised I wouldn’t cry, but I did.” Mendelsohn’s vocals have a charming, soothing quality, yet the falsetto just brings out all the strongest emotions.

Of course, how could I forget the master behind the knobs, Brennan Heart? The notes in this track are not too squeaky, thanks to the jittery effect. Every segment, well timed; every transition, well planned.  Kicks, mild yet rich in flavour with a bit of coarseness, as though it were refined by the ups and downs of life.

I’m reviewing this in 2018, with the purest feelings of thanks to this magical duo.

Headhunterz and Sub Zero Project – Our Church

Headhunterz and Sub Zero Project - Our Church

It seems that Heady has been back in the Hard Dance scene for quite a while now. Also been a while since I can honestly think “hoooly” when I listen to the intro to a track. Of course, there’s more than just that: The “kicks”, if I can call it that, are definitely something people might be surprised by.

The beginning was like a call to arms. I felt as though my spirit was marching into an alternate reality. The music video reminded me of what was in Heady’s first comeback song ‘Destiny‘, which had a pretty obvious reference to ‘Outlast‘. Except, this time, the church visuals matches the music perfectly. I know it sounds like I’m complimenting the visuals in the video, but if you can listen to a piece of music and feel as if it paints a picture of something very clearly, you know it’s done well. Also, the “kicks”: I’m not even sure it would be considered a Hardstyle kick. It’s more like a generic Hard Dance kick, with a Hardstyle ring or influence to it. Pumping a hard-hitting sound in it’s own special, muffled way. What a lovely surprise.

The downside for me, would be the Heady-style melody that comes in at around the 2.05 mark of the music video. Some might say that if you can recognise something from an artist, their own little trademark sound or style, then they’ve done a (good) job. However, times change, tastes change, people change, music evolves. I will give the same advice as I have in many blog posts I’ve done in the past: Do not use it as an excuse for non-improvement. I will admit that as a listener, there are things that I want to be kept the same, but I want to be excited by what I’m hearing too. Even a slight, miniscule change will do. I want Heady to give me something that says: “This is Heady, but it’s 2018 Heady.” Not: “Oh, it’s Heady again.” I think a lot of Hardstyle artists are afraid to tip that scale by even just a little bit, which is a shame.

Nightfall ft. MC Sik-Wit-It – Whispers of Twilight

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.

Advanced Dealer and Kutski – Killscreen

Advanced Dealer and Kutski - Killscreen

I’ve always associated the name Kutski with UK or Happy Hardcore and never expected him to produce something slightly darker. Looks like I was wrong. Kutski’s collaboration with Advanced Dealer, titled ‘Killscreen’, is filled with a flurry of effective combos that hit some targets nicely. Although I wouldn’t say the track is completely flawless, I did think it was a decent track.

Let’s start by talking about MIDI sounds. I think MIDI sounds are more likely to be enjoyed by an older crowd that has played games which make those sounds when they were very young, because it evokes nostalgic feelings. I can applaud Advanced Dealer and Kutski for creating original MIDI melodies. However, I can’t help but think that the MIDI melody should make reference to actual games at some point of the track. After all, I was able to feel more joy from listening to a Hardstyle track like ‘Game Over’, which makes a direct and obvious reference to Tetris.

The other element that bothered me in this track was the fact that Advanced Dealer and Kutski decided to distort, repeat or tune a vocal snippet and a siren, then turn it into notes of its melodic segments. The melody was enjoyable, but not when those sounds were repeated in such frequent succession. I think they should have made things less harsh and forceful, because it takes away the fun it started off with. Or, at least make the transition from fun to sinister a bit smoother.

Now that I’m up to the fun part, let’s talk about the positive aspects of this track. Around the one-minute mark, I could instantly identify a Kutski style and the speed added excitement. Apparently, the vocal snippets and sirens actually sound less annoying when the track is sped up. Perhaps it’s because I was more able to identify those sounds as a vocal snippet or siren when it was at a much slower tempo and the brevity of these effects made things forgivable. Or, perhaps I’m just a biased Hardcore lover who finds tracks at a faster tempo more energetic. Who knows?

Do I have any complaints about the kicks? Nope. In fact, I adore how its trails are followed by the Mario-ate-a-mushroom MIDI effects. Around the 3.05 mark, it sounds as if the kicks and MIDI effects have tug-of-war, before exploding into the Hardcore kicks reverted to the initial tempo.

I would look forward to hearing more Kutski collaborations with Traxtorm artists. Alas, I have a feeling that it would be a rarity and that’s what makes this track quite noteworthy.

B-Front and Alpha2 ft. Snowflake – Lost

B-Front and Alpha 2 ft. Snowflake - Lost

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.

Hard Attakk – Nasty Bass

Hard Attakk - Nasty Bass

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!

Deorro – Five Hours

The original mix. The amazing track that formed the solid foundation; the one that started it all. There are so many beautiful aspects about this track and yet, its simplicity allows me to summarise its greatness in one word: Balance. I love the way this track was mastered.

When you first listen to how Deorro builds up the wobbling sounds, you can hear how it could have gone wrong but didn’t. He could have gone louder and deafened us all, he could have just made that the recurring element of the entire track, but no. Deorro morphs it into something light and bouncy, smoothly, as though it were simply a matter of turning¬† a single knob. It’s not too sharp, not too high-pitched, not too ear-piercing, just right.

Once the track goes the usual House tempo, Deorro maintains the steadiness of the melody, keeps the pitch just right, and places a layer of vocal snippets on top of the smooth tune. Unlike certain producers who run out of their creativity juices and end up having the same elements repeated excessively, Deorro knows when to put a pause. A smooth instrumental bassline gets introduced, reminiscent of styles in a Daft Punk era. Although it is occasionally modified to create some sort of dribbly bass effect, it remains at the bottom of the layers of sound; the player in the background; the base. There’s no need for it to overtake any element for listeners to appreciate it. In fact, it fits in so nicely with everything else that without it, the track would lose its grooviness.

The original mix of ‘Five Hours’ is ideal for those who want something they can tap to, nod to, or move their shoulders to. A clear glass of sparkling water amongst muddy pools. Chillax and enjoy the ride.

PS – Here’s why I dislike the Chris Brown version: I find it difficult to imagine one element of this song without the other, which is why I think everything else that gets added to it should achieve the same effect. Otherwise, it just wrecks the preestablished consistency and becomes a distraction. I don’t think Chris Brown’s rap doesn’t blend in well, which is why I hardly consider it as an enhancement or necessity to Deorro’s original composition.

TeddyLoid ft. Vocaloid IA – Shooting Star

It sounds so natural, it scares me, but delights me at the same time. Innovative technology has advanced rapidly enough for new Vocaloids, which are basically electronically generated vocals, to keep appearing in Japan’s E/DM scene. As they keep topping Oricon charts, they have attracted a multitude of talented producers. I thought they would be a passing fad, but when I finally heard an Electro Trance Vocaloid track that doesn’t sound robotic, I was blown away.

In the past, I’ve always thought that the main weakness of Vocaloid is that they sound horribly unnatural. However, I just had to include ‘Shooting Star’ in this blog because, unlike many others, producer TeddyLoid actually bothered to make the Vocaloid sound more natural. I no longer had to force myself to accept the artificiality for the sake of acknowledging a well-composed melody like many others. Instead, I could just listen to it and appreciate every aspect of it, just as I would appreciate any of my favourite tunes.

TeddyLoid knows exactly what makes E/DM and J-Pop fans tick. With typical elements you’d expect to find in any electro trance track, seamlesss transitions and euphoric melodies, it won’t be hard to lose yourself and dance, unless you’re sick of the mainstream stuff. In fact, I woudn’t be surprised to hear similar elements in tracks from other major E/DM labels or pop labels. However, if you don’t mind having a guilty bite from the poison apple every now and then, IA can be your pink lady.

There are English versions of Vocaloids, but they sound a bit more awkward than their Japanese originals, which is probably why they aren’t used by Western producers very often yet. Nevertheless, this track does make me think that a music industry filled with artificial singers, singing in a way that people can swallow more comfortably, is not that far away. Who knows? An English or American company is probably developing another brand of vocal generators right now.