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.

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Nightfall – Distorted Reality

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!

Requiem – The Consequence

This electrifying release has remained at the back of my mind after just one play on the 22nd of May. Like a ghost, it haunted me for days, and today, I finally get the chance to sit in front of the computer, play it one more time and describe how much I love it. Including this track, Requiem has had about five releases on Fusion Records. Considering how he has the ability to leap forward to such a monstrous standard of innovation in a short span of time, he certainly deserves a lot of attention in the Hardstyle scene. In fact, ‘The Consequence’ was played on episode 26 of Digital Punk’s radio show ‘Unleashed’ (thanks for the info Midshifter, a.k.a. 1/2 of Fanatics). For some reason the artist was listed as ‘ID’ in Digital Punk’s track list. How odd. Anyway, let’s get back to the topic in the next paragraph.

The main attraction the entire piece lies in the multiple kick variations contained in one track. The introductory kick is deep, punchy, not too sharp and produced in a masterfully sophisticated way, as though the subtlety is intentionally foreshadowing the emergence of more intense effects. The second type of kick drum, which is lighter and acts as more of a supporting role, is so fresh and addictive that it blew my mind away. Provided that most people tend to think that everything raw has to hit things aggressively all the time, I don’t think a lot of Hardstyle artists would even dare to include something soft like this, so this is a pretty daring move. Fortunately, as a result, Requiem managed to create a pleasant contrast and highlight well-mixed elements that accompany the kick drum. Throughout this piece, you will able to hear the more eerie effects, such as the piano notes and choir chants, very clearly. The third variation of the kick comes through in the chorus, with a more melodic twang. For a prolonged period of time, twangy kicks would sound a bit annoying, but Requiem withdrew this effect in a smooth transition with excellent timing so that the track wouldn’t fall into staleness. I’m also going to put a spotlight on how Requiem included some subtle bass notes to accompany every note of the main melody, which really helps to makes this track more addictive than it already is. I love these added bits of bass to pieces because the vibration that I feel through my headphones is very comforting to a Hardstyle fan like me.

Now, allow me to make a comment on something that’s not included in the brief, uploaded previews of this track. In the full version, there is a fair amount of speeches delivered in a hasty manner by a female voice, which probably should have been slowed and scattered in more segments. I wouldn’t want the snippets to be excluded from this dark track completely, because I certainly love the way it adds to the suspense and has hints of sorrowful regret. However, the speech just flies past far too quickly without leaving time for me to mull over things and immerse myself in its embedded storyline. Of course, it might be just my personal preference. I do know that there are people out there who hate these narrative segments, but I think there should have been a way for Requiem to balance it out a bit more. It would be great if Fusion could release both an original and instrumental edit, like what they did for Donkey Rollers’ ‘Dream Machine‘. That way we could have the best of both worlds.

Requiem’s ‘The Consequence’ will be released as part of the ‘Rebellion’ EP on the 21st of May.

PS – Check out how cute Requiem’s promotional Facebook post about his track was. :P

Jack of Sound - 911

Jack of Sound – 911

Published on Beatsmedia 23/4/2015: http://beatsmedia.com/jack-of-sound-911/

There are a good handful of artists at Fusion Records who enjoy incorporating sound bites you’d expect to hear from horror movies into their tracks to help set the mood. One of them goes by the alias of Jack of Sound, and he often incorporates music-box like melodies into his tracks before promptly twisting and manipulating them, which could possibly be a technique used to reflect a sense of lost innocence and disrupted peace.

Jack of Sound’s latest release is titled “911.” In my opinion, contrary to the first impression I got from the title, this piece seems to represent fear more accurately than the sense of urgency. There is a lengthy segment of sound clips in this piece detailing the scenario of a woman being threatened by a murderer, though it seems to be lengthier than usual and doesn’t really seem to flow very well. There’s also a segment toward the end where the track is unnecessarily sped up. On the other hand, however, the kick used in this piece is amazing. It sounds slightly distant and empty, so when it’s accompanied by the cries of despair, it almost sounds as if all hope for rescue is gone.

If I go by the assumption that Jack of Sound was attempting to create a sense of urgency with this piece, I would say this track hasn’t pushed enough of the right buttons. However, if I interpret the track as a commentary on the ineffectiveness of the defence force in horror movies, this track does hit the spot to some extent. What do you think?

“911” will be released on May 4th, 2015 on Fusion Records.

D-Block & S-te-fan and Rebourne - Louder

D-Block and S-te-fan, and Rebourne – Louder

If you’ve been listening to Hardstyle for a while, you’ll know that D-Block and S-te-fan have been around for quite some time. Their recent releases are alright, but their latest collaboration with Rebourne on Fusion Records really captured my attention. These producers have made some pretty nice melodies, even though I typically associate their style with roughness. For me, it’s an unexpected combination and the result is just as surprising.

The producers have really excelled in melding both of their styles and strengths together. Once the track starts, it flows so well that you’ll feel as if you don’t want it to end. Both the vocalist and the melody share the spotlight, complementing each other from start to finish despite their differences. Everything is so solid and steady that none of these melodic elements are fighting for attention. The track never fails to build suspense after each breakdown and the part with the kicks just keep you going. The producers manage to maintain momentum with simplicity rather than over-dramatization.

Despite slight grammatical errors in lines like “you can’t turn this energy aside”, the lyrics describe my feelings for this track quite well. No Hardstyle fan can resist dancing to this. Enjoy the continuous waves of empowerment!

Louder will be released via Fusion Records on 23/2/2015

The Pitcher - Shock and Awe Anthem

The Pitcher – Shock and Awe Anthem

I’ve been waiting for the Pitcher to announce more details about his new releases ever since I heard the preview of his collaboration with Jack of Sound titled ‘Dystopia‘, so I got really excited when I heard he was releasing an album. Judging by how Titan and Thyron released their albums not long ago, Fusion Records seems to be on a roll with their album releases. Although I personally feel that the use of the hashtag #RealHardstyle is a bit of an odd choice since not a lot of people like debating about what’s considered ‘real hardstyle’, I do find the parental warning at the beginning of the video quite amusing. Maybe they’re beginning to think about all the young producers out there.

Before I get into the details of what I think about the track, it’s important for me to talk about the older tracks for you to understand why I think The Pitcher is amazing. ‘I Just Can’t Stop‘, ‘We Got The Summer‘ and ‘Who I Wanna Be‘ all have very uplifting melodies. Then, if you listen to ‘Another Day In My Life‘, ‘The Candyman‘ and now, ‘Shock and Awe Anthem’, you’ll notice how the kicks become tougher each time. Every time I listen to a new track from The Pitcher, I can hear him getting better and better at what he does. Now, here’s the thing: I never thought any of the tracks I’ve listed in this paragraph were flawed. The Pitcher goes above and beyond in ways I can never even think of and I don’t know how he does it!

The balance between instrumental and digital elements really helps to sustain engagement. For instance, I think the melody that comes after the drums at the beginning of the preview are modified violin sounds. Or maybe, it’s just something that sounds a bit like the violin. Regardless, I can say with certainty that the screech is impactful, yet subtle enough to make classic elegance shine through. Considering the nature of Hardstyle and the rawness of the kick, that is an impressive result.

In this track, the lyrics aren’t audible, which is creepy and unexpected if you compare it to The Pitcher’s previous creations. According to V Sauce, things are creepy to us because they resemble what we know in real life, but are slightly off. Since the vocal edit in The Pitcher’s track sounds like someone who is speaking in a language that cannot be understood, it creates an eerie feeling. This is not a new technique. After all, Frontliner turned the lyrical components of ‘Lose The Style‘ into vocal stutters so that you can only hear pronunciations instead of words. However, we all know language doesn’t sound like the vocal stutters in ‘Lose The Style’. I think that’s one of many reasons why ‘Lose The Style’ and ‘Shock and Awe Anthem’ create completely different experiences.

The melodic screeches that come in shortly after the breakdown and the piano solo offer another surprising combination. On the surface, it might sound like any typical Hardstyle screech. However, if you listen closely, there’s a ‘wow-wow’ layer to the sound that gives the melody a shaky effect. It gives the track so much life!

Judging by the title, The Pitcher probably intended to have the track be linked to a theme of military dominance. I feel as if this track is meant to be the song played after all the unnecessary bloodshed of war creates sadness for all and should be called something beautiful like ‘Widow’s Fall’. Either way, regardless of the title, I would definitely consider this one of The Pitcher’s best tracks. It’s a statement on how far he has come as a producer over the years and it will definitely give people a sense of shock and awe.

Donkey Rollers - Dream Machine (Official Dream Village 2014 Anthem)

Donkey Rollers – Dream Machine (Official Dream Village 2014 Anthem)

The Donkey Rollers are the best of the best when it comes to developing raw and devilish styles. With two experienced producers and one fierce MC, this incredibly powerful tune is something that should not be taken by the faint-hearted. The kicks and screeches are rich, yet seem to have a hint of softness that’s well-balanced with the sharper effects. It’s this softness that doesn’t make the track overly annoying or ear-piercing, keeping things well under control. It’s just like having a fizzy drink that fires up your senses as it travels into your body, rather than corrosive or acidic liquid. As such, it delivers a pleasurable listening experience. The addictive, descending chords are simply to die for, especially when operatic chants are incorporated.

There are some great lyrics in this piece, such as “welcome to my nightmare, a dream within a dream”. It is an absolutely haunting line that implies how the dream machine produces dreams that one cannot escape from. However, I am slightly confused by the contradictions in the lyrics. Aside from the prompts to “wake up” when it’s called “dream machine”, there’s also the line: “A prisoner inside the gold breeze of whispers”. I’m not really sure as to how someone could be trapped in air. Nonetheless, due to the superior kicks and melody, these contradictions can easily be overlooked and forgiven. Everyone at Dream Village 2014 will go insane when they hear this live, because this is definitely one of the best anthems of all time.

Thyron - The Return (Total Blackout Anthem 2014)

Thyron – The Return (Total Blackout 2014 Anthem) | Holiday Review Series: Post 8

Thyron is 16, which means he’s one of the youngest producers to join the Fusion Records team. To think that he managed to compose a theme for an anthem at such a young age, and did it so perfectly.

The kicks from the beginning just come in straight on and flat out at first, which makes it a real attention-grabbing heart-stopper. Then, the more rounded version of what one would expect to hear from a Hardstyle kick comes in. It keeps pinches of dryness at the end to preserve the roughness from the beginning and make a smooth transition.

During the first breakdown, that tinkling melody becomes instantly enchanting and memorable in four notes. Four notes was all it took to incorporate mystery, nostalgia for lost innocence, and sinister darkness. Yet, the variations don’t stop there. In fact, one can expect to hear a different layer or arrangement after every five seconds or so. Thyron just delivers variation after variation, layer after layer, to showcase that wildly fearless and creative mind of his.

If you are a fan of the boom-boom-clap moments from ‘We Will Rock You‘, this track has managed to incorporate that too, with operatic chants. It’s quite surprising and original, because variations in tempo, or a tempo that moves downwards in BPM, are hard to come by in Hardstyle tracks. In fact, it makes me think that this snippet should be as iconic as Frontliner and Max Enforcer’s arm-raising monotone snippet in ‘On The Go‘. Thyron’s track even incorporates the old-school melodic style of Hardstyle octave notes throughout the track, achieving a perfect balance between contemporary and old-school Hardstyle production methods.

‘The Return’ was released on 31/03/2014 through Fusion Records. Are you looking forward to see more from this young producer with talent beyond his years?

Rebourne - Divider

Rebourne – Divider

Published on Beatsmedia 04/02/2014:
http://beatsmedia.com/review-rebourne-divider-exclusive-review/

‘Divider’ might not be the usual Hardstyler’s cup of tea, but in terms of innovation, Rebourne may be up to something pretty sweet.

When the kick is muffled and accompanied by airy, scattered sounds to the Hardstyle tempo, it already sounds as if Rebourne was inspired by the sounds of Big-Room or Electro House. This is evident in the way the bass seems to drag itself every time. In fact, Rebourne even intentionally matched techniques associated with Big-Room or Electro House at around 2.50 of the video as an explicit reference. Although the compressed kicks seem pale and dim in comparison to Fusion’s usual releases, it actually works really well when Rebourne slows things down and modifies percussion to the Moombahton style.

Personally, I think this release is quite difficult to rate. This is because, whenever an artist tries something new, I would prefer the artist to ease his or her listeners into the new style slowly and gracefully, rather than try and do too many things in one track, at one go. Yet, including this many genre influences into one track, to the extent where it becomes difficult to classify, greatly demonstrates Rebourne’s flexibility and creativity as a master of melodies in the Hardstyle scene. One should also note that a genre called Hardstyle Electro is slowly seeping into the world of what some people would call “commercial” E/DM as Hardstyle evolves to expand its fan base.

Thus, I’m going to a unique category in my rating considerations to adequately express my views on this release in numbers – Conformity, which is the extent to which the track conforms to a style that the artist usually produces in, or the style an artist is expected to produce. The lower the score, the more the track veers into the territory of risk. However, the creativity category will then offset the loss to commend the artist for taking risks in production.

Rebourne’s ‘Divider’ is expected to be released through Fusion Records on the 24th of February.

The Pitcher - The Candyman

The Pitcher – Candyman (edit)

Published on Beatsmedia 29/12/2013:
http://beatsmedia.com/review-the-pitcher-the-candyman-edit/

In the month of December, while everyone’s enjoying their Christmas candy canes, The Pitcher reminds his listeners of a terrifying character – ‘The Candyman’.

After clicking the play button, a deep narrators’ voice declares the return of the Candyman. Perhaps this is a direct reference to a horror film with the same title. The good thing about the narration is that such low-pitched narration voices never fail to excite in scary storytelling scenes. However, The Pitcher didn’t choose to provide more scenic or dramatic details through narration, which was not what I expected.

Allow me to give you some examples of what I would expect in a narrated piece. In Fusion’s 2014 release ‘Children Of The Night’ (to be released in January 2014), the narrator actually acknowledges the childrens’ voices after they are heard.

In the Defqon.1 2012 ‘World of Madness’ compilation, Coone’s release ‘Chapter 20.12’ uses a similar technique in reverse, where the effects would come almost immediately after they are narrated. It actually sounds as if the narrator is creating a new world.

The narration in The Pitcher’s release merely states the return of the Candyman, rather than try to create or recreate a scene of what the return means or how the Candyman returns through environmental sound effects. This causes the storytelling element of ‘The Candyman’ to lack some magic.

However, the necessity to recreate a scene in a good Hardstyle track can be debatable. For instance, ‘World of Madness’ by Wildstylez, Headhunterz and Noisecontrollers uses the narration to remind Hardstyle lovers about the excitement of attending Defqon.1. ‘World Of Madness’ sounds awesome regardless of the fact that the sound effects don’t respond or change according to what is narrated. In fact, it is the easily understood or relatable narration that makes it brilliant for Hardstyle lovers.

Thus, the narration for ‘The Candyman’ could have been either be more detailed like ‘Children Of The Night’ and ‘Chapter 20.12’, or easily relatable and imaginable like ‘World Of Madness’. The overall rating given to ‘The Candyman’ in this review would have increased if these aspects were incorporated into narration

Nonetheless, aside from the aforementioned slip, ‘The Candyman’ still manages to prance and recreate a wonderfully scary atmosphere for people to do some freaky dance moves. The sinister minor key melody that’s briefly and subtly used in the intro makes a wonderful tune for a creepy music box. Another melodic variation included in the release, which can also be considered a bridge, is quite punchy in its wow-wow style and great to bounce to with that pow-pow kick. Pow-wow-wow!

Be prepared to welcome ‘The Candyman’ when it’s added to Fusion Records’s list of releases! Its release date has yet to be announced!

Narration 7/10

Melody 8/10

Kicks 8/10

Creativity 7/10

Overall rating 7.5/10