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Hardcore Techno

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Hardcore Techno, also referred to as "Hard Dance", is an umbrella term used to describe the Darker and Edgier variants of Techno, although some people argue that it has evolved into a separate, less specific genre of its own. It is mostly distinguishable from its parent genre by a faster tempo, very powerful bass, and a preference for abrasive samples and beats. The genre was inspired by the sinister and slow New Beat that was made in Belgium by Praga Khan and others. The genre originated from Western European countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the UK, but it also spawned a small but extremely fierce scene in Japan. Hardcore techno had its heyday in the mid to late nineties when the more commercial Lighter and Softer Happy Hardcore sound spread to popularity.

Like with many other genres of Electronic Music, there's many different kinds of subgenres and artists (with numerous aliases).


  • Old school gabber (also gabba)
    • This genre is credited as the one that gave birth to the hardcore techno genre, and subsequent styles of hard dance music draw inspiration from it. It is believed to have originated in Detroit (the birthplace of techno music in general) from acid house and tech house, but it rooted itself in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where it became popular on account of being perceived as an affront to the Amsterdam scene which was perceived to be snobby and pretentious. As a result, its sound used to be a pretty simple and straightforward, with the sole goal of making you go crazy without even having to take any drugs. The "gabber" moniker is believed to have originated from an interview with Amsterdam DJ K.C. the Funkaholic, where he was asked how did he felt about the Rotterdam scene; his answer was "Oh, they're just a bunch of gabbers having fun" ("gabber" being an Amsterdam slang word that can be more or less translated as "dude" or "mate"). Eventually, its harder sound and its simplicity ended up dominating the early Dutch techno scene, and by 1995 it started mutating into its mainstream, commercialized variant known as "happy hardcore". Example: Bertocucci Feranzano - XTC Love.

  • Nu-style gabber (aka Mainstream hardcore)
    • After the rise, dominance and fall of early gabber in the late 90s to hardstyle and trance techno, the gabber scene returned to the underground, where it basically tried to distance itself as hard as possible from the old days of happy hardcore and gained a more distorted, pounding bass drum driven rhythm, more elaborate productions, often samples from American rap and hip-hop, and actually comprehensible lyrics usually about drugs, street fights, police violence, and many swearwords. The most recent Dutch productions as of 2016 start to show influence from the more melodic Japanese style, which gained a die-hard following on the internet since around 2010. Western techno fans simply call it "hardcore" — the "gabber" moniker is nowadays more common among fans of Japanese techno. Example: DJ Paul Elstak - One day we kill em all (nu-style) NeLIME - Codename: Zero (nu-style but with old-style Indecipherable Lyrics)

  • Speedcore
    • Hardcore on steroids. Speed is the main emphasis for this subgenre, with a tempo going 300 BPM at the lower end, and even as high as 1000 BPM. The bass drum can become so fast that it becomes a tone, and unless it's Japanese there are typically very few melodic or even musical elements. Example: Moby - 1000.

  • Crossbreed
    • A genre that can be best described as gabber with dubstep and drum & bass influences. Usually noisier, slower and with a much greater emphasis on distorted basses, giving the music a synthetic, industrial feel. Example: this hour-and-a-quarter long crossbreed mix.

  • Frenchcore

  • Happy Hardcore
    • The Lighter and Softer form. Still very fast, but the bass drum is less pounding, the music is notably more "happy" sounding (achieved through the use of major keys), occasional use of piano, and high pitched vocals that frequently sound like they have been inhaling helium, with lyrics about subjects such as love, partying or the love of partying. Example: Blümchen - Boomerang.

  • Mákina

  • Freeform/UK Hardcore
    • Evolved from Happy Hardcore. It is a bit less childish and sappy, uses supersaw synths more, and often features heavier basslines. UK hardcore artists often make many remixes of pop songs. Nightcore, a great majority of j-core and modern happy hardcore are derivatives of this style. Example: S3RL - Dopamine

  • Powerstomp
    • A more recent derivative of UK hardcore with a greater emphasis on rhythm and groove. It has a recognizable "stomping" pattern of deep kicks and fully resonant offbeat bass, uses less "happy" melodies, and often features rapped vocals. Example: M-Project ft. Jonjo - Pure Powerstomper

  • Darkcore/Terrorcore
    • Darker and Edgier hardcore, basically. Faster (200+ BPM), more low pitched sounds, and less melody.

  • Noisecore/Industrial Hardcore
    • Hardcore fused with noise and industrial music. Bass drum driven rhythm is still there, but there are few melodic elements, and harsh samples are frequent.

  • Digital Hardcore

  • Hardstyle
    • One of the biggest genres, if not the biggest subgenre of hard dance music, hardstyle is similar to and developed alongside gabber in the '90s and early 2000s. It has its origins in the Dutch and Italian hard dance scenes with the term originally applying to various mid-tempo dance music styles with downpitched kicks and faded or reversed basslines. A characteristic of virtually all hardstyle is its drop-buildup-drop structure, use of screeching "hoover" synths and a big, booming sound that incorporates sidechaining and reverb effects that emphasize the sound of the kick drum. The evolution of hardstyle has resulted in a number of microgenres emerging throughout the years.
      • Early hardstyle arose from the 90s hard dance scene and features bass-boosted kicks, sparse instrumentation, and gabber-esque sampled lyrics. This would continue to evolve into the mid-2000s, thanks to the advancement of computer technology and DAW software allowing for more complex yet still "classic" sounds. Example: Brain Ovulation - Kick & Bass (Acid Step Mix)
      • Nu-style/Jumpstyle arose in the late 2000s as early hardstyle began to wane in popularity, and new sounds that were conducive to Dutch hakken dancing began to be phased in. It is faster than early hardstyle (at 150 BPM) and is more polished in its production, with the now-distinctive layered kicks (colloquially called "toks") being a defining feature of the sound. Furthermore, compositions became more complex, with a greater number of samples, harsher screeches, cleaner melodies and some songs written in Uncommon Time. Examples: Hyperdrive - Brain Confusion, Headhunterz - Power of the Mind

    • The hardstyle sound continued to evolve, and eventually seep into the mainstream, in the early 2010s, spawning even more subgenres.

      • Euphoric hardstyle is defined by a focus on musicality, with less harsh kicks and flowing melodies that evoke a livelier and more soulful mood while still sounding "hard". Vocal tracks are fairly common. Example: Max Enforcer - Lost in Paradise
      • Raw hardstyle focus on the "hard" aspect of the style, and features more abrasive sounds with harsh hoover screeches and loud, punchy kicks. An interesting development in rawstyle is the "kickroll" - a drum fill made by creatively varying the pitch, rhythm, and tempo of the kick drum that is often used to spice up the hard drops. Example: Unresolved & Jason Payne - Nuclear
      • Reverse-bass hardstyle ditches the now-typical punchy toks in favor of deep, bassy kicks and faded/reversed basslines to create a steady, booming sound reminiscent of early hardstyle tracks. Occasionally, gated kicks will be used to create a darker and more "underground" feel. Examples: Audiofreq - Warcry, DJ Isaac - Party People
      • There are other "fusion" subgenres of hardstyle, such as psystyle/hardpsy (fused with psychedelic trance), tekstyle (fused with techno and industrial), and dubstyle (fused with dubstep)

  • Subground
    • Similar to hardstyle and gabber, but significantly slower (around 120-140BPM, the same tempo range as techno), with a greater focus on minimalism and sub-bass frequencies. Few melodic elements are present, and the kicks are less harsh and more bouncy overall. Often considered as a fusion between hardstyle, gabber, and Electro House. The genre was pioneered by Italian DJ Manuel Tessarollo, better known for his subground aliases ACTI and T78. Example: ACTI - The Sound of QULT

  • Breakcore
    • Hardcore that changes beat every 2-4 seconds and every now and then introduces random beats, giving the sense of a jumbled yet coherent chaos. Usually takes rhythms from other genres, especially drum and bass. Example: BOB the Builder - Words

  • Schranz / Hardtek / Hardtechno
    • A primarily German subgenre of hardcore with a huge emphasis on rhythm, usually with a fast and galloping beat, booming sub-bass, repetitive drum loops, and the use of compression to create a raw, lo-fi sound. Melodies are used sparingly, though some producers incorporate trance-like breaks and arpeggiated synths to add variety and flow to their tracks. As the name suggests, the genre is considered to be a Darker and Edgier variant of modern techno and thus takes more direct influence from it than other recent hard dance subgenres. Example: this live session from Fernanda Martins.

  • Hard NRG
    • Hardcore with a heavy Hi-NRG influence. Recognizable for its emphasis on very fast, flowing supersaw melodies, harmonized synths, and layered production. Tempo can range from 160-180 BPM.

  • J-core
    • Japanese hardcore techno, usually with a greater emphasis on melody. Its birth is credited to DJ Sharpnel in his album Sharpnel vs. Project Gabbangelion, often thought to be the first one to mix anime samples together with mid-90's Rotterdam hardcore techno (although it wasn't his first release, some albums such as Early Style Of Otakuspeedvibe 1996→1998 predate it). Still a very much niche scene dominated by doujin circles who sell their stuff at Comiket, or indies composers who make music for rhythm games. Japanese works tend to be much more melodic than their Western counterparts, often feature sound samples from anime, and are more aimed at listening rather than dancing. J-core has also influenced some foreign artists whose works can be perfectly classified as j-core despite not being Japanese, like British producer JAKAZiD, Ukrainian ensemble Reizoko CJ and Argentinian producer Shingo DJ/Round Wave Crusher, and some recent Dutch hardcore productions have begun incorporating an influence of Japanese techno. Examples: xi - Freedom Dive (happy hardcore) moro - ppppyyy (UK hardcore), RedOgre - Zelkova (speedcore), moro - A one of mathafucker (gabber), moro - akatsuki (hardstyle), siromaru + cranky - conflict (schranz), LeaF - Calamity Fortune (happy hardcore/makina)

  • Touhou j-core

  • Denpa / Akiba-pop
    • A cross between J-core, happy hardcore, and anime music that began in the 1990s and exploded into notoriety in the 2000s and 2010s. It features breakneck tempos bordering on speedcore, major-key melodies, abrupt changes to song progression, and cutesy female vocals about surreal, humorous, or nonsensical topics that are often laced with references to Moe culture and issues relating to social isolation and mental health. Like its parent genre, it has a loyal fanbase consisting of Comiket enthusiasts and Rhythm Game players, and has influenced mainstream anisong and idol music beginning in the 2010s.

  • Hardbass
    • A Russian breed of hardcore techno that appeared in the late 90's, drawing inspiration from hardstyle, UK hardcore, and hard house. It has a highly characteristic "donk" bass tone that is used as part of the melody, often features rapping lyrics, and its accompanying dance style ditches Dutch hakken moves in favor of That Russian Squat Dance. The best known act is XS Project. It has been appropriated as part of the recently developed Eastern European gopnik subculture.

  • Funkot
    • A primarily Indonesian style of hardcore techno that emerged in the 2000s. Funkot is characterized by very high tempos (usually 180-220 BPM), its triplet bass kick pattern, use of cowbell, and heavy usage of the Amen Break. Sampling is very frequent, with vocal slices taken from anime, Western rap songs, or early hardcore tracks. It is somewhat related to the Japanese denpa style and is often played alongside it during live sets.

Notable Artists