Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Hardcore (electronic dance music genre)

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Hardcore (electronic dance music genre)

Stylistic origins  Techno acid house New Beat EBM industrial
Cultural origins  Late 1980s – early 1990s, Netherlands
Typical instruments  Keyboard synthesizer drum machine sequencer sampler bitcrusher

Hardcore Techno (often abbreviated to hardcore) is a subgenre of electronic dance music that originated in the Netherlands from the emergent raves/gabber in the 1990s. Its subgenres are usually distinguished from other electronic dance music genres by faster tempos (160 to 200 BPM or more), the intensity of the kicks and the synthesized bass (in some subgenres), the rhythm and the atmosphere of the themes (sometimes violent), the usage of saturation and experimentation close to that of industrial dance music.



To understand the emergence of hardcore one has to go back to the 1970s, to find signs of hard electronic dance music within industrial music. Groups such as Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Foetus and Einstürzende Neubauten produced music using a wide range of electronic instruments. The message diffused by industrial was then very provocative. Some of the musical sounds and experimentation of industrial have directly influenced hardcore since the beginning of the movement.


In the mid-1980s, under the influence of the Belgian group Front 242, electronic body music (EBM), a new genre more accessible and more dancing inspired by industrial and new wave, appeared. This style is characterized by minimalism, cold sounds unlike disco, funk or house, with powerful beats, generally combined with aggressive vocals and an aesthetic close to industrial or punk music. When EBM has met new beat, another Belgian genre, and acid house, the music has changed to a harder sound. All the elements were here for the arrival of hardcore.

The term hardcore is not new in the music world. It was first used to designate a more radical movement within punk rock (Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains...) which, in addition to hardening the music, also attached importance to their attitude and their way of life as in the street where it was born: violent, underground, but engaged and sincere. The term has then been reused when hip-hop emerged in the late 1980s, designating the harder part of the hip-hop, with the same characteristics: a harder sound, engaged lyrics and a whole way of life dedicated to the respect of the values shown by rappers like KRS-One or Public Enemy. The term hardcore techno has first been used by EBM groups like à;GRUMH..., Pankow, and Leæther Strip in the late 1980s, although their music had nothing to do with hardcore. à;GRUMH...'s Sucking Energy (Hard Core Mix), released in 1985, was the first track ever to use the term hardcore, within an EDM context. In 1990, the German producer Marc Trauner also known as Mescalinum United is the first to claim to make hardcore techno with his track We Have Arrived, largely considered as a track founding the genre.


In the early 1990s, the terms hardcore and darkcore were also used to designate some primitive forms of breakbeat and drum and bass which were very popular in England and from which have emerged several famous producers like The Prodigy, Lords of Acid and also Goldie. It introduced sped up hip-hop breakbeats, piano breaks, dub and low frequency basslines and cartoon-like noises, which has been retrospectively called 'old skool' hardcore, and is widely regarded as the progenitor of happy hardcore (which later lost the breakbeats) and jungle (which alternatively lost the techno style keyboard stabs and piano breaks).

Around 1993, the style became clearly defined and was simply named hardcore, as it left its influences of the techno of Detroit.

The official birth of the hardcore is supposedly known as the release of the track "We Have Arrived" from the German producer Mescalinum United, from Frankfurt, that has become one of the bastions of the hardcore at its start. Acardipane founded the label Planet Core Productions in 1989 and has produced more than 500 tracks, including 300 by himself till 1996. Another important name of the hardcore scene has started at PCP: Miroslav Pajic, better known as Miro. Among other things, the group PCP has popularized a slow, heavy, minimal and very dark form of hardcore that is now designated as darkcore or doomcore. In the United States, the New York pioneer of techno Lenny Dee launched the label Industrial Strength Records in 1991 that has federated a large part of the American scene, making New York one of the biggest centers of early American hardcore. Other American producers on the label included Delta 9, Laura Grabb, D.O.A. and The Horrorist, but the label has also produced producers from other nationalities like the English Caustic Visions, the Australian Nasenbluten and even few tracks of Marc Acardipane. At the same time in Rotterdam, the DJs and producers Paul Elstak and Rob Fabrie popularized a speedier style, with saturated bass-lines quickly known as gabber (now called early hardcore), and its more commercial and accessible form, the happy hardcore

Paul Elstak founded Rotterdam Records in 1992, which became the first label of hardcore of the Netherlands. In 1992 at Utrecht, a giant rave called The Final Exam has led to the creation of the label ID&T which launched in 1993 the concept of Thunderdome which quickly popularized hardcore music in Europe with a list of compilations and events attracting thousands of young people, then launching the gabber movement. Just during the single year 1993, four compilations were released with increasing success. Lots of artists on those compilations have then become famous stars like 3 Steps Ahead, DJ Buzz Fuzz, The Dreamteam, Neophyte, Omar Santana, and Charly Lownoise and Mental Theo in the gabber/happy hardcore registry. The same year, the label Mokum Records is created by Freddy B which has had success thanks to artists and groups like Technohead Tellurian, The Speedfreak, Scott Brown, and the Belgian musician Liza N'Eliaz pioneer of the speedcore.

In England, the members of the sound system Spiral Tribe, including Stormcore, 69db, Crystal Distortion and Curley have hardened their acid-breakbeat sound, becoming the pioneers of the tribe, acidcore and hardtechno genres. In 1994, they founded the label Network 23 which among others has produced Somatic Responses, Caustic Visions, Unit Moebius, establishing the basis for the musical and visual bases of the free party hardcore. At the same time, another scene grew around the DJ The Producer, Traffik, Bryan Fury and Hellfish (Deathchant, 1994).

In France, the pioneers of hardcore include: Laurent Hô, DJ Charly & DJ Davyd, DJ Kirin, DJ La Carotte, Atomic Compressor, King Smoke, The Killer Clowns, LKJ, PatCash (with their label Gangstar Toons Industry, 1994), DJ Olive, Manu le Malin, Psy4X Soundsystem with Tieum and DJ Tof, then Dr. Macabre. They have quickly been followed by SpeedyQ's, Armaguet Nad, La Peste (founder of Hangars Liquides, a speedcore label), Sarin Assault, XMF in which works The Hacker. Manu le Malin has given a great visibility to the genre in France, having regularly appeared in TV shows. From the beginning, the French hardcore is distinct by its harder and darker industrial and acid sounds, which are very different from the sound of the Netherlands except G.T.I. (Gangstar Toons Industry) that is closer to the sound of the Netherlands and England. As the free party movement was growing in the country, other producers and sound systems have become famous: the Teknokrates, Heretik System, including the members Popof, Beuns, KRS and Nout have produced a large number of hardtechno, hardcore and speedcore tracks. Micropoint, composed by Radium and Al Core, which exists since middle 1990s has had a great success with their album Neurophonie in 1998. This album is often considered as the start of the subgenre frenchcore, leading to a huge attraction for the hardcore in France, matching with a high media appearance of the free party phenomenon.

In the late 1990s, hardcore progressively changed. The early hardcore progressively died, leaving the place to other more accessible styles like mákina and hardstyle.


Under the influence of hardstyle and the industrial hardcore new scene featuring DJ Promo and its label The Third Movement and producers like Ophidian and Mindustries, the mainstream hardcore has appeared in the early 2000s with a modern, mature, slow(er) and sophisticated form, which has quickly had success in Europe, especially in Netherlands and Italy, among producers and groups like Endymion, Kasparov, Art of Fighters, The Stunned Guys and DJ Mad Dog. Happy hardcore continues its movement underground and has evolved bringing out other related genres such as eurobeat, UK hardcore, Freeform hardcore and Full-on Hardcore.

The list of compilations Biomechanik mixed by Manu le Malin has given a great visibility to darkcore, which has created a keen interest early 2000s: labels like Enzyme Records, Crossbones and Bloc 46 have produced artists from this genre, like Ruffneck, Fifth Era and The Outside Agency.

As the free party movement has an increasing success in all the Europe, freetekno has appeared: there are numerous producers and labels for the tribe, the hardtechno and the frenchcore: Epileptik, Audiogenic, Les Enfants Sages, Tekita, Breakteam, Mackitek, B2K and Narkotek.

Production techniques

Hardcore is usually composed using music sequencers, and many earlier tracks were produced on home computers with module tracker software. Some examples of the software used are FL Studio, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic, Nuendo and Reason. The wide availability of computers, combined with the absence of financial remuneration, means that many hardcore musicians write for their own enjoyment and the pleasure of innovation.


Hardcore spawned several subgenres and derivative styles, including:

  • Bouncy techno: Happy hardcore and/or UK hardcore with some influence of Gabber, notably it's beats and bass.
  • Mákina: Fast electronic dance music from Spain, fairly similar to UK hardcore it includes elements of bouncy techno and hardtrance.
  • Breakbeat hardcore a.k.a Oldskool rave hardcore: A genre using influences from oldschool jungle, acid house, and acid techno having more of a shuffled drum machine pattern using breakbeats which florished raves from 1992-1996.
  • Hardcore breaks (a.k.a. nu rave): A genre written in the style of breakbeat hardcore and produced using modern technology and production techniques.
  • Darkcore (not to be confused with darkcore jungle) or doomcore: Broad categorical description characterized by elements of breakbeat, hardcore, and dark musical themes. Emerged in response to the happy party sound of UK hardcore.
  • Digital hardcore: Hardcore punk/hardcore techno fusion. Closely related to hardcore punk music.
  • Frenchcore (undergenres: Tekno<not to be confused with "Techno">, Tribalcore both often promoted as entirely free dance music): Originated in the French rave scene of the early 1990s. Involves the re-creation of a distorted bass drum sound with a synthesizer. It is also considered a type of free tekno. Frenchcore achieved wider recognition in 1998 with the release of Micropoint's first album Neurophonie.
  • Gabber
  • Early hardcore: Popular in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Australia, Italy, Belgium and Scotland, characterized by a heavy bass drum sound, usually distorted, and generally 150–180 bpm.
  • Mainstream hardcore a.k.a. new style: Modern form of gabber, often melodic, with more complex sounds. Generally 150-165 bpm.
  • Speedcore (not to be confused with thrashcore or speed metal): Subgenre of gabber, distinguished by very fast tempos (300 bpm to 500–600 bpm), infused with heavily distorted percussion and aggressive themes.
  • Splittercore: Microgenre of speedcore, usually 700–800 bpm.
  • Extratone: Applied when the tempo exceeds 1000 bpm; the individual beats can no longer be distinguished and are perceived as audio tones.
  • Terror: a.k.a. Terrorcore, Terreur (Dutch) Faster, darker form of gabber with highly aggressive themes, often noisy tones and unusual beat rhythms.
  • Happy hardcore: Form of dance music known for its high tempos and four on the floor beats, usually around 165–180 bpm, often coupled with male or female vocals and sentimental lyrics. Popular in the UK, Germany, Australia and Spain, amongst other countries.
  • UK hardcore: Modern adaptation of happy hardcore, distinguishable from its predecessor by a style that is less "happy" and features harsher sounds such as saw leadlines.
  • Powerstomp: Subgenre of UK hardcore with strong influence of bouncy techno notable to it's bouncy hard four on the floor beats and relentless bass (Similar to Mákina)
  • Freeform hardcore: Subgenre of happy hardcore and/or UK hardcore with strong influence of trance (Hard trance in particular), mainly instrumental. (Example: Blood, Sweat & Tears - Little Fella)
  • Psycore
  • Full-on hardcore: a.k.a. Full-on Psycore. A fusion of full-on psychedelic trance and happy hardcore, it's known to be energetic and melodic/uplifting in nature using faster tempos. (Example: Ardor - Vyral XIII)
  • Dark Psycore: a.k.a Dark Psy hardcore - A fusion of dark psychedelic trance and hardcore having a darker, faster and more distorted form with tempo ranges (usually from 145 to 180 bpm) (Example: Kobold Instinct - Unknown Lifeforms)
  • Industrial hardcore: Industrial hardcore or simply industrial; is derived from a combination of techno and hardcore. It is a characteristic genre because of the cold and dark sound character. Especially in the transition from early-to millenium hardcore, Industrial has played an important role. Because the hardcore was at his commercial peak more producers began experimenting with hardcore. Especially DJ Promo played an important role in this. There are now regular hardcore events with a separate industrial hardcore stage. Producers include: Armageddon Project, Unexist, Catscan, Ophidian, Micron, Noize Suppressor.
  • Defqon.1 Festival
  • Masters of Hardcore
  • Sensation Black
  • Thunderdome
  • (French) Dominator Festival
  • References

    Hardcore (electronic dance music genre) Wikipedia