Audiofreq has always been an artist not to be pigeonholed, but never has this been more abundantly clear than in the last 12 months, with a plethora of styles on display. One direction that seems have been explored more frequently, however, is high BPM hardcore. 'Ascension' is a four-track EP dedicated to this sound. My pick of the bunch is the title track, which can be summed up in short as the thinking person's hardcore track. Depth and range are provided on the production front, with a variety of kicks from traditional hardcore, to ‘zap’ laser kicks, Frenchcore kick and bass, and beyond. The main breakdown offers a catchy melody, followed by a pitched section more traditionally found in hardstyle. Audiofreq writes some of the most intriguing music in the hard scene, and when the tunes are this dancefloor friendly too, there is no denying he is one of the best in the scene — whichever scene that is.
DJ Mad Dog
Italy’s hardcore superstar returns with another impeccably produced dancefloor destroyer. The track has an awesome progressive build from the start, with an underwhelming '90s dance kick that rolls up, before dropping to an insanely powerful, distorted thumper. The main breakdown delivers a spoken vocal sample, which switches up to an East Asian vibe before dropping back to the wild kick drums. A melody is absent from this one, making it a refreshing dancefloor track.
One of the things I’m always looking for as a DJ and fan of hard music in general is fresh sounds. Whether that’s something old with a new twist, something extreme or something experimental, I just enjoy hearing the current trends being flipped. Royal S is one of the more compelling artists in the scene: put bluntly, his sound is the evolution of the jumpstyle genre. 'Ecstasy', part of a four-track EP, is more in line with ‘Frenchtek’ (ugh, genre names I know), with its quirky broken groove and distorted loops. This sound was never huge in the UK, but I enjoyed the exposure I had to it back in the day, so this jumped out at me as a fun, dancefloor-friendly track.
Dimatik & Krunk
'Elevare (Suae x Technikal Remix)'
Please excuse my ignorance at not being familiar with the original version of this track, but let's take a look at this remix on its own merit. One-hundred-and-fifty BPM hardstyle with all the modern finishings, this was instantly in my club playlist. I received two versions, with different mid intro sections I can’t choose between. One offers a high energy kick and bass section, the other a very 2020, modern gated zap kick. Both are killer, my only complaint would be I would love a version that incorporates both sections earlier on in the track. The main break offers a dreamy melody followed by a more traditional pitched kick. Simply put, this is a great hardstyle track. I love it.
'FM (Feeling Me) (Shugz & David Rust Remix) '
This could, and maybe should, be covered on the trance page instead, but with the original release being such a big hit in the hard scene back in the day, I wanted to bring this to your attention. I guess this remix is best categorised as tech trance, but this sound in my opinion is hard trance in 2020. With 140BPM of tough tech beats on the drops and the iconic melody and vocal kept intact during the breakdown, this will make a great dancefloor nostalgia moment early at a hard dance event, and peak time chaos in the trance scene.
Ben Nicky & Sarah De Warren
'Giving You Up'
Ben is a sensation in British dance music at the moment, cutting his teeth in the trance scene before ascending to the genreless superstar status very few artists have attained. Along with this growth, his musical repertoire has expanded to incorporate the tougher sounds of hardcore and hardstyle. Reflected in his production, this latest offering is a 160BPM, energetic vocal happy hardcore affair with a beautiful tempo shift in the breakdown, featuring classical pianos and softly-sung vocals. Following this, the melody is introduced and the tempo rises back up to the kick and bass drop. With support from the biggest names in the scene already, this is a sure-fire anthem.
'Into The Groove'
It feels like I’ve been reviewing a Crude Intentions track every month recently — but with good reason. This latest offering on the infamous Scantraxx imprint is a bouncy triplet piece, clocking in at 150BPM. The first break gives us a male AutoTuned vocal, a short build, then a drop to a tech kick. The main break offers a more traditional hardstyle melody and pitched kick section. There is just an undeniable quality to all of his recent productions; enough variety to keep regular releases interesting, but enough consistent themes to give him identity as an artist.
Phrantic x Broken Element x Alee
An international collaboration here, reflected in the style of the track. The first breakdown is a spoken word affair courtesy of legendary Dutch MC Alee, followed by an epic melody, build and drop. The drop is where things get interesting for me — we’re back to the “zap” kicks again, an evolution of the cold reverb, gated drums made famous by the early hardstyle sounds of the 2000s, only with a laser-like ‘zap’ quality. This seems to be the current trend, and I like it a lot. This is contrasted with a switch up to a super powerful raw kick midway though the beat sections. Rinse and repeat for the second drop, with even more energy.