If one browses through the catalogue of forthcoming Dirty Workz artist Refuzion, who is admittedly my latest Hardstyle musical crush, you’ll come across a little 2014 edit of the well known Pegboard Nerds song, “Self Destruct”. When my ears were first greeted by the varying tempos and rhythms combined with hard kicks and basslines it had me reminiscing of a time gone by…
After falling into a train of thoughts, I speculated on whether people are getting sick of hearing “May God Be With You All” by Gunz For Hire, or singing along to “Release” by Atmozfears and feeling disturbed by how well they manage to nail every lyric. Not to mention, hearing the words “fuck, fuck, fuck and fuck” throughout the entire duration of a raw Hardstyle set. Are you in dire need for your fix of Hardstyle with a twist? Well, have I got an answer for you!
Now let’s travel back in time to 2010 when Skrillex reigned supreme as the almighty figurehead of the Dubstep wubz and “Scary Monster and Nice Sprites” was played endlessly on the radio. A time when his very own fringe cast a shadow upon the Hardstyle scene, along the way influencing a plethora of Hardstyle DJ’s to adapt and mix up their style and think, “Hey! Maybe a bald head isn’t the way to go!” “Shieeeeet, what are we gonna call it? Ermmm Dubstep + Hardstyle…Hardste… No no no… Dubstyle!”
So, let’s bring it back to basics; what is ‘Dubstyle?’ As the name implies, Dubstyle is a fusion of Dubstep and Hardstyle elements. Generally, Dubstyle centres itself on differences with the rhythm and tempo of the beat with some tracks incorporating Dubstep grooves and melodic elements. Hardstyle kicks and bass are kept and combined with a different slowed down rhythm of beat, similar to Dubstep ones. This new Dubstyle pattern is usually combined with a standard Hardstyle drop at a point, most often the main break. Got it? More simply, one could put it: “boom —-boom —- boom- tsch, boom – boom – boom – boom – tsch”.
“Style evolves until it has reached the point of perfection…The question is, have we reached the point of perfection?” Judging by the lyrical content of the most well-known and well loved Dubstyle track “The MF Point of Perfection,” it’s evident that both Brennan Heart and Headhunterz hoped to reinvigorate Hardstyle and be able to bring the Hardstyle sound to fresh ears within an extensive audience. What better way to do that than by incorporating the EDM genre that was causing the most stir at the time, Dubstep. Now, I’m not saying that Headhunterz and Brennan Heart created Dubstyle, but damn did “The MF Point of Perfection” popularise the idea of Dubstyle as a unique subgenre and push the boundaries of what Hardstyle could be.
Throughout the year a big push came from scene heavyweights to make Dubstyle a living, breathing force within Hardstyle. Zany created a Dubstyle remix for his own event “The Great Zany Show.” Noisecontrollers added fuel to the Dubstyle fire by creating the alias Pavelow, which circulated around the concept of Dubstyle and went on to remix the 2010 Defqon.1 anthem by Wildstylez “No Time To Waste”. Q-Dance clearly saw some potential in the movement, approving the first and only Dubstyle anthem remix by Pavelow from the first year Dubstyle it came into fruition. Perhaps in the future they envisioned the Dubstyle remix as a neat addition to the usual ‘original mix’ and ‘Hardcore remix.’
Throughout the next two years various artists such Toneshifterz, Isaac, Atmozfears and The Pitcher among others either remixed or incorporated Dubstep or Dubstyle elements into their songs to varying degrees of success (don’t get me started on how jarring the “Throw A Diva” Dubstyle section is).
Now, everyone loves a good sub-genre to bash and loath or love and promote, whether it be raw Hardstyle, Euphoric Hardstyle, early Hardstyle, Nustyle, Darkstyle, Hard Drop and so on, ad nauseam. Well, hate to break it to you, but Dubstyle was certainly no different, but why don’t we see Dubstyle around in its most overt forms these days? Why isn’t a Dubstyle remix included with the release of the Defqon.1 Anthem? Why are there no huge, whippy, black fringes on the heads of Hard Driver, Ran-D and Radical Redemption?
One can easily see the decline in popularity of Dubstep and parallel it with the decline of Dubstyle within the Hardstyle scene. Dubstyle struggled to find its unique identity as something other than an occasional gimmick, a way to jazz up and remix a track. Dubstyle was also, lets say, met with mixed opinions. Many appreciated the attempt at variation and incorporation of new elements into the scene – after all, creativity and innovation could only be a good thing for a healthy evolving scene. Many however argued that this particular sound was jarring, saying that it disrupted the flow and energy on the dance-floor. Furthermore, criticising Dubstyle for being an attempt to take Hardstyle away from what it was meant to be; we all know how some Hardstyle fans react to the idea of commercialisation or taking the “hard” out of Hardstyle… going a little something like “F*&K EDM!”
Where Dubstep failed to influence the Hardstyle scene long term, House music has thrived within it. Hardstyle artists have taken on remixes of house tracks, collaborated with unlikely artists and most unfortunately, made the creative switch over to house music, i.e. Headhunterz and Showtek. All of these things brought a greater level of connection that was never seen between Dubstep and Hardstyle. This constant flow of ideas back and forth between House and Hardstyle is evidently continuing to grow as artists like Hardwell and Sander van Doorn have experimented with the sound and collaborated with artists like Sephyx and Noisecontrollers.
One only needs to look at songs like “This is Cyber” by Cyber and “Hope” by Phuture Noize to see that Dubstep influences strongly remain within Hardstyle. With artists like Phrantic, Audiofreq, Cyber and Geck-o regularly looking to other genres to add zest into their tracks and the growing complexity of Hardstyle in general, I guess it isn’t too far-fetched to see a producer pulling off an amazing Dubstyle banger in 2016. There’s nothing I love more than variation within live-sets and I for one would have the biggest grin on my face if I arrived at a set and on comes Refuzion’s edit of “Self Destruct” by Pegboard Nerds. Hardstyle will always be about those pounding kicks and bass lines to fist pump along to, feeling an undeniable rush of energy flow through your body that makes you want to wildly jump up and down to.
The “Dubstyle” tracks that were the best received were the ones that still retained that drive and power, just in a different form. Experimentation and genre pushing always leaves an artist open to criticism and backlash. The chance of that happening shouldn’t be shied away from. If an artist is looking for a different way to compose a Hardstyle beast in 2016 and beyond then why not look to the past to change the future sound. A return to Dubstyle would not have to be about creating another subgenre or having to push it as its own unique identity; it would be a chance to look to the past to see if Dubstyle in 2016 could be a way to add more and more variation and experimentation to an ever expanding Hardstyle scene that is currently dominated by raw Hardstyle. Or fuck it; let’s just go full under-sound and LENTO again!