|Cultural origins||Early 1990s, Germany|
Hard trance is a subgenre of trance music that originated in Western Europe (Belgium, Germany, and Netherlands) in the early 1990s as the breakbeat hardcore production community began to diversify into new and different styles of electronic music, all influenced by UK hard house, happy hardcore and jungle. The popularity of hard trance peaked during the late 1990s, and has since then faded in scope of newer forms of trance.
Hard trance is often characterized by strong, hard (or even downpitch) kicks, fully resonant basses and an increased amount of reverberation applied to the main beat. Melodies vary from 140 to 180 in tempo, and can feature plain instrumental sound in early compositions, with the latter ones tending to implement side-chaining techniques of progressive on digital synthesizers.
Hard trance was the final form of progressive to hit the mainstream. It eventually morphed into jumpstyle and hardstyle. Although hard trance is still made and listened to by many people, its social appeal has undoubtedly waned considerably since the mid-2000s.
Cosmic Gate - Human Beings (2003, excerpt)
An excerpt from Cosmic Gate's "Human Beings" from 2003 demonstrates the prominence of hard trance at the time: a full-resonance uncut bass is accompanied by hard kicks, open hats and a fair amount of reverberation.
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The hard trance sound developed out of the hardcore breakbeat era which itself developed from Belgian New Beat industrial style of Techno. When the hardcore breakbeat production community split into its separate subgenres, hard trance began to develop within the breakbeat hardcore production community. Hard trance went on to become one of the dominant and most successful electronic music styles throughout the 1990s in mainland Europe and around the world. The British electronic music scene split off into other styles such as jungle/drum and bass, hardcore, techno and house.
Popularity, commercialisation and commercial downfall
Remaining popular around 1993–1997 in mainland Europe, hard trance was associated with mega-raves of many thousands of ravers. Many series of compilation CDs came initially from the originators of the sound and the clubs that promoted it. It ultimately went overground and reached commercial status becoming known commercially as "maximaal".
Throughout the 1990s the popularity of the sound caused a flurry of popular and financially successful tracks to be licensed by major record labels, the sound eventually becoming aggressively marketed through commercial compilations on TV, radio and across the different forms of media.
Hard trance saw the similar pattern of success that also occurred to other underground electronic musical styles that became commercially successful throughout the 1990s.
The sound becomes formulaic as popular elements of previous successful tracks, become overused and a standard musical template forms.
The user-base and production community tire of the new generic overground sound and it becomes tainted by success. This causes a creative movement away from the style, which now appeals to a wider music buying customer base bringing profitability, however the sound suffers as it becomes generic and derivative and a caricature of its former creative self.
The production community and the original fanbase move onto more creative and less clichéd electronic music styles, sales drop, causing the major labels to drop the artists and sub labels and the music moves back into the underground.
The sound may continue with a smaller community of customers bringing fewer profits but music once again creating for non commercial reasons, the music either continues to develop or the style disappears often to be rediscovered and recreated with a hybrid or updated style later by a future electronic music community.
The hard trance sound came to the UK via the underground techno community in clubs such as Heaven, Trade, Melt and FF and Fist or through clubs such as The Omen in Morley and Club UK in London. It never reached the same commercial heights or as on the continental mainland due to British music scene already being widely diversified into styles such as jungle/drum & bass, hardcore and house.
Influence on other musical styles
Alongside the birth of hard trance, the same producers and record labels were already producing and developing the jumpstyle sound, the successor of gabber, which was popular in the Netherlands. Jumpstyle used the same sounds as the hard trance sound with faster beat patterns but slightly slower than gabber, this developed directly into hardstyle toward the end of the 1990s, which along with hard techno hard house came to dominate the harder spectrum of electronic music.
The sound influenced and led to the development of hard house, prior to this style the UK clubs where hard house developed were typically already playing a mixture of harder techno styles, progressive trance, electro hardstyle many sounds and influences from each style can be heard across the others.
Jointly with Happy Hardcore it derived into makina
- Hardtrance on Reddit
- Danish Hard Trance Community
- Moodbook site which mentions hard trance as a subgenre of trance.
- Toucan Music trance information page listing hard trance as a subgenre.