Digital hardcore

Last updated

Digital hardcore is a fusion genre that combines hardcore punk with electronic music genres such as breakbeat, techno, and drum and bass while also drawing on heavy metal and noise music. [1] [2] It typically features fast tempos and aggressive sound samples. [2] The style was pioneered by Alec Empire of the German band Atari Teenage Riot during the early 1990s, and often has sociological or far-left lyrical themes. [2]

Hardcore punk Subgenre of punk rock

Hardcore punk is a punk rock music genre and subculture that originated in the late 1970s. It is generally faster, harder, and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock. Its roots can be traced to earlier punk scenes in San Francisco and Southern California which arose as a reaction against the still predominant hippie cultural climate of the time. It was also inspired by New York punk rock and early proto-punk. New York punk had a harder-edged sound than its San Francisco counterpart, featuring anti-art expressions of masculine anger, energy, and subversive humor. Hardcore punk generally disavows commercialism, the established music industry and "anything similar to the characteristics of mainstream rock" and often addresses social and political topics with "confrontational, politically-charged lyrics."

Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments and circuitry-based music technology. In general, a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means, and that produced using electronics only. Electromechanical instruments include mechanical elements, such as strings, hammers, and so on, and electric elements, such as magnetic pickups, power amplifiers and loudspeakers. Examples of electromechanical sound producing devices include the telharmonium, Hammond organ, and the electric guitar, which are typically made loud enough for performers and audiences to hear with an instrument amplifier and speaker cabinet. Pure electronic instruments do not have vibrating strings, hammers, or other sound-producing mechanisms. Devices such as the theremin, synthesizer, and computer can produce electronic sounds.

Breakbeat is a broad style of electronic or dance-oriented music which utilizes breaks, often sampled from earlier recordings in funk, jazz and R&B, for the main rhythm. Breakbeats have been used in styles such as hip hop, jungle, drum and bass, big beat, hardcore, and UK garage styles.



Digital hardcore music is typically fast and abrasive, combining the speed, heaviness and attitude of hardcore punk, thrash metal, and riot grrrl [2] [3] with electronic music such as hardcore techno, [2] jungle, [2] drum and bass, glitch, and industrial rock. [2] Some bands, like Atari Teenage Riot, incorporate elements of hip-hop music, such as freestyle rap.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

Riot grrrl is an underground feminist punk movement that began in the early 1990s in Washington state and the greater Pacific Northwest. It also had origins in Washington, D.C., and spread to at least 26 countries. It is a subcultural movement that combines feminist consciousness and punk style and politics. It is often associated with third-wave feminism, which is sometimes seen as having grown out of the Riot Grrrl movement. It has also been described as a musical genre that came out of indie rock, with the punk scene serving as an inspiration for a musical movement in which women could express themselves in the same way men had been doing for the past several years.

Drum and bass is a genre and branch of electronic music characterised by fast breakbeats with heavy bass and sub-bass lines, sampled sources, and synthesizers. The style grew out of breakbeat hardcore and jungle in the United Kingdom during the early 1990s. The popularity of drum and bass at its commercial peak ran parallel to several other homegrown dance styles in the UK. A major influence was the original Jamaican dub and reggae sound. Another feature of the style is the complex syncopation of the drum tracks' breakbeat.

According to Jeff Terich of Treble Media, digital hardcore is "on the verge of reaching speeds incompatible with popular music, as if the rapid acceleration of BPMs would render the idea of rhythm irrelevant or, at the very least, unpredictable. Maybe this is music for dancing; definitely this is music for screaming and breaking things." [4]

The electric guitar (either real or sampled and usually heavily distorted) is used alongside samplers, synthesizers and drum machines. While the use of electronic instruments is a defining feature of the genre, bass guitars, electric guitars, and drum kits are optional. Vocals are more often shouted than sung by more than one member of the group. Typically, the lyrics are highly politicized and espouse left-wing or anarchist ideals. [2] Some practitioners have been influenced by anarcho-punk. [4]

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Distortion (music) form of audio signal processing giving "fuzzy" sound

Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive in the 2010s, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.

Sampler (musical instrument) musical instrument

A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument which uses sound recordings of real instrument sounds, excerpts from recorded songs or found sounds. The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.



German band Atari Teenage Riot are considered progenitors of the style. Atari Teenage Riot 2010 02.jpg
German band Atari Teenage Riot are considered progenitors of the style.

The music was first defined by the band Atari Teenage Riot, who formed in Berlin, Germany in 1992. [2] The band's frontman, Alec Empire, coined the term "digital hardcore," setting up the independent record label Digital Hardcore Recordings in 1994. [2] [5] German bands with a similar style began signing to the label and its underground popularity grew, with small digital hardcore festivals being held in several German cities. [2] By the mid-1990s, a number of new record labels specializing in the genre were formed around the world. These included Gangster Toons Industries (Paris), Praxis (London), Cross Fade Enter Tainment (Hamburg), Drop Bass Network (U.S.), and Bloody Fist (Australia). [2] Digital Hardcore Recordings also had some kinship with the Frankfurt labels Mille Plateaux and Riot Beats. [2] Alec Empire's work subsequently set the template for breakcore. [6] [7]

Atari Teenage Riot German digital hardcore band

Atari Teenage Riot is a German band formed in Berlin in 1992. The name was taken from a Portuguese Joe song entitled "Teenage Riot" from the album Teen-age Riot, with the word 'Atari' added as an Atari ST computer was used to create compositions. Highly political, they fused left-wing, anarchist, anti-fascist views with punk vocals and the newly emerging techno sound called digital hardcore, which is a term band member Alec Empire used as the name of his record label.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Alec Empire German musician

Alec Empire is a German experimental electronic musician who is best known as a founding member of the band Atari Teenage Riot, as well as a prolific and distinguished solo artist, producer and DJ. He has released many albums, EPs and singles, some under aliases, and remixed over seventy tracks for various artists including Björk. He was also the driving force behind the creation of the digital hardcore genre, and founded the record labels Digital Hardcore Recordings and Eat Your Heart Out Records.

Other prominent digital hardcore musicians of this period include Christoph de Babalon, Cobra Killer, Sonic Subjunkies, EC8OR, Hanin Elias, Lolita Storm, Nic Endo, The Panacea, and The Mad Capsule Markets.

Christoph de Babalon is a German electronic producer, experimental artist and DJ, best known for his work on Alec Empire's label Digital Hardcore Recordings, especially If You're Into It, I'm Out of It (1997). He also is the co-founder of the label Cross Fade Enter Tainment (CFET).

Cobra Killer German digital hardcore duo

The Cobra Killer duo of Gina V. D'Orio and Annika Trost began as part of Alec Empire's Digital hardcore movement. Both were part of other bands signed to Empire's Digital Hardcore Recordings label—D'Orio was in EC8OR, and Trost was in Shizuo. Cobra Killer was arguably one of the most playful DHR bands, in contrast to the revolutionary bombast of most.

Sonic Subjunkies was a German Digital Hardcore band based in Berlin, best known for releasing records on Digital Hardcore Recordings.


In Alec Empire's words, "Digital Hardcore went from a local, Berlin based scene to an international underground movement." [8] The soundtrack to the film Threat included contributions from digital hardcore musicians, along with metalcore bands. [9] James Plotkin, Dave Witte and Speedranch's project Phantomsmasher combined digital hardcore with grindcore. Notable 21st century digital hardcore groups include Left Spine Down, Motormark, Death Spells, The Shizit, Rabbit Junk, and Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas.


Digital hardcore saw less prominence in the 2010s. However, its international influence can be seen in the prominence of electronicore, a similar musical genre fusing hardcore punk and metalcore with electronica. The German band We Butter the Bread with Butter has seen commercial success employing this fusion. [10] The term "digital hardcore" has largely fallen out of use, given its association with politically-charged lyrics, which are not a characteristic of newer electronicore artists. Some notable digital hardcore artists, however, have remained active into the 2010s, including Machine Girl, Left Spine Down, [11] Death Spells, [12] Rabbit Junk, [13] Death Grips and Ultramerda. Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas have also received considerable praise for their 2014 release, Phase 2 . [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hanin Elias German industrial/techno artist

Hanin Elias is a Syrian German industrial/techno artist. She was a member of Atari Teenage Riot and is now a solo artist.

Digital Hardcore Recordings record label

Digital Hardcore Recordings (DHR) is a record label set up in 1994 by Alec Empire, Joel Amaretto and Pete Lawton. Most of the music is recorded in Berlin, though the label is based in London where the records are mastered and manufactured. The funds for setting up the label came from the payment which Atari Teenage Riot received for their aborted record deal with the major UK record label Phonogram Records.

Breakcore is a style of electronic dance music influenced by hardcore, jungle, digital hardcore and industrial music. It is characterized by the use of heavy kick drums, breaks and a wide palette of sampling sources, played at high tempos.

EC8OR is a German digital hardcore band founded in 1995 by Patric Catani and Gina V. D'Orio and signed by Alec Empire's Digital Hardcore Recordings record label. The music was in the same vein of Atari Teenage Riot's style of early Breakcore and hardcore techno with a punk edge, which led to EC8OR been overlooked by fans of digital hardcore recordings, but EC8OR employed more low-res ideas as the first album was entirely composed on Amiga 500 and with a microphone.

<i>Threat</i> (film) 2006 film by Matt Pizzolo

Threat (2006) is an independent film about a straightedge "hardcore kid" and a hip hop revolutionary whose friendship is doomed by the intolerance of their respective street tribes. It is an ensemble film of kids living in New York City in the aftermath of 9-11, each of them suffering from a sense of doom brought on by dealing with HIV, racism, sexism, class struggle, and general nihilism. The intellectual issues are played out amid an aesthetic of raw ultraviolence that has earned director Matt Pizzolo both accolades and condemnations. Unlike past urban dramas, the film does not outright condemn its characters' violent outbursts. Although it does show harsh consequences for acts of violence, numerous critics have pointed out that it is unclear whether or not the film intends to glorify violence and/or class conflict.

<i>Burn, Berlin, Burn!</i> 1997 compilation album by Atari Teenage Riot

Burn, Berlin, Burn! is a compilation album released by Atari Teenage Riot in 1997. Initially released in the United States by the Beastie Boys' record label Grand Royal, the album is a collection of tracks from their first two albums Delete Yourself! and The Future of War. After Grand Royal Records went defunct, the album was later remastered and re-released on Digital Hardcore Recordings.

<i>60 Second Wipe Out</i> 1999 studio album by Atari Teenage Riot

60 Second Wipe Out is the third studio album by Atari Teenage Riot. It was originally released through Digital Hardcore Recordings in 1999. It peaked at number 17 on the UK Independent Albums Chart, as well as number 32 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.

<i>Atari Teenage Riot: 1992–2000</i> 2006 greatest hits album by Atari Teenage Riot

Atari Teenage Riot: 1992–2000 is a greatest hits compilation by the seminal digital hardcore band Atari Teenage Riot. The album was released on band member Alec Empire's Digital Hardcore Recordings on 3 July 2006 and features 18 tracks from the band's back catalogue.

<i>The Future of War</i> 1997 studio album by Atari Teenage Riot

The Future of War is the follow-up album to Delete Yourself by Atari Teenage Riot. Faster and harder than their previous effort, the album sees the band's only female member at the time, Hanin Elias, providing vocals for a larger share of the songs.

<i>The Destroyer</i> (album) 1996 studio album by Alec Empire

The Destroyer is an album by electronic artist Alec Empire, his first on his own record label Digital Hardcore Recordings, released in 1996 in Europe and a revised version in 1998 in United States. Destroyer is also the name given to a series of EPs by Empire released two years before. Unlike his previous albums for Mille Plateaux, The Destroyer had a much heavier sound more akin to that of his band Atari Teenage Riot, and is considered as one of the earliest examples of a breakcore record. Producer Enduser named the album as an inspiration for his music.

The following is a list of known recordings by or involving Alec Empire, excluding his work with Atari Teenage Riot.

<i>Miss Black America</i> (album) 1999 studio album by Alec Empire

Miss Black America is the sixth solo studio album by German producer Alec Empire, originally released through his Digital Hardcore Recordings label as a part of its DHR Limited series of single pressing albums. Recorded throughout August 1998 in between sessions for Atari Teenage Riots 60 Second Wipeout, the album was produced in response to the political climate of Germany at the time.

Rabbit Junk is a Seattle-based industrial rock, electropunk, and digital hardcore band that formed in 2004 by former The Shizit frontman JP Anderson and his wife Jennifer "Sum Grrl" Bernert. Taking influences from such diverse music genres such as hip hop, nu metal and new wave, JP has called this sound "Hardclash".

Industrial hip hop is a fusion genre of industrial music and hip hop.

Electronicore is a fusion genre of metalcore with elements of various electronic music genres, often including trance, electronica, and dubstep. Notable artists of this genre have originated from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Kid606 electronic musician

Miguel Trost De Pedro, better known by his stage name stage name Kid606, is an electronic musician who was raised in San Diego and later moved to San Francisco. He is most closely associated with the glitch, IDM, hardcore techno, and breakcore scenes.


  1. Kutner, Moshe (2014-05-22). "Neo-Nazi Fighting Digital Hardcore Musician Comes to Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Interview with J. Amaretto of DHR, WAX Magazine, issue 5, 1995. Included in liner notes of Digital Hardcore Recordings, Harder Than the Rest!!! compilation CD.
  3. "I was totally into the riot grrrl music, I see it as a very important form of expression. I learned a lot from that, way more maybe than from 'male' punk rock." The Punk Years, "Typical Girls" Access date: August 20, 2008.
  4. 1 2 "Atari Teenage Riot's Burn, Berlin, Burn! started a digital hardcore riot". Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  5. Alec Empire. on the Digital Hardcore scene and its origins, , 2006-12-28. Retrieved on 2008-05-28.
  6. Alvin Chan, Music OMH, March 2008. Access date: August 6, 2008.
  7. Matt Earp, "Breakcore: Live Fast", XLR8R, July 20, 2006. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2008-08-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Access date: August 8, 2008.
  8. The definitive Alec Empire Interview 26/02/02 Archived February 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. Ryan Orvis, MPR, "Just a Minor Threat", Archived 2009-01-12 at the Wayback Machine Access date: August 6, 2008.
  10. "Get Infected Tour zabouří už za pár dní v Praze". Retrieved 2017-05-21.
  11. "Review: Left Spine Down - Caution | Sputnikmusic". Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  12. "Frank Iero's Death Spells are up to something | Upset". Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  13. "Rabbit Junk preview new track | Sputnikmusic". Retrieved 2017-07-09.
  14. "FEAR, AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - PHASE 2 - REVIEW | ElectricBloomWebzine (エレクトリックブルーム)". ElectricBloomWebzine (エレクトリックブルーム). 2014-08-17. Retrieved 2017-07-09.