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Speedcore is a form of hardcore that is characterized by a high tempo and aggressive themes. The genre was created in the early to mid-1990s and the name originates from the genre hardcore as well as the high-speed tempo used. This music rarely drops below 300 beats per minute (bpm). Earlier speedcore tracks often averaged at about 250 bpm, which could be defined as terror(core), whereas some tracks sometimes exceed 1000 bpm where it then becomes known as Extratone.
Aside from the very fast tempo of speedcore, which is 300 bpm and above and rarely drops below the 300 bpm mark, speedcore can often be distinguished from other forms of hardcore by an aggressive and overridden electronic percussion track that is often punctuated with a hyperactive snare or tom-tom fills. Most producers will often overdrive their kicks so far that they become square waves, much like in gabber, giving speedcore its distinctive pounding sound. The amen break is frequently used in a similar way to jungle music. In particular, the snare is often played multiple times per second via a sampler, which can also be used to pitch the snare up and down quickly. The 4/4 kicks are often punctuated with eighth notes or sixteenth notes for variation at the end of a bar.
Speedcore tracks often contain elements of early hardcore and breakcore, as well as samples from death metal and black metal. The Berzerker is known for combining speedcore with death metal and Legions Ov Hell is known for combining speedcore with black metal.
While most speedcore artists are content to attack the normal standards of music, or even the gabber music that spawned them, the extremism of speedcore has caused some to turn inwards and parody the standards of the genre. These songs tend to use lighter, more manic samples similar to happy hardcore.
Some artists take a more melodic/cleaner sounding approach to the genre making some songs more listenable to people outside of the genre. These artists are most common in Japan, but they can be found elsewhere too. Well known artists to make such songs are Kobaryo, t+pazolite, The Quick Brown Fox and m1dy.
Later on, the use of digital audio workstations increased in frequency. Since the 2000s, the use of DAWs has grown versus the use of analog synthesizers or trackers. In the 2010s, most speedcore was composed with DAWs.
Speedcore is a natural progression of hardcore techno. Hardcore was already considered fast, however, there were those who were not content to stay at the established speed. Early Speedcore was about pushing the limits of bpm and aggression level. One of the first songs to explore higher speeds was "Thousand" by Moby in 1992. Thousand reached 1,015 bpm (hence the name). However, this song was not at a constant tempo as it only reached 1000 bpm at its peak. Another song in 1992 was "Alles Naar De Klote (250 BPM ~~ Oef!)" by Euromasters. This song is at 250 bpm as described by the title. In 1993 a few more songs came out that push the boundaries of bpm. Most notably was "Summer" by Sorcerer and Double Speed Mayhem by 303 Nation. Early on speedcore was considered to be any hardcore track faster than 220 bpm, however as time went on and technology advanced it became commonly accepted that speedcore started at 300 bpm.
Early speedcore (1994–1999)
The term speedcore in reference to high tempo hardcore/gabber can be traced as far back as 1995. Many believe that Disciples Of Annihilation created the name of the genre with their track N.Y.C. Speedcore and Ya Mutha II. Industrial Strength Records, Bloody Fist Records, and Shockwave Recordings played major roles in the speedcore scene during the mid-90s. Many early speedcore records came from these labels.
It was not until the early 2000s that the genre was commonly referred to as speedcore. In the 90s many tracks that would be considered speedcore were referred to as "gabba". The Terrordrome CD series was producing speedcore tracks by the mid-90s. During the 90s the speedcore scene was strongest in Germany and Switzerland. The Roland TR-909 was often the drum machine of choice for early speedcore producers due to its ability to generate heavily distorted bass-drum kicks that anchored the percussion tracks. Other musicians preferred to compose their songs with music trackers such as FastTracker 2. Samples were often used with trackers for unique sounds. These trackers allowed producers to share .xm / .it / .mod files on the early internet. In the late 90s and early 2000s technoparades like Fuckparade played early speedcore songs in the streets.
Spread (early 2000s)
The early 2000s saw the birth of many netlabels dedicated to speedcore. Many labels who produced vinyls such as Mascha Records and United Speedcore Nation were also publishing mp3s on their websites and returned 2020 to the scene. mp3 files of songs from netlabels became increasingly popular and made it easier for new producers to enter the scene. The early 2000s also saw the rise of speedcore in Japan from m1dy, DJ Sharpnel, and M-Project. These musicians took the aggressive speedcore and gave it a happier tone and focus on melody or silly synths. Anime samples were also used in this time period which drew connections between this music and anime. These musicians would inspire the Japanese core scene for years to come.
Internet growth (2010s)
The 2010s had a large growth in netlabels. While the early 2000s had a few netlabels by 2010 new netlabels began to pop up all over. DAWs made it cheaper and easier than ever before for new musicians to make experimental music. The internet allowed producers from around the world to communicate with each other and share their works through netlabels. Compilation albums became very popular for artists to share their music as they could get more exposure than by themselves. A large portion of the speedcore scene now occurs online from netlabels to speedcore promotion channels on YouTube. Speedcore was no longer restrained to localized areas by where raves occurred and vinyls were released.
Speedcore is often called Splittercore when the bpm is between 600 and 1,000 BPM. Splittercore is identified by its minigun sounding kicks. In the 1990s Splittercore was sometimes referred to as nosebleed Techno.
Flashcore is a genre that grew out of speedcore and industrial hardcore. While being originally related to speedcore, flashcore is defined by its complex avant-garde structures and abstract sounds, making it more similar to Electroacoustic music and Experimental music rather than any EDM genre. Most of the genre's works focus on intense, rhythmic, and layered soundscapes.
Songs with a BPM of 1000 or higher are known as Extratone songs. At this tempo, the kicks happen so fast that the beat sounds like one constant note with a shifting pitch; extratone often has sudden increases or decreases in tempo to change the pitch of the tone. Extratone originates from combining the two German words extrahieren (to extract) and Ton (sound).
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