Darkcore  (Darkside Hardcore) is an electronic dance music subgenre of breakbeat hardcore originating in the early 1990s UK rave scene. It specifically took off in late 1992. Many acknowledge it as one of the primary forerunners of the drum and bass subgenre of music.

What Defines The Darkcore Subgenre?

Darkcore, a subculture focused on the closely related genres of Jungle and Darkside, emerged in response to the success of Breakbeat Hardcore as it gained popularity and some tracks even made it to the UK charts. The key was the ominous mood; melodies, sound effects, and voices which were frequently slowed down, reversed and twisted to disorient and unnerve the listener.

Producers like Rufige Kru and 2 Bad Mice made their breakbeats quicker and their basslines heavier than was typical. Producers of this genre use eerie samples they sometimes take from horror movies. These sounds enhance the ominous mood by adding explicit sentiments of dread, panic, and paranoia. This starkly contrasted with the rave music’s typically euphoric and joyful attitude, reflecting drug abuse, party violence, and a more generalized sense of societal discontent.

With early precursors like “Mr. Kirk” (which featured dialogue from a parent being notified of his son’s overdose death) and releases like “Cooking Up Ya Brain / Where’s the Boy?” the duo 4hero had a pivotal role in the development of the genre. Along with QBass’ Suburban Base Records and Mark Ryder’s Strictly Underground Records, they also owned Reinforced Records, one of the key record labels of the era. Additionally, there were more recent labels like White House Records and Moving Shadow, though the latter would achieve greater prominence after leaving Darkside when its moment came.

The Evolution of This Subgenre

Goldie, the charismatic head of the darkcore movement, blamed derivative musicians from other labels for the genre’s stagnation. Goldie ultimately began creating music that incorporated elements of darkcore and Artcore. After 1993, that moment arrived swiftly as a large portion of the breakbeat hardcore movement transitioned to Happy Hardcore.

On the other hand, Darkside had a sharp decline; producers preserved the pace and strong bass but abandoned the darkness. The Darkside collapse and the rise of Jungle music made it more obvious that they were two separate genres. Although the labels were sometimes used interchangeably, both existed in the same scene. While the emerging jungle sound signaled new beginnings, Darkside remained a variation of the previous breakbeat hardcore sound. Producers and DJs from both communities would go on to play critical roles in Drum and Bass. Darker sounds came back in these genres’ later incarnations, with Darkstep serving as a spiritual successor.

Darkcore began to decline in the fall of 1993. With new music being released and a scene being reestablished for the sound by labels like FX and 7th Storey Projects, Darkside had a resurgence of attention during the breakbeat hardcore revival of the 2000s. The proprietors and brains of Reinforced Records, 4hero, then switched to music honoring the powers of light. 

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