Drum and Bass evolved into a more complex, upbeat sound known as Darkstep in the late ’90s. The subgenre first emerged in several countries across Europe and the United States. It combines elements of Darkcore with breakbeats at faster speeds and ambient sounds (similar to those characteristics of Neurofunk).

Characteristics of Darkstep

Musicians formed Darkstep by significantly making advancements in Techstep and Neurofunk. Also, people characterize it by harder breakbeats (including frequent usage of compressed and chopped Amen breaks), chromatic scale melodies, shaky Reese bass sounds, and pounding, dissonant soundscapes in the style of Post-Industrial music. Early supporters of this style, like Panacea and Technical Itch, have been responsible for defining the characteristics of Darkstep. They do so by utilizing more distorted programmed or sampled rhythmic patterns than traditional Techstep (periodically drawing inspiration from Breakcore). They also use Horror and Science Fiction motion picture samples and similarly themed song titles.

Innovations Over The years

Since the middle of the 2000s, there have been several innovations in the genre. Skullstep producers Limewax and Current Value are responsible for incorporating intricate, programmed percussive drop patterns with metallic and noisy percussion. Producers developed Crossbreed in the latter part of the 2000s. It combined the 4/4 rhythm patterns of hardcore electronic dance music (EDM) with the structures and atmospheres of Darkstep. It eventually became a frequent meeting point for drum and Bass and hardcore artists.

Notable Artistes

From notable Darkstep artists, we should highlight a Dutch band name NOISIA. Nik Roos, Martijn van Sonderen, and Thijs de Vlieger -all Germans- are members of the Dutch electronic music trio Noisia (stylized as NOISI; “VISION” inverted upside down). They create a wide range of music, including house, drum and Bass, dubstep, and breakbeat.

They have released music for several labels, including Skrillex’s OWSLA, deadmau5’s mau5trap, and Jay-Roc Z’s Nation, and they are the owners of three record companies: Vision, Division, and Invisible Recordings. Noisia and Foreign Beggars have joined forces to form the supergroup and side project known as I Am Legion.

Another well-known band active in the Darkstep genre is Black Sun Empire, a Dutch drum and bass group founded in 1997 in Utrecht, Netherlands, by producers Rene Verdult and brothers Micha and Milan Heyboer. Critics have lauded the ensemble, dubbed “the kings of all things neutral,” and it has attracted widespread attention. The band has three record labels: Black Sun Empire Recordings, Obsessions, and Blackout Music NL, and they’ve put out five full-length albums.

In conclusion, Darkstep’s most striking feature is its frequent use of samples from horror movies, artwork, track titles, and artist names with a science-fiction or fantasy-related theme.

Neurofunk and Techstep, originating around the same time, used soundscapes classified as Dark Ambient. Although Neurofunk compositions are typically more polished and sleek, Darkstep’s beats are generally louder, significantly more distorted, and have snares that have a metallic quality (sometimes taking inspiration from Breakcore). That is in contrast to Neurofunk, which Funk heavily influences and contains sci-fi themes.

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