Hardstyle takes the melodic elements of hard trance and fuses them with the power of hardcore. It usually resides between 140 - 150bpm, with older tracks being slower and more stripped back, while newer tracks tend to be faster and are comprised of many more elements. There is a large focus on the kick, which is often accompanied by screeches and distorted sounds. It typically features a lengthy breakdown before dropping into the climax of the track.
Early hardstyle prominently featured a 'reverse bass', which is the zipper-like sound that is sidechained to the kick. Its melodies are usually fairly simple and are often quite dark.
Modern hardstyle is usually categorised as either 'melodic' or 'euphoric', or alternatively tracks with a darker and more aggressive sound are referred to as 'rawstyle'.
Hardstyle has split into two separate camps, the cheesy, melody-driven euphoric style and rawstyle, which which focuses on sounds such as screeches based on early hardstyle.
Niche labels frequently pop up to cater to a specific sound, and can often grow to amass a cult-like following.
Major labels are now signing up-and-coming producers at a much greater rate than previous years, which is particularly important because of the potential growth of hardstyle going forward.
Thanks to the explosion of dance music in the United States, it is looking like hardstyle has been given a second wind with the potential of thousands of new listeners at some of the world's largest festivals.
Hardstyle producers are being signed to large American labels such as Ultra and Dim Mak, and often singles have begun to include a hardstyle remix. Popular festival DJs such as Tiesto have even begun incorporating hardstyle into their sets.
Many tracks around this era started to feature 'anti-climaxes', which was a breakdown, followed by a melodic buildup which led to a climax that featured very few elements. It was often just the kick and a screech. These types of tracks became the building blocks of rawstyle and this type of drop is still quite popular today.
The early years of this era are generally considered the golden years of hardstyle. The production values had greatly increased over the early 00's, reverse basses were aggressive, and there was a great variation of styles between producers.
In the later years, hardstyle began to shift and nustyle was born. Rather than reverse basses, nustyle relied on heavily distorted kicks that had a long tail that carried through to the subsequent kick.
Melodies began to become more complex and were often not as dark as previous years.
Hardstyle is very basic, and its hard trance influences are very easy to identify. Dutch and Italian producers begin to establish themselves as the forerunners of the hardstyle movement, which is something that carries on to this day.
The production company Q-Dance began to gain traction in the hard dance world for putting on high quality events with talented DJs and producers. They remain the largest hard dance promoters today, holding yearly events such as Qlimax, Defqon.1, Q-Base and Xqlusive in many countries around the world.