You know the moment. You're 13 going on 20, at least that's what you hope your parents will realize. You've guzzled down three cans of coke, with the sticky wooden floor being testament to the messy, hyped up, greasy haired youths around you. You pop another pill with a swig of coke, one of those caffeine pills your older brother uses for studying. You know the sort; make you act like a Chiwawa with ADHD for hours.
'This dance sucks; they need to play better music!'
'At least they haven't played the Macarena yet!'
The lights start flickering.
'Look dude it's those crazy strobe lights!'
Frantic synthesized strings start fading in on the speakers, soon followed by that 200BPM pulsing rhythm.
'Man it's that wicked trance song!
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000's, a number of catchy techno and trance songs made their way into the charts, and often achieved great success with the young early teen audience. Although most would struggle to name the song or their respective artists, the catchy choruses of these songs are etched firmly into our minds. Examples include All That She Wants by Ace Of Base
, Haddaway's What is Love
, Hey Boy Hey Girl
by The Chemical Brothers, all the Vengaboys singles, IIO's Rapture
and nearly everything off the A Night at the Roxbury
soundtrack. Yet amongst that esteemed list of pure electronica by definition of MTV, none compare to the exhilaration that Darude's Sandstorm
gave mainstream listeners.
Although 99% would not know the song even if you told them, Sandstorm
was and is synonymous with high school dances and discos, coinciding perfectly with the moment the strobe lights flashed on and all the epileptic kids went down. Sandstorm
made thousands upon thousands of teenagers from around the world feel like they were apart of the increasingly accepted rave and dance scene, despite their age, over-protective parents and acne-prone looks which restricted their entry to these clubs. And in a teenage society that follows the social trends of the trendy 20 year olds above them, it is no wonder Sandstorm
was so attractive.
is ultimately a catchy track. The high paced rhythm is accentuated almost perfectly by that pulsating synth rhythm. That hypnotic effect strobe lights have on people is mirrored completely by Sandstorm
. Its effect is amazingly addictive, pounding into your head with one hell of a melody. It cannot be denied that Sandstorm
is a great song. Yet somehow, Darude thought he could make an album out of 10 copy-cat versions of Sandstorm
A common pothole for many albums is the tendency to be overly repetitive. In the Pop and Mainstream Electronica genres, this pothole becomes even deeper. Although bands like Daft Punk
and The Chemical Brothers
manage to avoid this with a high level of creativity and a wealth of electronically produced sounds; Darude is obviously a Humvee driver, showing no regard at all for the pothole of repetitiveness.
Darude is certainly one for sticking to his roadmap; nearly every song follows the same high-paced structure (the only exception being the skip-over Touch Me Feel Me
). Although in theory, having 11 songs similar to the singles Sandstorm
and Feel the Beat
may sound good, the reality is far from pretty.
The other single off this album is Feel the Beat
. At first the light synth-strings and attractive female vocals suggest a much less frantic affair than Sandstorm
, yet the song soon transitions into another fast and pulsating rhythm, with an ultra quick 1-2-3 break 1-2-3 break 1-2-3 break pattern. The overall effect is once again highly addictive, playing upon the lack of flat out speed in mainstream music, whilst still maintaining delicious synthesizer sounds.
The one break from all the pace is the well positioned (right in the middle of the album) Touch Me Feel Me
, in which Darude has opted for a more brooding tone. Soon though, those familiar high-pitched synth strings come in. A nice soft piano touch is added later on in the track, as well as heavily remixed feminine vocals. This makes the song slightly enjoyable. However the track is far from subtle, with each twist and turn being highly predictable. The subtlety that other mainstream electronica artists show is clearly lacking in Darude and in Touch Me Feel Me
. The album really suffers because of this.
Calm Before The Storm
starts off nicely balanced combination of mellow female vocals and those same high-pitched synth strings. Yet as soon as the rhythm starts entering into the equation, the song quickly degenerates into a Sandstorm
copy, without the punch. Like most Darude songs, there are one or two moments in the song where the synthesizers all come together to produce a catchy little hook. Yet in recognising these high points, Darude has also decided to abuse them, repeating them into oblivion, and even trying to reproduce them in other songs. The whole album tends to slide into one big mush, with the same tones and beats being used throughout most songs. Darude's lazy approach to composing has clearly come back to bite him the ass, with the album soon becoming irritating rather than addictive.
It seems as though all the albums positives have a repercussion. The best part about Before the Storm
is its pulsating synthesizer rhythms mixed in with high-pitched string synthesizers. Yet having this same formula in 10 out of the 11 songs make Before the Storm
a catalyst for headaches. Ultimately the only way to listen to Before the Storm
is loudly, otherwise all the detail and catchiness is lost. If listened to at home or on a portable music player, the loudness of it all becomes highly annoying. Much like strobe lights that are best in small quantities, Before the Storm
is best listened to in quick bursts. After listening to this album right through 4 separate times (on different days too), every single listen through resulted in a sore head. One of the culprits is Let the Music Take Control
and its strong thumping drum beat. All the pulsating and pounding never really develop into anything, as if Darude forgot to put a peak into the song. Similarly, Drums of New York
feels like one big verse, with no killer chorus to scream about. The same reverberating and pulsating synthesizer sound is used, but with nothing attractive enough to compliment it.
One of the surprise songs on the album is Burning
, which could well have been a single if not for the 7 minute length. An oscillating synthesizer is present with a hard speed driven beat to accompany it. Yet there is just enough variation to keep the song interesting and the male vocals are placed nicely in the song at the peaks of the build ups.
As you should have learnt by now though, for every good aspect of this album, there is another that is absolutely painful. The two remixes of the two singles by Darude's mentor Jaakko Salovaara are totally unoriginal. It is hard to call them a remix at all, with two much of the original song showing through. Much of the sparkle from the two singles is lost, and with around three minutes added on to each song, they tend to drag on past their used by date. There is however one interesting point in the remix of Feel the Beat
around 4 minutes into the song, where a delectable sampling of a male voice on top of the synth-string arpeggio gradually building up. They are not as bad as Drums of New York
and Let the Music Take Control
, yet their unoriginality makes them fairly pointless.
If Before the Storm
was released as a 5 or 6 track EP with both Sandstorm
and Feel the Beat
, then there is no doubt it would be quite enjoyable. But as it is, Darude has tried to manufacture a 60 minute album out of the same 4 synthesized sounds. Although many musicians would shudder at the idea of confining themselves to such a limited palette of sounds, Darude has managed to pull off a few highly addictive songs. Yet for every good song, there are two more poorly crafted copycats that try to replicate the magic, but just cause headaches. The incredible amount of hard tones and energetic riffs mean Before the Storm
is heavily suited towards social events in public settings. Listening to the entire album at home for personal pleasure is almost unbearable, and will certainly not help your brain or your eardrums. For people hoping this could be a stepping stone into the electronic world, Darude's material is excellent for that purpose. Before the Storm
is highly accessible to all, and provides a pop-orientated, dumbed-down version of what is currently available in the world of trance. Darude is clearly not in the class of other mainstream electronic artists such as Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers. But for pure thrills and excitement, no tracks come close Sandstorm
with a strobe light accompaniment.
Unless you're epileptic of course.