The full weight of Hardwell‘s comeback era has finally been realized.
Months of lead-up to the Dutch icon’s hotly anticipated comeback album, REBELS NEVER DIE, has culminated with the full release of the 14-track effort.
In trickling a steady stream of singles out to the public, fans by now are well familiar with Hardwell’s bold switch-up towards a mainstage techno-focused sound. However, while fans have processed the initial shock and awe of the superstar producer’s dramatic change in course, hearing the album now as a cohesive project in many ways is likely to provide his diehard supporters a newfound sense of appreciation for the leap of faith he took many months ago.
Hardwell was certainly cognizant that upon his return, fans would be filled with questions.
“When I look at artists I really admire and they change their sound, the first question is, ‘Why?’ It’s not that I don’t agree with them,” Hardwell explained in a recent interview with EDM.com. “I just want to know, ‘Why?’ What in your own mind made you want to change your sound or your signature?”
Thus, Hardwell wanted to ensure expectations were set appropriately from the jump. Opening REBELS NEVER DIE with the cinematic monologue of “BROKEN MIRROR,” he remains upfront and unwavering with his intentions.
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The album proceeds to chug along to the steady pace of heavy-handed kicks and distorted basslines, breaking its supercharged stride only momentarily throughout for the occasional curious vocal sample. Despite his relative consistency, Hardwell continues to iterate and expand his new creative lane in such a way that it continues to remain a refreshing and engaging listen from start to finish.
The remaining piece of the puzzle, revealed this week, poetically brings the journey full circle with the titular track, “REBELS NEVER DIE,” which is also the album’s closer.
“Life is now or never. Never live a lie. Legends live forever and rebels never die.” While there’s hardly any veiled sentiments in those lyrics, the song stands as a lasting reminder for why Hardwell chose to embark on his road to reinvention in the first place.
While he could have simply continued along the path of least resistance and remained committed to his original big room sound, that future was never going to leave Hardwell satisfied. Though it was a challenge to step away at the height of his career—and perhaps an even bigger one to return—he remains living proof that it’s never too late to take one step back in order to take two steps forward.
You can stream REBELS NEVER DIE here.