Hardwell is back: Ultra intro IDs become first pair of ‘Rebels Never Die’ singles
Surprise surprise, the king is back.
Hardwell didn’t just briefly pop up at Bayfront Park and leave a mountain of uncertainty in his wake; the Revealed Recordings boss laid down the new music hammer during his not-so-unexpected return that doubled as both the conclusion to Ultra’s comeback and the jumpstart to his. For those that decided to randomly check social media at any point in the midst of his ID onslaught, you would’ve found yourself mind-numbingly staring at a tour poster and coinciding announcement for Hardwell’s long-awaited United We Are follow-up, Rebels Never Die. Although there’s no date publicly set in stone for his 14-track sophomore LP, Hardwell’s 23-stop album run—which formally ignited at Ultra and also includes Tomorrowland—will continue throughout the rest of 2022, with its first pair of offerings already arriving just five days removed from his statement-making resurgence in downtown Miami.
Before March 27, the four-year mark had been nearing since an indefinite, well-deserved sabbatical was imposed as a way for him to simply experience life as Robbert van de Corput, not Hardwell. And in hindsight, that pause on Hardwell’s career couldn’t have come at a better time, with COVID-19 stepping into the door a year and a half after his Metropole Orkest-assisted finale show to slam the brakes on life as we knew it, giving him even more runway time to reset without even the slightest bit of expectations surrounding a possible comeback.
During a podcast sitdown with longtime friend Domeno back in February 2020, Hardwell had made it clear that he had zero intention of shattering that artistic hiatus until the music he was creating gave him “butterflies” when daydreaming about playing it live. While some may have expected Hardwell’s quintessential bigroom sound to be the one to give him that feeling, there was still that level of reasonable expectation that his music was due to evolve to some extent whenever that day did come, just like with Swedish House Mafia’s music on their incoming LP. And after a surprise appearance during Revealed’s annual ADE event this past October and KAAZE’s teaser that “he’s coming,” the writing was on the wall for Ultra’s looming Bayfront Park reunion and Hardwell’s comeback to be intertwined.
And unless you’ve been living under a rock since Sunday, you’d know that’s exactly what happened. Hardwell’s first look into Rebels Never Die aptly comes in the form of the two tracks that he used to reintroduce himself at Bayfront Park to the dance music world. The album’s opening cut—”Broken Mirror”—speaks for itself, coming as a well-thought-out monologue where Hardwell explains that he doesn’t feel defined by others’ opinions of him and that he’s “gonna show you who [he] truly [is.]” Who is he really? In the next few minutes of his set, we all learned what that was exactly referring to, with “Into The Unknown” grandly welcoming in Hardwell’s bigroom-infused-techno stylistic progression. A sound that genuinely shouldn’t come as any shock considering Hardwell’s late-2000s-to-early-2010s releases had already planted the seeds for it, with tracks like “Smoke” and “Voyage“—as KURA had pointed out—being prime examples. And before this goes any further, it’s time to drop the insanity that is the “bigroom is now dead” conversation. Hardwell said it best through his Blasterjaxx pairing, and bigroom comes in so many different forms—with an abundance of producers still keeping its mid-2010s house state wholly intact—as he helps the genre at large take a necessary leap forward. That union between bigroom and techno—a direction Maddix has also been toying with—was only further explored through 13 other never-before-heard productions during Hardwell’s Ultra set—including 12 remaining album cuts like its title number, the “Pac Man ID,” and the “Laser Light ID”—as well as a 10-year anniversary reimagining of “Spaceman,” which is something that Hardwell says he’ll continue to do more of for his old-school releases. In a year that’s already shown promise of being able to spark another dance music golden age, Rebels Never Die—through “Broken Mirror,” “Into The Unknown,” and the remaining Ultra IDs—is quickly doing its part to push that narrative along.
Stream the first two Rebels Never Die singles below and relive Hardwell’s entire comeback at Ultra 2022.
Featured image: Alive Coverage