Hardwell’s comeback is finalized—stream the ‘Rebels Never Die’ album title number
Legends live forever, but rebels never die.
It all started at Bayfront Park and it all comes to a close a half-calendar turn later. No one exactly knew what was going to happen when Hardwell would go on to extinguish a four-year sabbatical at the festival where he’s delivered sets that rank amongst his career-defining performances. There’d been rumblings that the Revealed Recordings founder would be dropping the curtain on a recharged identity with a full-length album in tow, but there really wasn’t any concrete information as to what was going on behind the scenes from the moment his hiatus enacted in October of 2018 until that unforgettable Miami evening in March of 2022. What we knew for a fact was that Hardwell was enjoying some incredibly well-deserved time off from an overwhelming artist schedule that had consumed his day-to-day life for the previous decade plus. And while everyone could’ve reasonably assumed that after a considerable pause—with a pandemic conveniently halting the world in between—he was going to have some degree of new music to put forth during the first Ultra in three years, nothing could have mentally and physically readied us for what was to come.
As of September 9, Rebels Never Die is officially cemented as Hardwell’s long-awaited sequel to United We Are. The album title—a play off his iconic 2018 collaboration with Blasterjaxx—came from a literal feeling of rebellion, with Hardwell explaining during a Discord question-and-answer session on the eve of his sophomore album’s arrival that he went into the three-year creation of Rebels Never Die with the overarching idea that he wasn’t going to do what was expected of him. And that was something he’d already prepared us for during the two-minute opening monologue at Ultra. Beginning on April 1 with “BROKEN MIRROR” and “INTO THE UNKNOWN,” Rebels Never Die inched towards its 14-part tracklist on a biweekly basis, flipping each Ultra ID—which had all been given names immediately following his set upload on YouTube—into the newest album constituent. And one by one, Rebels Never Die brought divisions of Hardwell’s animated bigroom-techno conversion to the forefront, with “F*CKING SOCIETY,” “BLACK MAGIC,” “DOPAMINE,” “GODD,” “PACMAN,” “MIND CONTROL,” “REMINISCE, “ZERO GRAVITY,” “LASER,” “I FEEL LIKE DANCING,” and “SELF DESTRUCT” trailing in the wake of his Ultra intro-turned-album singles.
But there was still one final piece to the Rebels Never Die puzzle that needed to be unlocked come release day. And there’s genuinely nothing on the tracklist that was more fitting to do so than the album’s eponymous number. Perfectly slotted at the midpoint to Hardwell’s Bayfront Park comeback—with Linkin Park’s “Crawling” vocal originally attached—and armed with a chilling vocal from the Dutchman himself, “REBELS NEVER DIE” conclusively ties a bigroom-techno bow around a project that wholeheartedly captures what he set out to accomplish. More than two years ago, he’d already laid out the requirements for his return to properly occur, explaining that a “butterflies” sensation was necessary when picturing how his new music would eventually translate to the Ultra mainstage. And not only can that feeling be said in Hardwell’s mind, but the same can be said for everyone that’s experienced any of the 14 album cuts—which each provide their own stylistic adventure of bigroom-techno as he self-describes it—either in the comfort of their home or at one of his tour sets since late March. Rebels Never Die is Hardwell and Hardwell only, which was a focal point that he sought to hammer home where he could prove that even after an extended time out of the spotlight, he hadn’t missed a step in the slightest. And in a year that’s been stockpiled with music that has reinforced the sentiment about dance music entering its newest golden age, Rebels Never Die has as convincing of an argument as any as to why it should ultimately wear the album of the year crown come December.
While we now prepare to hear the album in person at UBS Arena on September 17 for the first time since March, stream all 14 Rebels Never Die tracks below.
Featured image: Alive Coverage