The Impressive Endurance of Zombie Nation's 'Kernkraft 400'



Trance was one of the biggest fads the music world has ever seen. Lasting approximately five years between 1996 and 2001, it came, it conquered, and then suddenly disappeared again without a tra(n)ce. Though some acts continue to be popular, Trance music no longer dominates the singles charts like it used to, and artists such as Armin Van Buuren and Tiesto have decided to move with the times and become more EDM-based, letting go of their Trance origins.


But some Trance songs remain. The most famous of them is no doubt 'Sandstorm' by Darude, which has become one of the most popular Internet memes for nearly 10 years now. A phenomenally successful track at the time of its release, 'Sandstorm' has been kept alive but the joke, ensuring that Trance music remains on the scene.


Another enduring track is 'Kernkraft 400' by Zombie Nation and it's a far more interesting song to investigate. Far from being a meme, 'Kernkraft 400' has endured simply because people love it, and it continues to be used to this day in clubs and particularly by sports teams. The Boston Bruins ice hockey team, for example, have used it as a goal song for 21 years now, ever since it was originally released. Moreover, it has been picked up by new teams in the years since, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, UCF Knights (both American Football), Seattle Mariners, LA Dodgers (both Baseball), and a whole gaggle of NBA teams (Basketball) using it for various purposes. This wide coverage across American sports gives the song a huge foundation for popularity in the States.


Here in the UK and Europe, it's a similar story with association football. Tranmere Rovers use it as a pre-match hype song, it became an unofficial Wales anthem during their incredible Euro 2016 campaign, and AC Milan use it as a goal song. If you're extremely lucky, you can obtain it as a goal song on FIFA 21, but it is by far the rarest goal song on the game; it can never be found on the transfer market, and it is rare in packs.


Luckily, I bagged it. Here's an example.



The sports industry appears to be keeping it alive, then, but it's unfair to give all the credit to sports. The song itself is a wonderfully simplistic tune, and as much as we've labelled it as Trance, it's actually quite ambiguous. This was pointed out by music journalist Matthew Kershaw in 2001, who stated that it "was championed everywhere from children's television to the most underground techno clubs. Was it techno, trance, electro or house? No-one knew, and frankly, no-one cared."


All that really mattered was that it was a great tune to listen and dance to. It had a wide appeal, a huge appeal, which is what made it so successful in the first place. That synth melody is now so instantly recognisable and remains pretty unique to this day. There isn't another song quite like it, and this makes it an attractive tune. It's relatively easy-listening as well; it doesn't go particularly hard, it's just fun.


Its attractive nature, coupled with the sheer quality of the song, is already a recipe for success. Add in the endless free promo by clubs and sports teams and what you're left with is a track that remains incredibly popular 21 years after its release. It is one of the few survivors of the fad that birthed it, one of the only songs that came out the other side completely intact.


Some songs are just timeless, and being pretty flexible in terms of genre certainly helps that to happen. 'Kernkraft 400' is not the greatest tune ever written, but it is timeless, and that is why it will continue to survive for decades to come.