WHAT IS THE BEST BREAKDOWN OF ALL TIME???
I love that “Tour Of Italy” sampler at Olive Garden where you get one of all their different appetizers!! I usually end up eating all the Parmesan Calamari Fritters first and being so full I can barely even get to the Tuscan Eggplant Fingers, but the point is that variety is the spice of life. I mean all of their appetizers are so good, how can you pick just one??? Each one is delicious in its own way, and the best way to enjoy them is by having a little bit of everything. And what is the only thing as varied, delicious and universally loved as Olive Garden? That’s right: fucking BREAKDOWNS!
Like the Tour Of Italy, there are a million different kinds of breakdowns, and they are all awesome in their own way. No single genre has a monopoly on it: there are breakdowns in pretty much every kind of music, and they all go hard. I think it’s a beautiful testament to how music brings us all together that whether you are into punk, hardcore, metal or whatever, we can all agree that breakdowns are the best part of every song!
In this post, I will share some of the greatest breakdowns throughout history, like the Tour Of Italy, only for moshing. It is far from a comprehensive list, just a sampler to get the conversation started. Check these out, post your favorite breakdowns in the comments, and help us answer the one of life’s big questions: what is THE BEST BREAKDOWN OF ALL TIME???
Slayer “Raining Blood” (2:10)
I don’t even really like Slayer, but lettuce be reality: this song defined the breakdown as we know it, inspiring a whole generation of hardcore bands to play chugga chugga riffs (for better or worse). Like basically the entire early/mid 90s hardcore scene was based on mimicking this breakdown, until “Chaos AD” came out and they started copying that instead, and then they discovered/started ripping off At The Gates, which brings us to today.
Anyhow the point is that “Raining Blood” is pretty much the “patient zero” of breakdowns. Personally I think the breakdown in “Angel Of Death” (the other good Slayer song) is a better, but I chose this one based on the scope of its influence.
Earth Crisis “Firestorm” (3:00)
Any discussion of breakdowns would be worthless without giving some props to the band who defined 90s hardcore with a single song. The main riff is a Mondrian/Rothko-like masterpiece of restraint, and when they bring it back for the breakdown, you’re fucking moshing!!! Also note that this song features one of my favorite 90s moshcore elements at :08, the divebomb! I really wish someone would bring that shit back, they are fucking awesome and make any song better.
PS remember when hardcore/metal bands still tuned to E?? LOL seems so quaint.
Cannibal Corpse “Hammer Smashed Face” (2:50)
While most people think of breakdowns as the domain of hardcore bands, the truth is that death metal has just as many breakdowns that go hard as fuck. This song is not only of the most brutal-yet-catchy tracks of all time, but also features an example of the rare and beautiful META-BREAKDOWN! (“A wild META-BREAKDOWN appears”) That’s right: in the middle of what is already a sick breakdown, they break it down AGAIN– genius.
Hatebreed “Smash Your Enemies” (1:40)
I am a purist. I like simple things done well, created by people who are committed to a clear statement of purpose: e30 BMWs, the architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe, and the groundbreaking typography of mid-century modernist designers like Brockmann, Hoffman and the highly-underappreciated Karl Gerstner, whose drly witty monograph is a must-read for any serious student of that era.
I like to think of Hatebreed as their spiritual successors: never straying from the path or falling prey to self-indulgent bullshit that could water down their work, they are a single-minded machine committed to perfecting the hardcore breakdown. While it’s hard to pick just one, I think that “Smash Your Enemies” is perhaps the best representation of the potential of the breakdown as an artform and vehicle for human expression– I dare you to make it through without moshing your room to pieces!
Judge “Fed Up” (1:05)
Am I the only one gets feels compelled to non-ironically sing along to straightedge songs when I’m drunk/high?? There is just something about bands like Youth Of Today, Minor Threat and Strife that sounds so goddamn good when you are fucked up.
But my number one song to drunkenly fingerpoint and living-room-mosh to is definitely this one, the first song on the legendary Judge “New York Crew” 7″. Put on your construction gloves for this one!! In my opinion no NYHC band goes harder than Judge, especially on this 7″- so brutal and pissed off!!
Crowbar “All I Had I Gave” (1:55)
While they’ve finally started to get a small fraction of the credit they deserve, for years and years Crowbar flew way under the radar. This breakdown goes impossible hard, with a sludgy, slightly melodic feel that metalcore and deathcore bands are still struggling to equal. You can feel the disappointment, bitterness and despair in your fucking bones. All those optimistic, enthusiastic easycore kids should listen to 16, Eyehategod and Crowbar- there’s nothing brutal about being happy!
Morbid Angel “Chapel of Ghouls” (3:25)
These guys are another one of those bands like Slayer who overall are pretty crappy and boring but have like 2.5 songs that are kind of fucking amazing. You sort of wish they were some unknown band who only put out a 7″ with just those songs on them and then disappeared, so for decades everybody would be like “ZOMG that is literally the best 7″ of all time imagine how amazing it would have been if they had put out an LP!!” But instead they put out several decades worth of dull, forgettable filler that makes you forget they actually had some good songs.
Anyway, probably the best moment of Morbid Angel’s entire career is this breakdown. Not only is it heavy as fuck, but maybe the first breakdown in a song with keyboards???
Unbroken “Absentee Debate” (1:30)
While Earth Crisis were copying Slayer up in the woods of Syracuse, on the West Coast we had our own Slayer copycats who went by the name of Unbroken. While they may share some common roots with ExC, I think Unbroken had their own, more raw and emotional take on the breakdown, especially toward the end of their short career where they were really coming into their own (read: didn’t sound like Slayer anymore).
For example this track: over half this song is the fucking breakdown. From 1:30 until the end of the song, it’s just a crushing, savage, unforgiving breakdown that will leave you exhausted and begging for mercy. One fucking giant, massive riff over and over and over again… brilliant.
Suffocation “Funeral Inception” (2:18)
Suffocation is basically the Hatebreed of death metal: you know exactly what you are going to get from them, and nobody does it better. With a discography filled with two decades of brutal breakdowns, it’s hard to choose just one- but I’ll go out on a limb that when it comes to straight up brutal moshability, you won’t find a better moment than this one- another rare appearance of the meta-breakdown!
Buried Alive “Kill Their Past” (1:30)
Featuring Scott Vogel, who is now the singer for Terror, Buried Alive’s 1999 album on leading independent music retailer VICTORY RECORDS, is highly regarded by breakdown enthusiasts. I think Terror is the better band overall, but this record definitely has its moments. I saw BA in Detroit around 1998 (with Earthmover), and experienced probably the single most terrifying dance floor I’ve ever seen during this breakdown.
Pantera “Domination” (3:50)
Fuck yeah, that gated reverb on the drums! Agony is the price you’ll pay in the end!!!!! Now that I listen to them so close together, this sounds a lot like “Firestorm”, only ExC’s guitar sound is a little better. Also, this song is about twice as long as it probably needs to be.
Sergeant D. breaks shit down each and every day at Stuff You Will Hate.