Final Six: The Six Best Breakdowns/Speed-Ups
Chris Krovatin is the author of three young adult novels, Heavy Metal & You, Venomous, and Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones. He is currently working on multiple new writing projects, as well as new material with his local New York metal band Flaming Tusk. He is a contributing writer for Revolver and generally comes off as a good-natured pain in everyone’s collective ass. This column represents his opinions–and probably only his opinions.
With death metal and hardcore leading the mall-promoted face of metal (or whatever the fuck people under 20 care about these days, God, I need a drink), breakdowns have become a staple point within the genre. Every dude who likes swinging a ham-sized fist around for no reason spends much of any metal concert waiting for that moment when things slow down and he can stomp around like a violent turtle. There’s even an entire genre now, “deathcore” that seems to be composed entirely of breakdowns. Chug-chug, slam-slam, we all love a good breakdown.
What aren’t always given their due, however, are speed-up parts, the moment where a mid-paced song bursts into a thrash section and some dude in the pit is given the go-ahead to hold up his index finger and spin it around, signaling the much-loved circle pit. I’ve always adored these moments, when a normal song explodes into a barrage of speed and aggression, as I’m much more of an old-school mosher, the running and slamming and freewheeling type, than the modern karate-kicking dance majors who so often populate the pit during a breakdown. So, to honor both the quick and the deadly (and to piss off scene bros and kvltists alike), here is my list of the Six Best Breakdowns and Speed-Ups.
The Six Best Breakdowns:
1. Pantera, “Domination” Aw, man, the original. Dimebag’s guitar breaks off of that pained wail and rolls right into that steady chug, eventually topped with insane weedling unlike any heard before. Tough as nails, catchy as Hell—the breakdown all others aspire to.
2. Slayer, “Raining Blood” The end of this classic Slayer track is a perfect example of a breakdown that makes a song. With its melodic variation on the opening riff coupled by the neck-snapping rhythm it stomps into, this manages to be both brawny and deeply evil at once.
3. Hatebreed, “Before Dishonor” If there was ever a breakdown to beat on one’s chest to, it’s that of “Before Dishonor.” Jamey Jasta bellowing, “WHAT I HAVE IN MY HEART, I’LL TAKE TO MY GRAVE” helps. Easily the most macho of the breakdowns on this list.
4. Lamb of God, “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” Just beating that of “Black Label,” the breakdown closing “Now You’ve Got…” is the bottom line for metal kids who want to absolutely lose their shit in the pit. Randy Blythe’s roar over its opening is truly breathtaking.
5. Sepultura, “Propaganda” To be a stand-out breakdown on a record this chuggy and mid-paced takes some stones, but Sepultura pull it off without issue. It’s especially notable given how well it closes one of the faster songs on the record, and does so in a solid swoop, not a fade-out.
6. Anthrax, “Indians” Two words: WAR DANCE!
Band of note: Dying Fetus I really wanted to include a Dying Fetus track on this list, but every attempt at finding the right song made me think, Is this an actual breakdown, or just a Dying Fetus part? Let me take this moment to say that Dying Fetus are kings of the death-metal breakdown, and much of the modern obsession with breakdowns is their doing.
The Six Best Speed-Ups:
1. Lamb of God, “Ruin” Ye-hess. The moment where this song breaks into an off-kilter thrash part is absolutely obliterating and totally satisfying. If you listen to this song and your fist doesn’t begin pumping at this speed-up moment, you’re not doing it right. The sound of someone’s breaking point.
2. Cannibal Corpse, “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” This Cannibal classic begins with a plodding, heavy-handed riff, but then breaks into a panicked whirlwind of guitar leads and drums that perfectly expresses the insanity of its protagonist. This is how a speed-up can be used as a consistent part, and subsequently craft a song into something better than it once was.
3. Slayer, “Postmortem” Not only is the sudden change in tempo of this song impressive, but the sudden speed applied to the sudden barrage of wordy lyrics—“My sinful glare at nothing holds thoughts of death behind it”—showcases Tom Araya’s vocal versatility. Look, just tell me this: DO YOU WANT TO DIE?
4. Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City” Oh yeah—even the glamor boys got in on the speed. The sudden supercharged ending of this track takes the main riff and throws it on its head with a big dose of Lemmy. Didn’t think you could mosh to GN’R? Think again.
5. The Crown, “Devil Gate Rider” This Swedish death-metal classic, guest starring Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates, is the best song about drag-racing in Hell that has ever existed. And when it speeds up, you can basically see a checkered flag dropping and smell rubber burning. BORN! TO! RACE!
6. Mercyful Fate, “A Dangerous Meeting” Though not as much a thrash part as the speed-ups above it, the acceleration of “A Dangerous Meeting” ups this chug-along Satanic metal song’s cred, and probably inspired every black-metal band, ever.