Breakdowns are the most reoccurring complaint metalheads have about metalcore, alongside the genre’s vocals. As far as I’m concerned, I’m with most metalheads when it comes to bands that pride themselves on that 4/4 hi-hat, same lowest note on the guitar chug over and over again BS on every song. However, I’m not one to let a breakdown ruin an entire song for me, as long as the rest of the song contains well-written sections. I thought I’d take some time to share with you all some of my favorite metalcore songs. These all have that breakdown BS, but with a lot of extra badass.
“It Starts Today” – Obey The Brave
This 5-piece band from Montreal has lyrical content similar to that of Hatebreed. However, Obey The Brave put more emphasis on lead guitar tracks. Right from the beginning this song displays actual riffs rather than grooves. After the lyrics “Here we go” we hear the first breakdown, then right afterwards is a hypnotic lead with reverb and delay. There’s an even slower breakdown after the second “Here we go”. Afterwards, the riffs resume and we’re treated to the same hypnotic lead again before the song ends.
“Nightmares” – I Killed The Prom Queen
From their recent comeback album “Beloved”. The breakdown in this song is relatively short, but occurs multiple times. The intro hooks you in with it’s melodic riff in hi-pass mode, then in regular mode. It is one of the faster songs on the album, which I usually prefer. If you don’t like clean vocals in metal, then I’d suggest giving this song a chance since the cleans in the chorus are overshadowed by that melodic riff.
“District Of Misery” – Oceano
The most embarrassing breakdown of the song occurs at the beginning. Luckily afterwards, the one-note chug here is complemented with either drumming that is more complex than usual, or a keyboard track that sounds like you’re sinking deeper into the ocean’s depths. This is a deathcore song that builds and builds, climaxing at 2:07 into the song.
“The Failsafe” – Misery Signals
I really enjoy it when a metal band lets the notes ring. There’s a lot of that in this song. It begins in a somber key signature, then builds to a more hopeful key of G. What really did it for me though was the clean pre-chorus. The embarrassing breakdown enters after vocalist Karl Schubach screams “Give us a sign”. Not exactly the sign I was hoping for. Luckily, the listener is treated to that amazing clean pre-chorus a second time as the song’s outro. Another song with the pre-chorus and breakdown elements called “Luminary” was present on the band’s latest album “Absent Light”.
“It’s Not Safe To Swim Today” – Veil Of Maya
Expect some frantic splashing in the pit during the breakdowns if you hear this song played live. Rather than splash (though I’m guilty of it myself once), I would focus on Marc Okubo’s relentless riffage. He begins the song with a descending scale, then goes into his signature playing style of diverse and technical riffs. Not to mention the last two notes in the song are pretty unusual.
“Abducted” – Rings Of Saturn
A song like this reminds me why the classification “Aliencore” makes total sense. The scale used in the dueling arpeggios is an Anhemitonic scale, which is particularly creepy (used also in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). On this band’s records there are multiple guitar tracks, but since they’re limited to 2 guitars when playing live, you cannot expect as many duel arpeggios. In fact you can expect at least one guitar performing a rhythm track or breakdown. In the case of this song, it occurs in the later half of the song.
“Make It Bleed” – Whitechapel
You can really feel the brutality oozing out of your pores on this track. Sick riffs after the piano intro. The six-piece deathcore act tuned even lower on their eponymous album. The breakdown occurs about 90 seconds in. Then there’s some lyrics and riffs over the breakdown and then a clean section that takes you to the middle-east, then a pretty advanced solo, more cleans, then back to the insane riffage and lyrics to make you vomit razor blades. Fuckin’ brutal.
“Brain Death” – The Acacia Strain
I really didn’t like this band when I first saw them open for Hatebreed in 2009. I couldn’t take the excessive breakdowns, or beatdowns as their fans like to refer to them. Then when they opened for Lamb Of God in 2012, I walked into the House of Blues in Atlantic City thinking “this intrigues me”. This song was emulating the Meshuggah trend and placing atmosphere in the chorus. I also enjoy the dueling leads after the second chorus. Their signature slower breakdown comes shortly after those leads. After that show, I did some exploring and realized that this band will occasionally throw guys like me a bone, and include a song or two per album with a great atmosphere to make up for the breakdowns. In the case of their newest album Coma Witch, that would be the song “Holy Walls Of The Vatican”.
“Edge Of The Earth” – Volumes
Here’s a band with two vocalists per song. This song has a nice instrumental intro as well. From the beginning of the actual song, it has a great lead section to complement the low-tuned rhythm. The singing in the chorus is impressive as well. After the second verse the breakdown occurs. Then you’re treated to the pre-chorus and chorus once again before the song closes ever so softly. Just like the Acacia Strain, this band will throw me a song like this, or “Vahle” an emotional tribute to a friend who tragically died in an automobile accident, in the midst of their djenty breakdowns or Backstreet Boys-style singing (found in “Erased”).
“Romance Is Dead” – Parkway Drive
And so I end with the first metal band I ever saw in concert. This is usually their closer. Produced by Adam D. of Killswitch Engage, the song has a sick metal tone despite the band’s larger connection to hardcore. The metal elements of the band are from the more technical guitarist Jeff Ling. The song has a wide variety of riffs before and after the breakdown minutes into the song, complemented with emo lyrics “So cry me a fucking river, bitch!”. Ultimately what makes this song after it just builds and builds, is the two-handed tapping technique at the end complemented by other guitarist Luke Kilpatrick, as well as a closing atmosphere to calm one down from the excitement of the tapping.