In modern metalcore, the generic breakdown as we know it seems to be close to extinction. But the way you recognize a good one remains unchanged—it’s when you sense the ultimate release of anticipation approaching, yet it still catches you by surprise.
Hold your breath and get ready to headbang to some of the best breakdowns in 2020 so far.
Code Orange – “Swallowing The Rabbit Whole”
Code Orange’s Underneath is a transgressive masterpiece that cuts through multiple sound and style realms. And so is “Swallowing The Rabbit Whole,” a loopy and mind-boggling synthesis of thrash-metal drive, progressive riffs, djenty groove and industrial harshness. A supercharged, glitchy breakdown erupts roughly one minute before the end of the track, mirroring and deconstructing the dominant riff. The breakdown marks a temporary closure to the whole only to rise again, like a futuristic mechanical phoenix, at the start of the following song.
Polaris – “Pray For Rain”
Beauty lies in simplicity. Right? Sometimes. But how about musicians who are able to create the most complex material and make it sound free-flowing and simple? That’s the kind of extraordinary beauty that shines in the breakdown in “Pray For Rain.” Here, Polaris handle syncopated rhythms and radiantly embellished guitar layers with an almost easycore approach. This sets the tone for The Death Of Me—melancholic yet persistent with a vividly expressed constant of light.
Sharptooth – “153”
A high-energy, hardcore punk-leaning feminist power anthem, “153” is a true standout on Sharptooth’s latest album Transitional Forms. Storming toward the peak point with fast riffs and Lauren Kashan’s heavy metal-esque clean vocals, the track takes an unexpected turn at the second half. Kashan’s gradually angrier singing changes into a prolonged scream as the tempo abruptly drops and fast guitar riffs get transformed into unsettling high-pitched squeals. With that comes a heavy, chugging breakdown—both the ending point and the culmination of the track.
Pressure Cracks – “Big T Youth”
Whether it’s fast-as-hell hardcore punk, forward-rushing thrashy riffing or melodic passages, Pressure Cracks have the unique ability to tear all of that apart when you least expect it. “Big T Youth,” the closing track on their This Is Called Survival EP, is an excellent instance of that. The breakdown comes early in the track, allowing Jason Aalon Butler to push his outrageous vocal performance to the edge. Later on, primed by prebreakdown callout moments or pauses, you might expect another breakdown to happen. But things just keep moving forward.
Spiritbox – “Blessed Be”
In “Blessed Be,” Spiritbox smoothly traverse from one emotional note to another. The single opens with grand djenty riffs only to be replaced by synth atmospheres and a melodic, progressive theme with Courtney LaPlante’s enchanting clean singing. Later on, the atmosphere thickens, followed by a slowdown that interrupts the poppy flow of the song and clears the stage for a massive, dissonant breakdown layered with growls and screams. And then, completely unexpectedly, the melodic chorus returns like nothing even happened.
END – “Absence”
Ready for some black metal…core? Well, ready or not, END are here to arrest your mind with electric blast beats and ghostly screams in “Absence.” Soon enough, though, the supergroup ditch the bleak vibe and proceed with metallic hardcore-punk style, as if it was as easy as flipping a coin. This duality is crowned with a dense and majestic closing breakdown that will make you go back to the start of the track to figure out how they got there in three-and-a-half minutes.
Crystal Lake – “Disobey”
If you have a thing for jaw-dropping opening riffs, you might entirely lose yours for the one on “Disobey” by Crystal Lake. And then lose it again when the two-folded breakdown, essentially a transformed, inverted version of that riff, comes right after the command “Disobey!” and proceeds with a rapid scream blast beat exchange. Before you realize what just happened, you’ll find yourself in a pitch-black ambiance of mumbled chants, scattered screams and doomy guitars.
Make Them Suffer – “Bones”
Speaking of show-stopping opening riffs, the one in “Bones” from Make Them Suffer will automatically make your head nod as your lip corners go as low as they physically can. Transformed, remolded and reimagined, the riff will continue reappearing throughout the track and make you forget a breakdown is even supposed to come. But it does, as a momentary yet powerful detour that makes the final entrance of the chorus even more dramatic.
Loathe – “New Faces In The Dark”
It’s harder than metalcore itself to pick one breakdown from Loathe’s I Let It In And It Took Everything. But even if you have the album playing in the background, the breakdown in “New Faces In The Dark” will have you pause whatever you’re doing. Interchangeably groovy and melodic, the track reaches its climactic point when its djenty theme is broken down into a piercing and noisy industrial-like pattern.
156/Silence – “Conflict Of Interest”
Did someone just turn on the fire alarm? Nope, it’s the breakdown in the seventh track on 156/Silence’s Irrational Pull, an album that challenges a broad spectrum of genres, from math to post-hardcore to groovy deathcore. So does “Conflict Of Interest,” where straightforward riffs and melodic hooks that lead up to the alarming breakdown make it truly shine in all its heaviness. This might not be the most technical section on the record, but it’s surely the most fun.
Volumes – “holywater”
If you like your breakdowns technical, glitchy and synth-heavy, “holywater” will make your day (or night). With this track, Volumes announced the return of vocalist Michael Barr, who defined “holywater” as “a new chapter.” And it sure sounds so until the last section of the song, where only a suspenseful synth lead—the uppermost layer of the djenty breakdown—is left to end the track, like a sonic question mark. What a cliffhanger.
Lotus Eater – “Narco”
If you’re not into conventional song structures or predictable breakdown placements, congratulations. You’re in the right place at the right time. “Narco,” the latest single from Lotus Eater, shows their flawless ability to manipulate expectations as they’re putting contrasting segments together and don’t shy away from pauses in between sections of haste. This dissonant breakdown will catch you by surprise, and so will what comes after.
Earthshatter – “W.T.M.”
While utilizing the full potential of crisp, grinding guitars, rough screams, sore basslines and aggressive drum patterns, Earthshatter still manage to place a super-sweet chorus here and there in “W.T.M.” You know, to distribute the chaos in small and healthy portions. But that’s just until the first breakdown, which tears the poor chorus to shreds. It’s followed by the second breakdown, which mercilessly destroys the first one, only to be eaten up by the third and final one—a slow but deathcore-heavy monstrosity.
Bring Me The Horizon – “Parasite Eve”
In “Parasite Eve,” Bring Me The Horizon continue toying with both a range of styles and the expectations of fans. The pandemic-themed, contrast-driven single unites a freshly cool again combination of alt-metal and nü metal in an electro-heavy way. But more than anything, it’s the second half of the track that teases the prospect of the band heading toward a heavier direction again as it echoes their metalcore past in a way that is enriched with the freedom and experimentation of their 2019 releases. The breakdown is brief yet effective enough to feed the hope of BMTH revisiting metalcore on BMTH8.
August Burns Red – “Dismembered Memory”
Throughout their nearly two-decade-long career, August Burns Red have mastered the perfect formula for a great breakdown, both in terms of placement and the breakdown itself. First, they throw in a continuous thread of melody that you can rely on to keep things in place while the band dazzle you with their virtuosic techniques. The breakdown comes in exactly when you’re expecting it to, but it’s still utterly satisfying. Click play on “Dismembered Memory” to witness for yourself.