Breakdowns have been a part of metal for decades, but they’ve definitely become more abundant in recent years. While they’re commonly associated with metalcore and deathcore, they can pretty much pop up anywhere, too.
Sometimes, they’re beautiful breathers in otherwise vicious journeys, giving listeners the chance to chill out a bit before returning to the turmoil. Just as frequently, though, they move through songs like utterly malevolent molasses, trapping audiences in their grippingly evil and sluggish trajectories.
READ MORE: The 12 Most Beautiful Breakdowns in Metal
Don’t believe us? Welp, you better strap in for the 10 nauseatingly inhuman picks on the list.
From metal icons such as Slayer, Pantera, Meshuggah and Cannibal Corpse to more obscure acts such as Shattered Realm and The Dali Thundering Concept, you’ll surely need a nap – and maybe even a hug – after enduring these undeniably ugly compositional collapses.
"God Knows," Knocked Loose
There are obviously some top-tier choices from other Knocked Loose tracks (for instance, within “By the Grave” and “Everything is Quiet Now”). Yet, we have to go with this one from A Tear in the Fabric of Life since it was among the best metal songs of 2021.
Fueled by the grief that permeates the EP’s overarching narrative, “God Knows” is devastating musically and thematically. Roughly a minute before it’s over, Bryan Garris screams, “The trumpet toils for the blood I harvest,“ leading into an intricately gnarly onslaught of undulating guitar riffs, bass notes and drumming that’s thunderous and terrifying.
"The World Is Mine," Shattered Realm
Eye of the Destroyer’s Joe Randazza claimed that this track from Shattered Realm’s first full-length sequence, Broken Ties... Spoken Lies, contains the second-sickest breakdown of all time. He even admitted that it backed “the most violent and brutal assaults [he has] ever witnessed.”
It’s not hard to see why.
The moment in question – landing 30 seconds before “The World Is Mine” is over – appears after a few moments of silence, with mesmerizingly laidback percussion and threatening guitar riffs complementing the unholy closing demand: “Bring the world back down!”
It’s basically a delightfully disgusting coda that cements the group’s gruesome proficiency.
Considering that it begins with a prelude called “Welcome Fuckers,” it’s no great shock that this metalcore ensemble’s third LP, Frailty, is brazenly abrasive. Nevertheless, the sheer griminess of it can be overwhelming, especially during the militaristic mayhem near the end of the brief but brutal “Funerals.”
Essentially, all of the preceding chaos dissolves into an alarmingly unified attack from every instrument; meanwhile, Joey “Southside” Stone utters his final repellent verdict: “Oh please God, I can't take another fucking funeral.”
Despite the arrangement becoming significantly more dynamic from there – particularly regarding the syncopation – it never deviates from that in-your-face ghastliness.
It’s arguably the best song from one of thrash’s ‘Big 4,’ so it had to be here. From start to finish, “Raining Blood” kicks ass – which is partially why Reign in Blood is Slayer’s greatest record – and it would be far less awesome without the mid-point meltdown.
After Tom Araya wickedly sings, “Awaiting the hour of reprisal/Your time slips away,” the entire band trudges along in simultaneous outbursts, setting the foundation for the vigorous marching beat and biting counterpoints of drummer Dave Lombardo and guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hannenman.
Is it simple? Yes. Is it enthrallingly repugnant? Also yes.
Comprised of one 47-minute composition broken into various parts, Catch Thirtythree is perhaps Meshuggah’s most divisive album, with some people adoring it while others see it as a low point in their catalog. Either way, there’s no denying the hypnotic malice of penultimate piece “Dehumanization,” especially when the carnivalesque fury gives way to spiraling vehemence just past the center of the track.
Complexly programmed percussion and monstrous bass lines stampede with apocalyptic magnitude as a demonic voice beckons: “Grinding, churning, the sweetest ever noises/Decode me into their non-communication/A soundtrack to my failure, one syllable, one vowel.”
Talk about stomach-churning seductiveness!
"Realism - The Stone Ego Paradox," The Dali Thundering Concept
Hailing from France, progressive deathcore troupe The Dali Thundering Concept are adept at crafting calmingly atmospheric movements. That said, they’re similarly capable of assaulting your eardrums with bloodcurdling breakdowns, as showcased by this cut from conceptual EP When X Met Y.
Already an unforgivingly diabolical experience, “Realism - The Stone Ego Paradox” enters a new dimension of horridness about halfway in, when singer Sylvain Connier unhurriedly growls, “Staring at your reflect won’t make you grow/You’re just a weak twig mighty wind blows” over equally mucky rhythms and an ominously piercing guitar line.
It's like entering the gates of hell without any hope of escape.
"Hammer Smashed Face," Cannibal Corpse
Say what you will about their shock-and-gore gimmicks, but you have to at least admire the unrelenting guttural supremacy and playfulness of Cannibal Corpse.
Just listen to the career-saving title track of their first EP, whose initial ambush of speedy belligerence suddenly and sleekly scatters into the momentary relief of Alex Webster’s hyperactive bass playing. Seconds later, the debauchery resumes via blast beats, ferocious guitarwork and ex-frontman Chris Barnes’ downright evil introductory decree: “Something inside me/It's, it's coming out/I feel like killing you.”
Jim Carrey even brought its exhilarating ugliness into 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. How cool is that?
"These Colours Don't Run," Architects
A transitional record for Architects in several respects, Daybreaker is still a quintessential modern metalcore/post-hardcore statement. Undeniably, “These Colours Don’t Run” ranks highly among its compositions.
Not to be confused with the Iron Maiden song of the same name, this one (which features Jon Green of Deez Nuts) is a typically captivating venture comprised of intricate instrumentation and aggressive proclamations.
Near the end, vocalist Sam Carter yells, “You had it all, you fucking pigs!” as the quintet launch into a riotous explosion of off-kilter syncopation, six-string dejections and bouncy bass pulsations.
It’s as emotionally resonant as it is sophisticatedly primal.
There’s a reason why Pantera’s penultimate compilation albums is named after this cut from Cowboys from Hell: It absolutely rules!
In fact, Loudwire named it their second-best song ever, noting that the “riff that kicks in at around 3:50 will get any . . . fan off their butt and grooving.” Arriving after one of Dimebag Darrell’s tastiest guitar solos, the section literally brings the adrenaline-fueled journey to a screeching halt for some blunt and increasingly ornate headbanging fun.
Malevolence guitarist Josh Baines cited it as the Pantera breakdown that will fuck you up the most, and we can’t disagree.
"Liege of Inveracity," Suffocation
Suffocation’s inaugural LP, Effigy of the Forgotten, validated them as tech death metal masters, and opener “Liege of Inveracity” surely served as many prospective fans’ gateway to their characteristic depravity.
The whole thing is commandingly animalistic, yet it’s the changeup roughly 40 seconds from the end that truly sucks us in. Singer Frank Mullen retches, “A new race I will now create/As I end their pitiful lives” on top of half-time jackhammer drumming and foreboding multilayered guitar riffs.
It’s a delectably abhorrent segment, and as Rolling Stone pointed out back in 2018, it likely pioneered the slam death metal microgenre.