There’s nothing like a good breakdown to slap you across the face and get you throwing yourself around the pit like a possessed animal, but there are also a lot of generic, very skippable breakdowns out there too. While the breakdown itself was born well before the turn of the millennium, it has evolved over the years to become a staple in deathcore, metalcore and countless other heavy sub-genres.
We’ve gone to the effort of sifting through a big-ass pile of them to bring you what we think are the best 10 breakdowns of all time, based on heaviness and significance for their era.
If you do feel the urge to start moshing while making your way through the list, make sure you don't smack into any valuables or loved ones!
10. As Blood Runs Black – My Fears Have Become Phobias (2006)
Breakdowns in deathcore tend to be far slower and more brutal than that of their 'core counterparts, and this iconic track from As Blood Runs Black’s album “Allegiance” takes the cake for us. Featuring some of the most obscene kick drum work at the time, this was a defining moment for the genre and really takes us back.
9. The Acacia Strain – JFC (2008)
Yeah, we were always going to include these guys; their whole catalogue is essentially one big breakdown anyway! That did make the choice much harder of course, but we’ve gone with ‘JFC’ for this one purely for the epic build-up which makes the actual breakdown hit REALLY hard. This one sounds like the audio equivalent of a bomb being dropped right on your head.
8. END – Necessary Death (2017)
END made an insane first impression with their debut EP From The Unforgiving Arms Of God, with this particular moment cementing itself as one of the heaviest in recent years. Taking a more tough hardcore musical approach, END consists of members from Fit For An Autopsy, Structures, Counterparts and Reign Supreme. Backed by the production genius of Will Putney, ‘Necessary Death’ finds its power in simplicity, and it might just be one of the heaviest things we’ve heard. Do yourself a favour and listen to this colossal breakdown, then go and torment yourself with their crushing 2020 album Splinters From an Ever-Changing Face!
7. Thy Art Is Murder – Reign of Darkness (2012)
Our first Aussie edition to the list, Thy Art Is Murder’s album ‘Hate’ really thrust them onto the global stage, and for good reason. The ending to ‘Reign of Darkness’ is pretty unique due to interesting drum-work filling out the spaces between the juicy chugs, and it makes for a fucking brutal breakdown. If it’s too short for you though, you can check out any of their latest material to find plenty of other candidates.
6. Architects – Early Grave (2008)
Architects have always been at the forefront of metalcore throughout the mid-2000’s and into the current decade with some of the most beautifully inventive and brutal music ever seen in the genre.
Their 2008 album ‘Hollow Crown’ became a gold standard in mixing technicality with anger and heaviness, and the end of its first track ’Early Grave’ is truly something to behold. It’s a great example of 'less is more', showing that breakdowns don't need to be overly-complicated to hit like a truck. Sam Carter’s furious yells and the bounciness of the whole thing makes us want to start pitting ASAP. Check out the breakdown in ‘These Colors Don’t Run’ from the 2012 album Daybreaker for bonus heavies.
5. Meshuggah – New Millennium Cyanide Christ (1998)
It would just be downright rude to not include Meshuggah, who really paved the way for different heavy genres like djent and metalcore which use breakdowns liberally. We couldn’t really go past this track from them, and although it’s not as catchy as the others on this list due to its technicality, it’s great fun to bang your head along to – even when you can’t work out whether you’re in time or not.
4. The Dillinger Escape Plan – 43% Burnt (1999)
Calculating Infinity was a milestone for heavy music in general when it was released in 1999. Still seen by many fans as their best album, it spawned some of the most technical, chaotic and unrelenting mathcore to ever see the light of day. Check out the opening of ‘43% Burnt’ – it’s pure disonnance, and it’s so angry that we couldn’t leave it out.
3. Suicide Silence – No Pity for a Coward (2007)
Kings of deathcore Suicide Silence made waves with their debut album ‘The Cleansing’, which turned out to be the highest-selling debut album for a Century Media record ever. ‘No Pity for a Coward’ might have one of the biggest breakdowns of the decade; you’d be hard-pressed to find a thicker guitar tone anywhere else, and Mitch Lucker’s gutturals made this one-of-a-kind.
2. Parkway Drive – Boneyards (2007)
You knew our boys would be making the list, and we’ve decided to take it all the way back to their incredible 2007 sophomore album Horizons with the heart-stopping breakdown in 'Boneyards'. This is honestly one of our favourite albums to come out of Australia and we don’t get tired of listening to it 13 years later. It was a dead heat between this and 'Dead Man’s Chest', but you could easily make an argument for most other Parkway songs ('Romance Is Dead', anyone?).
1. Pantera – Domination (1990)
Was this the beginning of the breakdown as we know it today? Pantera were definitely influential in the development of other sub-genres throughout the 21st century including nu metal, metalcore and hardcore punk. This breakdown in 'Domination' from 1990 was arguably the first use of a slowed-down, open-chugging section purely designed for people to bang their heads ‘til their necks snapped ('Reign in Blood' by Slayer was still pretty quick). Even almost 30 years later, it’s unreal to think that it’s still the most crushing breakdown to have ever been created.
Do you agree with the list? Let us know what some of your favourite breakdowns are!