Breaking Down the Breakdown

This is bound to be a lengthy post, so let’s review.  Blood and Banjos is supposed to take this:



And somehow merge it with this:



This could be tricky…  But clearly it can’t be that far fetched!  I mean, the banjo player in the first video is way more metal than I could ever be.

Let’s analyze these videos a bit more though.  The first song is one of my favorites by The Devil Makes Three.  (Sort of a black metal name already, not bad.)  It’s very simple accompaniment: guitar, banjo, bass.  The singing is just great, and I love that male-female harmony! Instrumentation isn’t really highlighted here, as the vocals are really at the forefront.  (I’ll try to find another example where the instrumentation is the focus of the song.)  At minute 2:23 of this video, though, we hear an example of an instrumental “break” that is often found in bluegrass.  Similarly, a bluegrass “breakdown” would feature several instruments, one at a time.

Now, this breakdown is quite different than what you might expect from your everyday metal breakdown.  In fact, metal doesn’t usually incorporate breakdowns at all, and I’ve never heard a black metal breakdown. Metalcore, on the other hand, loves them.  (I tend to enjoy them, but try not to abuse them in my song writing.) While the two definitions of “breakdown” are quite different, I think what few similarities there are might present an opportunity for some interesting fusion. I envision a heavy breakdown with banjo plucking in between the chugs of electric guitar. YES.

Read this wikipedia page for a full discussion on the different types of breakdowns. “Breaks are for the drummer; breakdowns are for hands in the air.”

me (top) at a Veil of Maya show

Confused about what a typical metal[core] breakdown is? Wikipedia provides this hilarious example, but it kinda gets the idea across. Here is an example of a deathcore breakdown by Carnifex. (The title of this video just kills me…) Close your eyes and try to imagine the banjos on top of this! Beautiful, yeah? Finally, just because we’re on the topic, the first two breakdowns you hear in this video are personal favorites from Between the Buried and Me.  You can be sure I’ll use a few breakdowns, but let’s make sure that I keep them tasteful.

This is an example of abusing the breakdown…



So, back to the Taake video (the second video I posted.) It’s not necessarily your classic black metal, but it is a good example of the stark contrast between the two genres we’re working with.  Notice the ominous tones created by the dissonance, the heavy beat, and overall dark intensity. The chords are actually quite melodic in comparison to some older black metal, and the progression is more musical.  The production quality is also quite good compared to the “raw” style of some other bands. The vocals, however, are pretty much right on par with the genre. So then, where do I make the connections here? What are the common denominators with which I can work?

I don’t usually write music that is dark, and merging ominous sounds with bluegrass will most likely require a minor tonality to maintain continuity. I don’t want to be pigeonholed into minor chord progressions though, so we’ll see how flexible we can be. I’ll try to record and post something this week, and you can let me know what you think.

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One thought on “Breaking Down the Breakdown

  1. […] continue to next post Like this:Like2 bloggers like this post. This entry was tagged black metal, blackgrass, bluegrass, folk, metal, music.Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments […]

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