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Breaking down the breakdown in twenty-first-century metal

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In this article, I introduce the breakdown as a formal structure identified in certain styles of modern metal, especially metalcore. Breakdowns are widely considered to be distinct sections of a song, much like a verse or chorus: this observation provides the basis for defining breakdowns structurally using music analysis. Responding to the nascent field of research on popular music fandom, I next discuss curatorial practices focusing upon breakdowns, where online fan communities collect their favourites, rate them and compare how they are employed in metal music. Moving beyond their use as extracts of recorded tracks, I investigate some possible uses and accompaniments for breakdowns in live settings. In particular, metal performance scenarios can emphasize breakdowns as opportunities for moshing and other forms of collective motion. Finally, I consider potential listening experiences of breakdowns (and their accessibility), from catharsis and emotional release to communal belonging.
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Keywords: analysis; breakdowns; fandom; listening; metal; metalcore; moshing; music

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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