Some of you live and die by the riff. Some of you hail and kill by the chorus. Some of you wear tank tops and annoy everyone by the breakdown. But like the pivotal climax of a great movie, a single, brilliant moment within a great song can be the one thing you hang on to.
Sure, the parameters of a “moment” in a song are a bit nebulous. I don’t want to set a specific length of time it has to fit within, but I’m not talking about a riff, a section, or anything that goes on for awhile. I’m talking about a handful of seconds that just bulldoze the balls of anyone within listening range. These moments don’t exist in a vacuum, however. Prolonged buildups, transitions in and out of riffs, or unexpected turns all aid in setting up and executing these instants. Here are a couple of examples.
I loved I Shall Die Here, The Body‘s 2014 album produced by The Haxan Cloak. The mix of The Body’s signature nihilistic sludge with Bobby Krlic’s dark, brooding electronics was a big win for me. The best moment of the album, however, comes in the track “Hail To Thee, Everlasting Pain.” The song wanders through dark corridors of bleak but driving electronics and grating screams in a style much different than Chip King’s usual fare. Then the tension builds when the electronics strip away one piece at a time, leaving those harsh screams hanging poignantly above our heads. The howl of mechanical wreckage. A loaded silence. Then at 3:26, utter destruction crashes upon us with Chip’s hideously maligned shrieks and truly devastating electronic oppression. No dick is safe from a thorough crushing. The ensuing section itself is great, as is the rest of the song, but that absolute fireball of a moment at 3:26 is the reason I listen to that song.
Another longtime favorite of mine comes from the art music realm. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is one of the pinnacles of human achievement, and if you disagree you’re wrong. Sorry*. In the tumultuous first movement, Beethoven builds, transforms, explores, creates and recreates in trve Beethoven fashion. Starting at 11:00 in the video below, wave after wave of D minor crashes on rocky shorelines, the buildup of which began around 9:40. However, the true standout moment is going into the proper arrival of the recapitulation, when the flute screams in with a high, screeching G# that grates hard against the D minor chord (11:19). Like a flaming, shrieking phoenix it rises in slow motion above the chaos before crashing into the waves below a few seconds later. That is how you bring it home.
A few fellow Toilet dwellers gave me their personal favorites on the ever-buzzing Facebook group. Check them out below, and leave a comment with your favorite moment in a song. If you start naming favorite riffs or sections and not singular moments, be prepared to be mocked with the full force of me mocking you with a lot of force.
One of my favorites is in “Mexico – Chichen Itza” at the 3:54 mark when the sustained notes and organ give way to the drums going dun-dun-dun dunn-dunn-dunn booong! – W.
The fake-out beat at 1:59 just slays me. – Hessian Hunter
1:39, that fucking high pitched wail with the blast beat gets me every damn time. – Jack Bauer
One of my favorites is the “I watched my son die” line in Altar of Plagues’s “Burnt Year”. (3:07, and a most excellent pick that I agree with. – Stockhausen) – Fine Sexy Ladies
At 2:30 when Casey Chaos loses all of his shits in one breath. – Fritz
One more just because I forgot how often I would listen to this song just for this part. 2:26 is a drop with a computerized voice saying “and they will survive by our” then the breakdown riff comes in and the vocalist gives a jarring growl “DEEDS” (deeds being the moment) – BigTasty
I get hyped at 1:04 when the snare drum sounds like the best trash can lid ever. – HM-Deuce
This song as an extended tension building intro, which is broken (1:02) by one of the most beautiful riffs ever written. But that’s not it. The pièce de résistance is when the kick drum stops and the second guitar joins the riff at 1:26. Fucking magical! Gets me every time. EVERY TIME. – Stanley
1:24 and 1:34. – BattlebornNDN
This was Edward’s pick, and was easily one of my favorite moments of metal in 2015. The filthiest iteration of “It’s not personal” happens at 3:48. Wade through the preceding chaos to make it really hit home.