The Fade-Out

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While no conclusive source exists on the matter (that I was able to locate), it’s believed that the advent of the fade-out correlated with the symbiotic development of both pop music and radio in the ’50s and/or ’60s. A fade-out ensured that singles wouldn’t overextend their welcome, allowing DJs to create a familiar and predictable momentum that facilitated the interjection of advertising. By doing so, it blurred the worlds of art and product and encouraged a realm of sound that could be easily remembered yet instantly replaced. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to propose that this contributed to a demographic of lazy songwriters who focused more on memorable hooks rather than fitting finales.

But metal, by definition, never had to compromise to the standards of marketing in its infancy. It would then seem that its use of the fade-out developed along with its ideologies, most notably its endless quest for extremes and its cartoon-ish bravado. It implied that whatever riff you were hearing was so thoroughly massive and indisputably crushing that it could loop forever in an endless and epic universe until bone and brain atomized.

So what are some of metals most memorable fade-out riffs? I’ve compiled a few of my favorites but by all means this list is far from complete. Rather than find offense at the absence of your dearly beloved jam, please contribute to this lengthy litany.

To read more about the history of the fade-out, check out this NPR article from a few years back.

— Aaron Maltz

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Morbid Angel – “God of Emptiness”

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Sepultura – “Desperate Cry”

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Pantera – “Cemetery Gates”

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Metallica – “Fade to Black”

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Cynic – “Pleading For Preservation”

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!T.O.O.H.! – “Kali”

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Black Sabbath – “Electric Funeral”

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