Thursday, January 14, 2016

Black Metal Banchan - Part 3: Tr00 Korean Black Metal & Snacks (Kalpa + Random Korean Snack Classics + Bedevilled)

The Black Metal Banchan continues!   If you're new to the series or this blog and want to catch up on the older posts for the BMB:
You can read part 1 here.
You can read part 2 here.

Now THAT is a fucking sword!!!

It's impossible to talk about tr00 Korean black metal without getting into Kalpa.   Although this kind of thing is pretty difficult to actually prove, I'm almost positive that anyone who knows anything about Korean metal would say that the mysterious homegrown black metal horde Kalpa was the first to have sown mayhemic darkness upon The Hermit Kingdom.   Sure, there were other bands around the same time doing a similar thing, such as Sad Legend, Oathean, (see our previous posts about them in this series) and Moonshine, but both of those bands were kind of doing a more keyboard-y melodic black metal thing.   Kalpa formed in the same year as Moonshine and Oathean (1996), a year before Sad Legend, and while they didn't put out a proper album until almost a decade later, it seems like Kalpa was Korea's first attempt to get KVLT.

Kalpa, before Black Candle kicked
everyone else out of the band :(
How so?   Well for one, just look at their pics!   They're rockin' corpsepaint, spiked armbands, swords, long hair, forest promo shoots, etc.  It's too bad that the main dude, Black Candle, eventually kicked everyone else out of the band and became a one-man project because it looks like he wasn't too productive with that lineup change.   Still, you never know!   At least they released some material while they were together, which is more than can be said for a lot of bands!

Anyway, they unfortunately only released one full-length record, The Path of Eternal Years (2002), and honestly... it's not that amazing.   That's not to say that it's bad, as there's plenty of great black metal riffage and grim atmosphere!   Also, while the first half or so of the album is pretty typical of the genre, the second half is actually really cool!   It's one long song, about 16 minutes long, and is the title track as well.   Building with an atmospheric acoustic guitar and haunting keyboard melody, things start off slowly when the drums and electric guitars kick in, but before you know it, shit gets evil fast and you're in the middle of a flurry of blasbeats, tremolo-picked gusts of wind, and icy atmospheric keyboards.  About halfway through the track shit slows down and we're treated to an eerie synthesized flute (I think) melody that really ramps up the atmosphere and reminds me a lot of the other Korean black metal bands I've been covering on here so far (Sad Legend and Oathean) in terms of that "Oriental/Asian" feeling that is such a defining characteristic of their sound.   There's even a gong at the end!!  Definitely the best song on the album!   Recommended as an excellent musical companion for a long walk through a frozen Korean forest at night in the dead of winter!

Mount Gariwang (가리왕산) and its surroundings would have been an excellent place to experience Kalpa's music, but unfortunately South Korea decided to destroy a bunch of acreage in order to make room for the 2018 Winter Olympics :(
More like GHOSTjoseon, amirite???
However, I feel there are a couple of things that really hurt the band.   For one, I don't know if we're supposed to believe that Black Candle is actually playing the drums or not, but it's pretty fucking obvious that they're programmed.   Unless they're done EXTREMELY well or it fits the aesthetic of the band, I usually can't stand programmed drums, especially when we're talking black metal from almost 15 years ago.   It almost always just makes the band sound even more cheesy and cheap than they already are :/  Also, I feel like it takes away from the emotion and organic feel of a real drummer, and instead replaces it with something mechanical and lifeless (a common complaint about programmed drums in general).   I understand that it might be difficult to find a drummer that's willing to join a black metal band in South Korea, but c'mon.   The shit on this record isn't that hard to play.   Get out of the basement and find a session drummer, as I'm pretty sure any competent drummer worth a shit would be able to play this stuff (especially with studio editing)!    

Black Candle, coming soon to a teen summer camp...near you!
I'm not going to pretend like I know what kind of an impact, if any, Kalpa had on the black metal scene here or if Black Candle is even still involved in the scene at all (I doubt it), and whatever happened to him seems to be kind of a mystery.   However, his legacy remains as the first in what could hopefully be a long line of trve kvlt Korean black metal hordes.

OK, so now that we've talked about what is widely considered to be Korea's first black metal band, it's time to get into some O.G. Korean snacks, some of which have been around for decades!

Saewookkang (새우깡)

In terms of what we could consider Korea's "modern snack" scene, it doesn't get much more old-school than this.   They've been around since the early 1970s!   It's a wheat-based snack that you'll see all the time as free finger food to munch on as you drink your beer or soju, although I've also used to feed to seagulls when I'm on a boat or near a harbor :D

I always thought these were just OK and kind of boring, so maybe I've been in Korea too long because I'm kind of digging the fuck out of these right now!   It's slightly puffy, but also still maintains that crunch which is so crucial.   As fir the taste, it has a subtle, lightly salted shrimp flavor.   On the back of the bag they also recommend eating these with ketchup, which I found to be really tasty as well!  I guess there's some controversy with with these particular snack as well, because they are EERILY similar to Kappa Ebisen (かっぱえびせん), a JAPANESE snack that made hit the shelves about seven years before Saewookkang in 1964.   Uh-oh!   We'll have to have a face-off at some point to see who is the true King of the Shrimp-Flavored Snacks That Resemble French Fries Scene (or KSFSTRFFS as its referred to on the street).   8 / 10

Saewookkang's spicy version
But wait!  You really think I'd talk about the regular version without mentioning that there's a SPICY version as well?!   This is a fucking metal blog!!   I don't know about you guys, but I pride myself on being able to not only handle my alcohol, but also my spicy food as well.    That's why I decided to get crazy and try the version with a little extra heat to see how it compares, and, of course, which one is better.    Honestly, I'm going to have to go with the spicy version.   It's not like it's super spicy or anything, but it does pack enough of a mild kick to be acceptable (unless you're dead set on something more intense).   8 / 10

Below is a cute commercial for the snack.   You may be thinking, "Wulf, what are you doing dude?   This shit is the least metal thing of all time."   Maybe you're right, but if you play/listen to this commercial 100 times in a row you will achieve a specific kind of madness unattainable through even the most ludicrously torturous black metal that has been created thus far.

BONUS 1991 COMMERCIAL (same song too!):

Postick (포스틱)

Making its grocery/convenience store debut in the late 1980s, Postick is basically a French fry snack for people who don't have the time or patience to hit up a fast food joint for the real thing.    It kind of tastes like a cross between a French fry, Funyuns, and the Saewookkang snack (see above), and is actually quite tasty!   Addicting too.   At first I thought they were just OK because they don't taste exactly like French fries, but actually the more I eat the more I like them.   Maybe it's because I'm also looking at the cute potato cartoon dude on the front of the bag and imagining him baking the snacks just for me.   That expression on his face really gets me too, like he's hoping so much that you like what he's made.   Yeah, yeah, I know, that's the whole point of having a cutesy cartoon character as the mascot for your snack in the first place, but I think they really did a great job because it worked on me!   I guess he's also kind of metal too since he's a cannibal (being a potato himself and then baking and eating potato snacks).

To get more specific about how this snack looks and tastes, they are quite puffy (something I usually don't like) but they maintain a significant crunch as well, which I think makes up for it.   You also get a shitload of these in one bag, I was pretty surprised!   It's definitely more than enough for one person to handle on their own.  Also, the back of the bag recommends eating these with ketchup, just like the Saewookkang snacks.   I didn't think this would work out too well because it just seemed like an extremely lazy/shitty substitute of eating real French fries with ketchup, but oddly enough I found this to be false!   Especially the aftertaste, which really does make it seem like you just ate some fries and ketchup.   Great work Mr. Potato Chef Dude!!   8.5 / 10 (with ketchup)

Kanchyo (칸쵸)

This stuff is tasty as fuck.   It's very simple, consisting of a biscuit shell with chocolate spread or something in the middle.   Not too complicated or weird, just a solid, sweet snack, and very addicting.   It's also really cute and has cartoon characters and designs printed on each piece.   Gumiho says that it used to be two cute biscuit people (a boy and a girl) that were on the front of the box, but I'm pretty sure the design right now is actually meant to be either identical or at least resemble its original 80s "retro" design to coincide with Reply 1988 (응답하라 1988), a super-popular Korean drama right now that's set in the 1980s (I've noticed that a bunch of other snacks are doing this as well).   Solid snack if you're kind of hungry, want something sweet, but don't want to go overboard.   8.5 / 10

Below is what is probably Kanchyo's first commercial.   The Disney characters that briefly make an appearance seems pretty random, and I wonder if Lotte (the makers of Kanchyo) ever actually bothered to pay Disney to use them:

A more modern Kanchyo commercial below, and, like most things in Korea now, is excruciatingly cute.   I don't mean to make light of the subject at all, but I've always found it so bizarre (and, of course, sad) that both Korea and Japan are the undisputed kings of putting out a never-ending stream of ludicrously cute stuff, but maintain some of the highest rates of suicide (and therefore, I'm assuming, depression), especially Korea.   But that's a subject for another day!

Also, similar to Saewookkang, it's a strong possibility that Kanchyo is a clone of Hello Panda, an extremely similar Japanese snack that was created in the late 1970s.   Sorry Korea, I don't mean to steal your thunder!   However, you gotta give credit where it's due!

Ojingeo Ddangkong (오징어 땅콩)

Weird-ass name (translates to "squid peanuts"), but fucking delicious!    Salty, crunchy, squid-flavored shell with a sweet peanut inside.   Killer 1-2 punch!   I think it's supposed to resemble takoyaki, the popular Japanese street food snack.   Like the others on this list, this is pretty addicting.   Also, it's interesting too because when you eat it as a whole and the squid-shell taste combines with the peanut, it creates a new, unique flavor, which is pretty cool.   Highly recommended with beer (except Korean beer...but that's a topic for another post).
8.5 / 10

Ddangkong Gangjeong (땅콩강정)

Similar to the peanut squid balls (ha) above, we have this stuff, which roughly translates to "peanut snack" in English, except gangjeong (강정) in this case is kind of like a traditional snack cake...just click on the link, Wikipedia will do a better job of explaining it.   Anyway, also like the peanut squid balls, these are surprisingly pretty fucking delicious!   Instead of a squid flavored biscuit-y shell this time, we get crispy rice balls!   It's quite crunchy too, as well as being fairly sweet with what I'm assuming is a mild presence of honey.   Can't go wrong with this snack.   8.5 / 10

Caramel Corn Maple (카라멜콘 메이플)

Saved the best for last.   I thought these were going to suck, as I'm not crazy about caramel, maple syrup-flavored shit, "puffy" snacks, or sweet stuff in general.   Also, the front of the bag has a cartoon corn-on-the-cob mascot who's wearing what I'm assuming is a Canadian Mountie hat and a jug of maple of syrup, and apparently they use real Canadian maple syrup too, according to the info on the back of the bag.   So yeah, this shit is obviously going to be way too sweet and gross, right??   Hoooooly shit was I wrong!   This is one of the best snacks I've ever had!   It's pretty intense (although it doesn't go overboard with the syrup like I was expecting it to), so I don't know if I'm going to eat it all the time, but if you're in the mood for a snack that's similar to pancakes with maple syrup, then this is your best bet!   It tastes just like a crunchy pancake!   I couldn't believe it!   Killer stuff.   9 / 10  

Obviously, this isn't an exhaustive list.  And yeah, I know, it's boring that I gave all the snacks an 8.5, but I'm being completely fucking honest!   These snacks obviously kick the shit out of the Korean Doritos and Cheetos (see previous entries in the series).   There are tons of other tr00 Korean "modern" snacks (as opposed to traditional Korean snacks, which do exist, and we'll get to later!) that we could have covered, but we'll just have to save for another time.   Are you hungry yet?   Wherever you are in the world, I hope you manage to find the time to sit down, rip open a bag of your favorite snacks, put on your favorite killer black metal tunes, and just have a fucking time!!

At the Movies with Wulf!!

In addition to Korean black metal and Korean snacks, I'm going to start covering Korean cinema as well, particularly horror and action as well!  

BEDEVILLED (김복남 살인사건의 전말)

As you can tell by the poster, Bedevilled
is the feel-good comedy of the summer
that you've been waiting for!!
Korean films tend to be pretty intense, and I've noticed that the thriller/horror movies here seem to often feature themes of rape, physical/sexual abuse, pedophilia, domestic violence, sadism, suicide, extremely abnormal psychology, and other supremely depressing topics.   I don't feel like this is the place to really explore WHY this seems to be so prevalent in Korean films, or if it is even is a thing and not just a result of the small sample of the films that I've seen, but more often than not, at least in my experience, you're probably not going to be in a happy mood by the time the credits roll.   

Why am I talking about this?   Because Bedevilled (김복남 살인사건의 전말, or, literally "The Whole Story of the Kim Bok-nam Murder Case") (2010) has got ALL of this stuff!   This movie is pretty fucked up and not for the faint of heart, although I wouldn't say it's quite on the same level of absurdity as like Human Centipede or Audition, as its a bit more grounded in reality and conceivable that it could have been based on a true story.   At first I found the movie to be kind of nihilistic and just a tale of revenge and brutal violence, but now I realize that it's really about standing up to oppression and injustice, as well as the importance of defending those who are unable to defend themselves.  There's also some social commentary in this as well in terms of the young violently rebelling (due to decades of abuse) against Korea's traditional, patriarchal, rigidly hierarchical society, which definitely adds a much-needed, deeper, more meaningful dimension to the film.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is a MUST-SEE, but it's still quite good.   Also, the performances of all the actors are great, especially from Seo Young-hee (as Kim Bok-nam).   I don't want to spoil anything, but she does an amazing job transforming from sweet and happy-go-lucky to completely batshit insane.  The trailer (below) unfortunately doesn't do the movie justice, as there's a lot more going on in the movie than just some woman going crazy and killing everyone.

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