Monday, December 28, 2015

Phantoms of the Orient: An Evening with Vhan of Aek Gwi!!

This picture was taken from Vhan's recent attempt
at a black metal version of "to be, or not to be..."
I don't think I've seen the sun in days.   Maybe weeks.   This has actually been a pretty warm December so far here in a land known for its relatively cold winters.   It's already the middle of December, and so far it's just been kind of cold and wet outside (except for a brief snow flurry that immediately melted).   While I am excited for the inevitable onslaught of ice and snow (perfect for grim black metal, of course), I'm taking advantage of the current shitty weather situation by listening to a recent discovery in my exploration of Korean black metal-- a mysterious entity known as 厄鬼 (Aek Gwi).   The shadowy figure behind Aek Gwi is a veteran in the Korean black metal scene, and gone by several various pseudonyms, but currently he is known simply as Vhan.   Vhan has had quite a lot on his plate within the last few years.   Not only has he been involved in various other bands/projects in the past (besides Aek Gwi), but he also (up until a few months ago at the time of this writing) ran Misanthropic Art Productions (formerly known as The Black 666 Productions) and its sub-label, Berserk Ritual Productions, as well as running and doing artwork for Misanthropic Art Production's art and design team, Misanthropic Artworks (which, by the way, is some of the best metal artwork I've ever seen in my life!!!   Truly amazing stuff!!!   Oddly enough, he's also done some art and logos for various NSBM bands, but we won't get into that here).   I'm sure he also has a day job as well.   Busy dude!

As I was saying, I haven't seen the sun in days.   I can't tell if it's because it's just winter and an especially rainy time right now or if it's because of the insane amounts of pollution that China has allegedly been spewing all over East Asia (more so than usual), but the outside has either been dismal, cold, and wet, or just surreal, like right now where everything I can see outside my window in this sprawling Asian metropolis seems to have a strange yellow hue.   Anyway, it's the perfect setting for a Korean horror movie :)

Which brings us to Aek Gwi.   The latest album that was released earlier this year, Forest of Ghost (could have used a bit of editing with that title), is some really cool ritualistic black/doom metal, kind of similar to stuff by Nortt, Xasthur, Wormphlegm, Blood of the Black Owl, and maybe even Beherit as well.   I think I've talked about this before, but I remember truly realizing the potential of this kind of metal not just as some shit to listen to in a dark room in order to have a quasi-mystical experience (which I wholeheartedly support, don't get me wrong), but also as a killer soundtrack to play as a substitute soundtrack for movies as well.   I haven't done this for Aek Gwi yet (not sure which movie or film clip I would pick), but I know at least know for a fact that both Wormphlegm and Electric Wizard make excellent soundtracks to Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Häxan (1922), respectively.

When listening to this album, I feel like it's absolutely essential to isolate yourself in like your room or somewhere with all the lights out, making it as dark as possible, in order to really get the full experience.   Maybe even light a candle or something.   Next, put on your headphones or earbuds and allow your imagination to wander...

For me, I began to envision a scene which takes place during a rainy, warm summer night at a Buddhist temple in the middle of a forest somewhere in East Asia.   However, inside a strange, perhaps unorthodox, (un?)holy ritual is taking place, in which a small group of monks are attempting to either speak with and/or summon the spirits of the dead.   Eventually, the spirits are conjured forth, but they are malevolent and chaotic, and the monks there begin to chant and play the flute or maybe some other traditional musical instruments in order to try and control, or at least pacify, the spirits so that they can properly communicate.   As to what exactly is supposed to be gained from communicating with the dead in this particular situation is unknown, but the monks are hoping to perhaps at least receive some sort of message or (inevitably) nightmarish hallucination/vision.  At this point everyone is kind of subdued and on their own "trips", so to speak, as the spirits of the deceased communicate telepathically with them as the temple walls and roof creak and groan due to the heavy wind that has recently picked up (despite the fact that they're in the middle of the woods).            
Interview conducted via internet in December 2015.


WULF: Who are you?   Please give us a brief history of Aek Gwi.   What does "Aek Gwi" mean?   Why do you use Hanja and not Hangul when writing the band name?

VHAN:  Greetings!   First of all, thanks for the interview.   I think this is the first interview for Aek Gwi.   The band name "Aek Gwi" is written "액귀" in Korean and "厄鬼" or "縊鬼" in Chinese (edit: maybe he's talking about this?  I'm not sure), which is a ghost associated with suicide in Chinese mythology as well as from the Korean novel Toji.   It's a ghost which brings you misfortune.   In Chinese mythology, the 縊鬼 seeks vengeance or revenge and will drive you to kill yourself by hanging when it appears to you.

WULF:  Is Forest of Ghost a concept album?   Thematically, I imagine this album is about ghosts, death, etc.   Is it about any ghost stories or metaphors in particular?   What were you hoping to accomplish with this album?   What is the message?

VHAN:  There is no message with the album.   I just made the "Forest of Ghost" album like a horror movie.   I want to expose the concept of Asian ghosts to other people in the world.   In the East, these ghosts are more scary than vampires, zombies, or Satan.   That's why I chose these ghost mythologies as the concept for my black metal music (joke).  

WULF:  Are you interested in Korean ghost stories?   What is your opinion on Korean and/or Asian horror movies in general?   I just watched A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련) (2013) and thought it was a great movie!!

VHAN:  Honestly, I don't like Korean ghost movies or stories that much, because they're really boring and generic/played-out.   There are a lot more bad horror movies than good ones.   There are also ghost stories on the internet too that are obviously fake, and I fucking hate that.   So personally, I prefer classic Western horror movies over the Korean ones.   For me, I was really impressed by the Korean movie 혈의 누 (Blood Rain), which is actually not a horror movie.   The music of Aek Gwi is influenced by the TV series 전설의 고향 (Ghost Stories).   It's also a classic Korean horror novel which I read when I was young.   The concept of the music of Aek Gwi is also from the Korean folk story 장화, 홍련 (The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon).

WULF:  Why did you close your label and your art production and stop doing all your other bands besides Aek Gwi?   What happened?

VHAN:  I already have mentioned about my financial situation (as the reason why I had to stop) on Facebook and my label's website; my domestic economical situation isn't good. My income has been in bad shape and rent has been rising.  Realistically, I couldn't keep the black metal label as my primary job in Korea.   I've stopped making music temporarily and sold my instruments to make cash, but I will never give up.  That's why I don't do the music now.   As for my other band, Origin of Plague, I went back over the music and felt like the music was pretty shit, so that's why I want to compose again.   As for Aek Gwi, I'm still writing music for that.   If I have some extra time or money then I'll record more music.   As for my artwork, I don't have enough time and there are so many people who are better artists than me, so I feel like "what's the point?"   So I don't get any orders for artwork, and also I just want to have the freedom to draw what I want, not for a job.

WULF:   Has Aek Gwi ever played live, or is this something that you are interested in for the future?

VHAN:  It's important for bands to play live, but I'm not going to have a live show because I don't want to be around people.

This is the artwork for that upcoming split he's talking about
with 头发河 (Harrfluss), Begräbnis, 纳骨堂 (Ossuary),
 and, of course, Aek Gwi.
WULF:  Do you believe in ghosts, or have you ever seen a ghost?   What is your opinion on death, the possibility of an afterlife, etc.?   Do you fear death?

VHAN:  It would be a lie if I said I'm not afraid of death.   I've also never seen a ghost in real life, but I've had my own strange experiences.   I kind of believe in the existence of spirits, but not necessarily 100%.

WULF:  Is there any literature you would recommend for your fans to check out which can help us understand your music better?   What books or writings have influenced your music and/or your life?

VHAN:  I already answered this question earlier.   If you want to understand the concept of my music, you can see the TV series 전설의 고향.   I think my earlier music isn't good because I was drinking and didn't make enough of an effort, but now that I'm making more down-tempo music and I'm influenced by Beherit, Goatlord, Nortt, Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine, Enemite, and Hellhammer.   I'm most influenced by the Chinese dark ambient band Enemite.   This is the band that I respect the most.   It shows us what Oriental horror is in a truly extreme way.   Not long ago, Dani of Goatwarex suggested I do a split with the black metal artists Harrfluss (project of Li Chao), Aek Gwi, Begräbnis (from Japan) and 纳骨堂 (Ossuary).   I think this opportunity doesn't come that often, especially with the best Chinese metal label, Goatwarex, so I'm really happy about that.

WULF:  What are your plans for the future? Why did you decide to stop Misanthropic Art Productions and Misanthropic Artworks? Do you have any plans to revive your other bands or start new bands?

VHAN:  I don't know about any future plans.   I just have a really busy life, and maybe for some while I can't do black metal because of my work.   The first thing for me is living a normal life.   Maybe you know this if you live in Korea.

WULF:  Those are all the questions I have, thanks so much for the interview! Any final comments?

Thanks for the fun questions, there's nothing else that I want to add.

Edit:  Of course, before I finished writing this article, it started to snow, which kind of ruined the whole eerie, mysterious vibe I was going for.  Now it's just an absolutely beautiful winter wonderland outside and makes me want to listen to some majestic frosty black metal or something.   Anyway, winter is no longer coming, it's here!! :D   

Special thanks to Gumiho (구미호) for help with the translation!

Listen and support Aek Gwi's music:
Keep updated about Aek Gwi:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Interview with Bestial Desekrator of Sexual Fornications and Goetic Ritual of Nocturnal Damnation!!

Interview conducted via email in August, 2014.   
Thanks to Gumiho (구미호) for the translation from Korean to English.

It took fucking forever to get this interview done, which was entirely my fault.   Anyway, there's been a few updates since this interview took place- at the time of this writing, Goatphomet is on hold since earlier this year, and Nocturnal Damnation has acquired a new member, Patiwat (Zygoatsis, Masochist), a well-known figure in the Thai underground black/death metal scene.   Also, Nocturnal Damnation released a split with Goatchrist666, "A Domination of Tyrant's Necro-sodomy", earlier this year through Inhuman Assault Productions.
Listen and support Nocturnal Damnation's music:
Keep updated about Nocturnal Damnation's music:
Check out Nocturnal Damnation's official website:

WULF:  It seems like you're in two bands right now, Nocturnal Damnation and Goatphomet.   Tell us a bit about these bands.   Also, why did you change the name of your old band, Adokhsiny, to Goatphomet?   And what does "Adokhsiny" mean, exactly?

Bestial Desekrator
BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:  Hails (Wulf)! It is a pleasure to do this interview with you.   Simply saying, Nocturnal Damnation and Goatphomet are Black/Death Metal bands, but stylistically both bands are quite different.   Nocturnal Damnation is bestial black/death metal influenced by Blasphemy, Black Witchery, Sarcofago, Beherit (old), Goatpenis, Naked Whipper, and Bestial Warlust, and Goatphomet plays ritualistic black/death similar to Goatlord, Archgoat, Teitanblood, Nocturnal Blood, Void Medication Cult, Sperm of Antichrist, Embrace of Thorns.   The reason why I changed Adokhsiny's band name to Goatphomet is because I wanted the name to be more black/death metal-sounding.   I thought about it a lot, and it just wasn't the style that I wanted even though I wanted to play black/death metal when I reformed Adokhsiny.   As for the name, Adokhsiny means "Ancient Korean ghost name" (edit:  I still don't know what he's talking about here)!

WULF:  On all of Nocturnal Damnation's records, the instruments are played by Infernal Saviour of Nuclear Onslaught and Warmageddon, from Spain.   How did you meet this guy, and why did you decide to collaborate with him?   As for Goatphomet, it looks like you're in that band with fellow members Nuclear Vaginaliax and Rotten Clitorias Vengeance and H. Goatkommander.   Are these current members Korean as well?   The reason why I ask is because the former members of Adokhsiny were originally Koreans, but eventually the Korean members left and you were joined by members from other countries (such as Devoured and Tormentized from Malaysia, and Obispo from The Phillipines).   How did you meet these guys?   Wasn't it difficult to write music with members in different countries?  

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:  I remember that I knew about Infernal Saviour coincidentally.   At that time I ran an underground label that he wanted to release his album through, and I thought this was a good idea.   So I released two of his albums, and then we started to talk about many things.   I asked him to help me with Nocturnal Damnation, and he agreed.   That's how we started recording together.   So I think that the reason we worked together is because we wanted to help each other, but now he's not in the band.   Honestly, I don't want to talk about Infernal Saviour because he's not a member anymore.   On the internet, there's a lot of bad gossip or rumors about me and my band, so I don't want to talk about him anymore.   As for Nuclear Vaginaliax and Rotten Clitorias Vengeance, he's Korean, and H. Goatkommander is a member of the Peruvian black/thrash metal band Hell Torment.   He helped me as a session musician on Goatphomet's demo.   As I told you, knowing about friends from other countries is because I ran an underground label, so I helped them with the releases of their albums.   I wasted a few years seeking band members in Korea, so I gave up having Korean members.   This is one of the reasons why I work with foreigners.   There is some inconvenience working on music this way in Korea but I'm used to it by now, so it's not that hard for me.

WULF:   You've said before that you don't really associate with the rest of the bands in the Korean metal scene.   Why?   Are there any worthwhile bands that you DO associate with or recommend checking out?   Also, since the Korean metal scene is so bad, where you like to be instead?

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:   I used to hang out with Korean bands around 2002-2003, when I was younger.   I was just beginning to play music.   Honestly, I still haven't met people or bands here that suit my musical tastes.   There are so many trendy bands in Korea, and they just aren't my style, so it's hard to hang out with Korean bands for me.   But also, I don't have much interest in this kind of music, such as metalcore, melodic death, post-thrash, slam, brutal death, melodic black metal, etc.   So I don't feel any necessity to check out these kinds of Korean metal bands.   Sometimes I check out new Korean bands, but they're usually just metalcore or melodic death, or it's just news about new music by (popular Korean metal bands such as) Sahon, Oathean, Silent Eye, Method, etc., so I don't have much interest in this.   But if there's a really good black/death metal band with an underground aesthetic, then I'd love to support them.   But I'm afraid that I haven't seen that kind of band yet (Kalpa is/wasgood, even though they're a different style from my music, but I still feel like I'd like to listen to them if they released a new album).   Honestly, I've always thought that I'd rather work on music or tour in Germany, Italy, USA, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, etc. than in Korea.   

WULF:  Obviously, you use dark and violent imagery in your music and artwork.   How much of a role does Satanism or a belief in the occult play in your everyday life?   Is there a specific philosophy or spiritual belief system you adhere to?   At what point in your life did you begin to explore "the dark side of life" (the Left Hand Path).   Finally, is there any literature of other non-musical art that you find particularly meaningful or influential?

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:  Well... I'm actually an atheist! I don't believe in Satan but when I write lyrics I'm influenced by Satanism, occultism, demonology... It's a musical theme rather than my personal life philosophy.   I'm not a philosopher so it's not easy to explain about specific philosophies, but I adhere to the philosophies of Johan Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.   Actually my life has not been smooth, and I haven't been happy since my early school days.   So because I was always alone I began to search for extreme metal music.   I like books or movies about Satanism, the occult, and they inspire me (as well as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe's "Faust", Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's "Also Sprach Zarathustra", "Anti-Christ" and occult horror films such as "Alucarda", "The Devils", "The Exorcist", "The Devil's Rain", "Escalofrio (Satan's Blood)".... and plus "Devils Inside Her"(1977 Adult horror, hahaha).   I want to read books about demonology but it's hard to find these books in Korean, so I just do research and read about this on the internet even though it's still hard to understand completely.

WULF: On the other hand, I'm sure you have some guilty pleasures as well in terms of music.   I know you probably have lots of violent, bestial war metal in your record collection, but what is the most embarrassing album you own or enjoy listening to?   For example, I'm a huge fan of Celtic Frost's "Cold Lake", even though it's considered by many to be one of the worst metal albums of all time.

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:  Well, I've already sold the albums that I think are the worst, so I don't have any records that are embarrassing in my collection.   But some albums made me disappointed or embarrassed.   I'm a huge fan of Morbid Angel but "Illud Divinum Insanus" record was one of the worst albums so I was really embarrassed, but on the other hand it's kind of fun/funny.   Their earlier albums and demos are classics, but their recently albums are really disappointing, so I don't listen to them anymore.   I think the it's better to listen to earlier stuff like German thrash legends Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, and Celtic Frost, too.   It's better for me to listen to the records that I have or bestial black/death, black/thrash, old school death/thrash, or NWOBHM, rather than listening to theerrible albums.

WULF:  The West is terrified of North Korea.  While it's obvious that most South Koreans don't give much of a shit about North Korea and all of their empty threats and war-mongering, no one can deny that the North Korean people are pretty isolated from the rest of the world.   I would assume that most Western music is forbidden, especially something as volatile as heavy metal...similar to how things were for the Eastern Bloc countries dominated by the Soviet Union in the 1980's.   My question is, if you had the chance to perform a live show there, would you do it?   If so, how do you think the people would react to your music?   I know this is completely unrealistic, but I think it's an interesting scenario to think about.

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL: It's a fun question, but I don't like to talk about politics.   It's true that Koreans don't care and North Korea bans Western music, but I'm not interested in North Korea and usually it's about the politics.   So even if there was a chance to perform in North Korea, I'm not that interested.   Also, I think the people in North Korea wouldn't react well.   I'd rather just kick that pig Kim Jong-un's ass instead, that would be more fun hahaha.

WULF:  What are your plans for the future of your bands?   Any new releases coming up?   What about live performances?   What do you hope to accomplish with your bands?

BESTIAL DESEKRATOR OF SEXUAL FORNICATIONS AND GOETIC RITUAL:  Currently Nocturnal Damnation is working on new songs with a new member.  I'm planning on releasing a split 7" and an EP, but I haven't found a label yet.   Goatphomet is planning to work on new music this fall or winter, but I'm not sure.   I really want to perform live, but I can't because I don't have any members here to play with.   If I can, I'd rather perform Southeast Asia or Europe than South Korea.   And I want to show that Nocturnal Damnation and Goatphomet are not just studio-only bands (I don't like studio, one-man bands!!!!).

WULF:  That's all the questions I have.   Any final comments are yours...


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Black Metal Banchan - Part 2: Oathean + Doritos

For Round 2 of the Black Metal Banchan (if you don't know what banchan is, here's the Wikipedia link for it you lazy fuck :D).   Anyway, I chose this name for the series because it's fairly similar to, say, the classy smorgasbord (Sweden), the potpourri (France), or even the all-you-eat Chinese buffet of gluttony and self-loathing (USA).   There's a wide variety of food, and something for everyone!   Talking about black metal and snacks together are similar to this same concept, in that they go together quite well and you're bound to find something that you like, whether it's a certain band, a certain snack, or a combination of the two together!   I don't know about you guys, but for me personally, I love come homing home, immediately stripping down to my underwear, and putting on some black metal while enjoying a nice snack.   So who knows?!  You may just discover your new favorite snack and/or black metal band by following me on my journey deep into the mysterious heart of both the black metal AND snack scenes here in good ol' South Korea!!  

When I played Diablo for the first time (I think I was about
10 or 11), I remember being so scared to go into that monastery.
You just knew there was a bunch of evil shit in there waiting
to kick your ass.   I can't believe I didn't shit my pants when I
encountered The Butcher that first time.   Anyway, the
Tristram theme may quite possibly be my favorite song
from a video game of all time!
Last time, we talked about two classics- one was a classic Korean black metal band (Sad Legend), and the other was a classic snack (Cheetos).   This time, we're going to talk about two more classics:  arguably Korea's most popular black metal band thus far, Oathean, and arguably the most popular snack chips in the world (Doritos).   Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.   Wulf, when are we going to actually delve into the KVLT Korean snacks and black metal???   Why are you playing it safe and just sticking to the obvious stuff?  Well, just you wait!   Just like in Diablo (or seemingly any RPG really), you start off with what's familiar and easy before eventually journeying deeper and deeper into the ominous dungeon below the abandoned monastery outside of town.   

Oathean - The Eyes of Tremendous Sorrow (1998)
Interesting album cover, but I have absolutely no idea what's
supposed to be going on here.   Seriously!   Google
it or take a closer look and try to figure out what the deal is.
Anyway, it's still a cool cover, even if it is kind of weird.
Coming out the same year as their black metal brethren Sad Legend's (see previous post in this series) debut album, Oathean instead take a different, more death-metal and folk inspired approach to their brand of melodic black metal.   However, there are some similarities as well, such as the melodramatic, mournful guitar-driven melodies, the atmospheric keyboards,   What really makes this album stand out are the inclusion of traditional Korean folk instruments, such as the daegeum.   Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure if the band was able to find someone who was able to successfully translate the song titles into proper English, so you're stuck with song titles like "Transparent Blue Light, So Too Much Tearful", "In Fear With Shiver", and my personal favorite, "The Rotten Egg Smell Stuck on My Belly".
ESL song titles aside, the music itself is quite well done!

I'm pretty sure this is an older pic of Oathean, but I
don't know if it's the same lineup as the one on
"The Eyes of Tremendous Sorrow".
Both Sad Legend and Oathean made their debuts in what is still considered a tiny metal scene (and played black metal, at that), so, with the exception of Scandinavia and Finland, we would all understand if these records were garbage.   Obviously, they're not at the same level as, say, "In the Nightside Eclipse" or "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", but the quality is quite good considering that before these albums came out, there was very little in the way of a Korean black metal (or extreme metal, for that matter) scene.

A good representation of what this album is all about can be found in the song "In Fear With Shiver" (haha it's hard to even write that with a straight face), which contains a lot of really interesting stuff.   Adventurous, wintry melodies, a sorrowful acoustic guitar and daegeum accompaniment, Kim Do-su's raspy howl that reminds me of a wounded, dying's a really interesting song!   Below I've posted a live version, and you can see how they replaced the daegeum part with their female vocalist (Lim Ji-nah) singing the melody instead, which is kind of cool.   Also, check out Kim Do-su's passionate vocal performance as well, especially at the end!

I feel like maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'm starting to notice that these Korean black metal bands seem to be channeling the feeling of han (see my last post, and/or Wikipedia for a brief mention of what han is) in their music.   Yeah, I know that ALL black metal bands are attempting to channel these feelings of depression, isolation, hopelessness, etc. in their music, but the fact that Koreans straight up have a unique word that captures all these emotions/mental states (Sad Legend even have a song named after it) perhaps makes it worthy of at least briefly discussing or mentioning.    Remember, these albums were coming out in the late 1990s, before the whole DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal) trend became all the rage.   In the '90s, black metal was all about Satan, blasphemy, and misanthropy.   While I highly doubt these Korean black metal bands had any influence on the early DSBM artists and trendsetters, there's something to be said for this original, "sad" take on black metal.   I'm not entirely sure what the lyrics are to this album, but they're definitely coming from a dark place in the lyricist's psyche, and you can hear it in the music.   Pretty cool, and definitely an overlooked, unique detail in attempting to understand Korean black metal.   As I'm writing this, I just checked back on an Oathean video interview with ROKrock (a now seemingly defunct Korean rock/metal site) conducted a couple years ago, and it looks like the interview touched on this (han is mentioned) a bit as well, in that the first album especially feels very "Korean".   If you're interested, check it out!

Anyway, I have no idea what the band is up to these days, as I guess there's been a bunch of drama and turmoil in the Oathean camp as of late.   I probably shouldn't go into the details in this post (for now, at least), but as of this writing I'd say the status of the band is unknown.   Too bad, as many would argue that they're probably the best, or at least the most popular, Korean extreme metal band.

Recommended tracks:  "In Fear With Shiver", "The Eyes of Tremendous Sorrow", and "Punishment of Being Alone, Its Cruel Strength Breaks Me Away".

OK, enough dorky black metal chat!   Let's talk snacks!

Doritos Mango Salsa
I had to take a picture of these myself because
apparently they're so obscure that they failed
to show up in image searches for BOTH
Google and Naver.  That's how you know
I'm really bringing you the true underground of
the snack scene here in Korea.
OK, now these are seriously funky.   Possibly the strangest chip I've ever tasted, honestly, and I really can't decide if I like it or not.   At first it has this really cool salty, sweet (mango flavor), slightly spicy, zesty lime flavor if that makes any sense at all.   However, after a couple seconds it gets pretty sweet, and the aftertaste is kind of gross.   After waiting a bit, the sweetness goes away and you're left with a mild spicy kick that lingers for awhile.   Yeah, kind of like the Cheetos Honey Cheese I talked about in the last post, these wouldn't be too bad if they weren't so fucking sweet.   Bleh, yeah overall I'm not feeling these at all.   They started off quite tasty, though!

Doritos Nacho Cheese 
I'm pretty sure these are the same as the American nacho
cheese ones, they taste exactly the same.   Unfortunately,
I didn't take this picture, just found it on
Google.   As you can tell, Doritos at this time
were promoting the new Avengers movie, so
each of the different bags had different
Avengers characters on them.   I guess this
Captain America's go-to snack of choice, except
I imagined he'd be more of a Jacked Ranch Dipped
Hot Wings guy.   Oh well, maybe just in Korea?
these are as good as it gets here in Korea.   Also, these are the hardest to find as well, or at least it seems that way.   Most convenience or grocery stores only carry like the honey chili flavor (ugh) or the Cool Ranch, which is fine.   However, I guess it's kind of the same complaint I had about the lack of an original Cheetos flavor available...when you're in the mood for just some good ol' cheesy corn chips/snacks, it always seems like are out of the question.   In fact, I could just be getting paranoid, but I'm pretty sure all of the convenience stores near me just straight up discontinued carrying Doritos altogether!   I've obviously been in this country too long because A) I actually noticed that they stopped stocking Doritos, and B) I'm seriously considering writing to Frito-Lay and/or Lotte (who I guess is in charge of Doritos production in South Korea or something) to tell them that these flavors are wack!   Haha I doubt they'll listen to me or even respond, but who knows?!  I may even get some insider info about upcoming Doritos snacks.   Maybe they'll even put ME on the cover of the Doritos bag!!   Yes, that's it!!  I'll be famous!!!!  MONEY!!!  WOMEN!!!!  POWER!!!! IT WILL ALL BE MINE!!!!!!

Doritos Honey Chili
Starting to notice a pattern with the
While the traditional Doritos corn chip taste is there and I dig the mildly spicy chili flavor, unfortunately I feel like the honey taste is also slightly too strong and makes for a weird combination, aftertaste, and lingering flavor on your lips that you can taste if you lick them.   Yeah after awhile these taste fairly funky, but definitely not as weird/bad as the mango salsa one.   Still not as good as the typical nacho cheese flavor that you'd find anywhere in the US.   However, you'll find THESE anywhere they sell Doritos, especially to capitalize on the whole "honey butter" craze that's been all the rage here these past couple of years, although apparently everyone's starting to get sick of it now (thank fuck...I've never been a fan).

Doritos Cool Ranch
This is actually kind of interesting from a psychological perspective.   When I first came to Korea, I didn't really pay attention to the Doritos flavors because I guess I just never really saw them on sale, and when I did I think I tried maybe the honey chili flavor and wasn't very impressed.   Anyway, at one point I was really hungry and happened to be in a convenient store that had some Doritos in stock, but my only choices were the honey chili flavor and then some other flavor that looked like mayonnaise or something (Cool Ranch, obviously) but I think I must have been in a hurry because I didn't really pay attention to what flavor they were, other than I knew that they weren't the honey chili and so they were most likely a better flavor.   Upon trying them, I remember later being kind of disappointed...until I realized halfway through the bag that the front of the bag did indeed say "cool ranch" (in Hangul, "쿨렌치"), but since it was in Hangul I guess I just didn't bother reading it and just went by the mayonnaise/cream picture underneath it as an indicator of the flavor they were going for.

I took this pic, but I have no idea why it looks
almost like a black and white picture.   The
bag has just a weird color I guess, plus the
lighting in my room is awful.
Anyway, I felt like a moron, because back home I of course would have no problem eating Cool Ranch Doritos.   So was I not that into these because of the different packaging, or are they actually inferior to American Cool Ranch Doritos?   Personally, I'm going to go with the latter.   I'm eating them right now, and even though it's been years since I've eaten the American version of the Cool Ranch Doritos, I'm pretty sure the Korean version is the same.   So yeah, that's kind of interesting, I suppose!   Or maybe I'm just losing my mind.

There were actually a few other flavors it looks like I missed the boat on.   One of them I never got a chance to try (Yogurt-flavored Doritos, (huh?!)), and the others (Doritos B.O.M.B. (I guess similar to Roulette which you guys had in the States?) and Extreme Barbecue (Korean-style, of course!)) I'm pretty sure got pulled from production awhile ago because I haven't seen them on sale for a long time.   Anyway, sorry I missed those!   As a gesture of conciliation, here's the Korean commercial for Doritos B.O.M.B.:

Going to be interesting to see how Doritos play out in Korea in the future.   These current flavors just aren't going to cut it.   I have no idea about the numbers so I could be full of shit, but for what it's worth, I never see Koreans eating Doritos (or Cheetos, for that matter).   Frito-Lay and/or Lotte need to step up their game, because I know these could be huge here!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Black Metal Banchan - Part 1: Sad Legend + Cheetos

Metal magazines and websites always talk about metal and beer, but what about metal and SNACKS?   Yeah, I know that anyone who listens to the excellent (and my favorite) podcast Illogical Contraption knows that they always do a snack chat segment during their show, but I always feel like I'm missing out on all the good stuff they're talking about because I'm not in the US right now!   Well, I've decided to make matters into my own hands by not just doing my own snack chat (with local Korean snacks since that's where I'm living at the moment), but also making it relevant to metalheads the world over by exploring the mysterious realm of the Korean black metal underground.   Obviously, Korea doesn't have a world-famous METAL scene at all, let alone a black metal one, but that doesn't mean there are some hidden gems lurking amidst the shadows...

Sad Legend - Sad Legend (1998)
First of all, that's a pretty cool album cover.   Yeah it looks a bit amateurish, and the Sad Legend logo is lame as fuck, but it definitely makes sense when you listen to the music itself.   Even if you didn't know this album was by a Korean band, this still feels kind of "exotic" or unique.   Being both atmospheric and melodic, it's kind of reminds me of like old-school Graveworm or something like that (even though most of Graveworm's stuff actually came out after this album was released).   Anyway, what's cool about this album is that it's absolutely drenched in gloomy keyboards, wailing female vocals, haunting male clean vocals, enchanting melodies, and mournful guitar leads, with all the other typical characteristics of the genre such as rasps, blastbeats, etc.  It all feels very late '90s and slightly dated, but I feel like that's part of its charm.

I really wish I could provide a link to their Bandcamp or something, but I have a feeling this CD is long out of print (it's going for between $55-$200 on Amazon right now!) and the band seems to be currently inactive.   Maybe it's on iTunes?   I don't know.   Anyway, you can find it on Youtube (sounds like a low quality upload, but whatever), so check it out if you want!

Sad Legend - classic lineup
The cover art also perfectly captures the mood, I'd say.   I feel like overall thematically what they're going for is represented in the title of the first track, "Han".   In this case, I believe what han is referring to is the Korean phenomenon of a kind of collective feeling or consciousness of the Korean people who constantly feel "oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds (the overcoming of which is beyond the nation's capabilities on its own). It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice" (Wikipedia).

I'm not exactly sure which incarnation
of Sad Legend this is, but thought it
was a fun pic so I decided to include it.
While the validity of this as an actual psychological phenomenon is questionable, my Korean girlfriend (her Malicious Intent black metal horde name is Gumiho) assures me that it's a real thing.   I feel like the music definitely seems to capture that emotion.   While it would have been cool for the band to maybe incorporate some traditional Korean instrumentation or something to further drive this concept home as "authentically Korean" or whatever, I think it's still really cool the way it is.   Anyway, even though I don't really listen to this kind of music anymore, I still found this to be a good album and worth checking out if you're interested in Korean metal or you're looking for some melodramatic, misty-forest-under-a pale-moon-at-midnight melodic black metal.

Your typical cheonyeo gwishin, being all creepy.
If you wake up in the middle of the night to find
THIS standing in the middle of your room,
you may be in trouble.
Also, I could be mistaken, but the woman on the cover reminds me of a cheonyeo gwishin (virgin ghost), a spirit that is commonly featured in many East Asian ghost stories, and, nowadays, movies.   If you've ever seen the American remakes of like Ringu (The Ring) or Ju-on (The Grudge), you'll know what I'm talking.   The girl/woman with the dirty long hair over her face, batshit insane facial expression, and contorted body lurching towards you?   That's a cheonyeo gwishin.   She may not look so bad on the album cover, but just do a quick google image search to see the actual face they have hiding under that creepy mane.   I wouldn't advise you to do this before attempting to go to sleep for the night.  

 Recommended tracks: "Han", "Dawn of Despair", and "Realm of the Soulless".  

Korean Cheetos

Surprisingly, this music seemed to go rather well with the snacks I'll be talking about tonight.   "Why?" you may ask.   Because we're talking about a legendary snack that's in a sad state of affairs right now here in The Land of the Morning Calm.   Korea, we need to talk about your Cheetos situation.   The trend right now is to have everything be honey-butter flavored or sweet and salty, and Korean Cheetos are no exception.   For one, everyone knows that Cheetos should be cheesy, or at least have that option should you want just some good ol' original Cheetos.   However, in Korea, sadly, you don't have that option unless you go to an international mart or something.   From what I've seen at least, you unfortunately only have three flavors to choose from on a regular basis: BBQ, Spicy & Sweet, and Honey Cheese (ugh).   

"Spicy" and Sweet
Let's start with the Spicy & Sweet first.   Honestly, it kind of sucks.   There's too strong of an imbalance with the taste, with it being too sweet and not spicy or salty enough.   In fact, if I didn't know that it was supposed to be spicy in the first place I wouldn't have even noticed.   If you thought maybe you wouldn't be able to handle it because you're in Korea (they love their spicy food!), not to mention also the fact that Chester Cheeto himself is belching flames on the front of the packaging, I can strongly assure you that your mouth will be fine.   It even has spicy peppers and garlic too on there, presumably to emphasize its heat!  C'mon guys!

BBQ...I have no idea what the fuck is supposed to be
going on in this artwork.
Next up is the BBQ.   First of all, this should be amazing because Korean BBQ kicks ass and is one of the best ways to spend an evening with your bros.   In fact, one of the best things about Korean metal shows is that afterwards everyone (bands and their fans) goes out for BBQ afterwards, all the while drinking plenty of Korean beer and gross soju (we'll talk about those another time).   Anyway, a slam dunk for Cheetos right?   Wrong!!  This shit is fucking wack, especially if you compare it to how great Korean BBQ is!   The Cheetos version of Korean BBQ is completely underwhelming- it has a weak taste, it's too sweet, and doesn't really taste like BBQ at all.   It kind of reminds me of like a shitty version of American BBQ chips or something.   It just doesn't really leave much of an impression, other than "blah".   Koreans deserve a Cheetos snack that truly represents what Korean BBQ is all about!   That moksal (pork chop) grilling on the packaging is false advertising!

Finally, we have the dreaded Honey Cheese...

...actually...these aren't too bad!   I spoke too soon!   I had assumed that they were going to be garbage because of the previous two disappointments, but these are surprisingly decent!   They're still a bit too sweet, but at least you can actually kind of taste the traditional Cheetos cheese flavoring or whatever insane chemical shit they use to get Cheetos to taste the way they do.   However, they're still too sweet (too much honey flavoring) and not salty or cheesy enough, and I find myself enjoying it less and less the more I eat.   But then again...ahhh! I don't know what to think, can't make up my mind.   I just wish there was, at the very least, a regular, original Cheetos option.   Anyway, this is arguably the least offensive of the bunch.