Monday 30 March 2020

Bursters - Once and for All (2020)

Country: South Korea
Style: Post-Hardcore
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 28 Mar 2020
Sites: Facebook | Wikipedia | YouTube

I'm listing this Bursters album as post-hardcore, even though I continue to struggle to define that genre, but you'll see it as others, partly because they hail from South Korea. You've heard of K-Pop? Well, this is K-Rock, its younger and harder musical cousin. I've seen Bursters listed as a boy band, but that may be because of their carefully manufactured looks rather than a musical reason. These guys really play real instruments and don't remotely sound like a New Kids on the Block or a One Direction. I've seen alternative hardcore, which makes sense. I've even seen heavy rock, though I wouldn't go there.

What surprised me about this is how much I like it, given that a majority of the influences are from places I don't like.

I've talked here before about how shouty hardcore vocals are my very least favourite style from the entire rock/metal spectrum. Well, that's just what Roh Jaegun uses here, and with real emphasis too. He does calm down now and then, to whisper at us vehemently or even just sing cleanly. Smell the Rot, which opens up the album, is primarily a hardcore song.

Barriers, which follows it, gets much more diverse, but by trawling in other American influences, mostly pop punk but a little nu metal too. Now, it's a hard task not to enjoy pop punk, however annoying it can be, but nu metal is my very least favourite style from the entire rock/metal spectrum. Are you catching my surprise now?

The band detailed their influences to Kerrang! magazine. Roh talks up Bullet for My Valentine and My Chemical Romance. Guitarist Lee Gyejin raises Linkin Park. Bass player Jo Hwanhee adds Limp Bizkit and Korn. Only the drummer, Jo Taehee raises bands I actually appreciate, calling out Mike Mangini of Dream Theater and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin as influences. That explains why I'm more a fan of the drums than anything else here but I never expected to like anything influenced by Limp Bizkit or Korn.

Maybe it's partly the energy that's working for me, as hinted at by the name of the band. There's a heck of a lot of energy here and it manifests in many different ways. Barriers is a bouncy song. Hero boasts a fantastic riff and a catchy chorus, as well as some great moments for a bassist, Jo conjuring a Flea comparison with a few runs.

Things also get a lot poppier than I expected from those influences, even if Coldplay did show up on that list too. Colors kicks off with a choral part before becoming a jangly guitar pop anthem, a little reminiscent of U2 back in the good old days. The title track is a similarly anthemic and jangly pop number, but with Korean lyrics as well as English and a proggier sound back behind the hooks. The pair of Dreamer songs add a patient piano and enticing liquid electronica around the pop drive and emo screams.

And that's not to say that everything here is either pop or the sort of rock that comes from terrible influences. Perhaps what I like most is that there isn't a single sound here to define Bursters. There are a generous fourteen songs on offer and the band explore a lot of musical territory. Here I Am is the most traditional metal song, getting its speed on at one point and going back to Iron Maiden riffs at another. The electronica is far from overdone, adding textures here and there. There's even a reggae vibe in Give and Take and a lounge section in Savage, ladies and gentlemen.

So, for a band who seem to like all the music that I don't, I find it rather hard to dislike Bursters. I can't imagine hauling this out often but they do what they do well and I wish them all the best in conquering the west in the same way K-Pop seems to have done.

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