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Korean Rock Recall: The Excess and Ecstasy Of Metal Band Dionysus's 1989 Instrumental 'Legend of Darkness' [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | December 29, 2014 06:10 PM EST


Dionysus is the Greek god of excess and ecstasy, of fertility and wine. He's the good time god.

Dionysus was also a short-lived neoclassical metal band from Korea. They produced two albums of kick-ass, powerful music as the '80s came to a close.

According to popular belief, one can't indulge in Dionysian extremes at all times, but apparently no one told that to Dionysus.

On their instrumental classic "Legend of Darkness," the band seems to pursue extremes only, resulting in a satisfying sort of indulgence. Their music abandons good taste in favor of great musicianship and succeeds out of sheer commitment, in the process.

"Legend of Darkness" comes to us by way of Dionysus's 1989 debut album of the same name. Released through an otherwise completely obscure record company, Jave, Dionysus would later release their follow-up, "Excalibur," on Seo Ra Bul, the label that brought us Baekdoosan and Sinawe.

What sets Dionysus aside from those other monsters of hair metal is their insistence on reaching for the twin brass rings of technical precision and flamboyant ornamentation.

"Legend of Darkness" is a prime example of this drive.

Of course, Dionysus couldn't allow the title track of their album to begin without an excessively dramatic pipe organ intro. As cornball as it gets, the pomp and circumstance somehow seems apt here. Commitment counts a lot!

The baroque madness of the "Prelude" doesn't take up too much of our time before introducing the wanton riffing of "Legend of Darkness." Pinch harmonics and double kick drum give us an idea of who we're dealing with--professional rock 'n roll musicians, that's who.

Guitarist Bae Jae Beom is emblematic of Dionysus' unfettered preference for excess.

His guitars are needlessly overdubbed in high and low octaves and nearly every turnaround in the music is festooned with wild, sweeping arpeggios. This sort of outrageous shred has a precedent in the music of Yngwie Malmsteen, the Swedish virtuoso who hoped to be the Vivaldi of the electric guitar.

Of course, the sort of skills required for shredding of this nature are mostly mechanical, which is why YouTube is an overflowing treasury of single-digit aged children keeping pace with the best of them. What musicians choose to do with these skills is what's important. King Crimson's Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp dedicated themselves to artful subtlty; gunslingers like Yngwie and Bae Jae Beom went in the other direction. Both choices are valid.

Dionysus, and other neoclassical metal acts of their nature, represent a hot shit yang to King Crimson's understated yin. Their music is a celebration of human potential, bursting with the insistence that they can seemingly play anything.

The backing musicians on "Legend of Darkness" exist in order to support the musical insanity and they do so, excellently. Drummer Yu Weon Seok chokes cymbals at all the right downbeats and bassist Bak Oh Shik even gets a few fills in there, when Bae isn't hogging the limelight. The grandiose musical motifs of "Legend of Darkness" only serve to underscore this victory of dexterity.

Self-indulgent? Absolutely. Effective? Very much so.

The group's refusal to let up and allow for any sort of reflective moments in the music is wholly appropriate in this context. As "Legend of Darkness" comes to a close, the listener is swept up in a torrent of guitar madness along with the performers.

It's not a bad feeling.

Check out Dionysus's 1989 instrumental classic "Legend of Darkness" RIGHT HERE

Jeff Tobias is a composer, musician and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been appraising antique props and relearning how to play poker.

Tagged :  Dionysus, Legend of Darkness, Prelude, Jave Records, Korean Rock Recall


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