Boohwal (부활, “Born Again”) is a top rated Korean rock band who has played their own brand of grand style rock with a sad, ponderous mood. Leader Kim Tae Won (김태원, 1965-) writes and styles most of their original songs, which are unique for their fluid, slow moving rock ballads which evoke poetic sadness. Reminiscence 1 (회상) and A Sad Deer (슬픈 사슴) are on their second album released in 1987 with then singer Lee Seung Chul (이승철, 1966-), from the first of their glory periods. Kim’s songwriting prowess and Lee’s emotion drenched vocals came together to create a spellbinding music which put them at the top of the Korean rock scene with a big fan base.
A Sad Deer
Boohwal’s music may be called classic rock with an emphasis on emotional content that is sad, rueful, and grand style. The predominant mood usually concerns loss of love, remembrance of an old sweetheart, or a tragic or ironic fate that us helpless mere mortals are subjected to. The lyrics typically set the scene or story early on, hinging on some simple imagery like personal items, objects in nature or the city, setting the tone of fuzzy, wistful sentiment. Vocals, guitar, and other instruments escalate the pathos of the scene, using a balladic, heavy handed notes in a loud and ponderous mix. This sadness and despair tinged, pathos ridden rock was not entirely new. Shin Joong Hyun has already tried it to a great extent in the 70s, in songs like Sunset (석양) and If I Must Forget You (잊어야 한다면), and such western bands as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin had touched on it. What set Boohwal apart is that they went further with the pathos, heightening it with their smooth flowing yet often weighted melodies. Singers like Lee Seung Chul and later Kim Jae Gi thus brought on a new genre of vocal, one that punctuates smooth and emotive delivery drowned in sadness, in a departure from the usual hard driving classic rock.
Reminiscence 1 (회상 1) looks back on a time in the past, a world which was populated by a girl who dreamed of becoming a mother and the blue sky, a stream, and the gloriously verdant land. It is all mysterious and not much is spelled out, but still paints a poignant picture of nostalgia and sadness, which is the critical ingredients of Boowhal music. The nostalgic mood is cleverly amplified by the use of the cries of playing children at the end.
A Sad Deer (슬픈 사슴) is about the narrator’s girlfriend who looked like a sad deer. She is again a mysterious character who loved little birds but could never be one. She appears in the narrator’s dream begging for something, but he can’t make out what it is she wants in the muddled world of a deep dream. Finally she resigns herself with a helpless stare on him, and he is left wailing that there is nothing he can do for her now. In typical Boohwal style it all comes together to create a beautifully tragic setting, much like a tragic scene of a noir style film.