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Boohwal revisits glory days with 13th album

Classic rock ballads and a bout of nostalgia color ‘Purple Wave’


As South Korean rock band Boohwal crowned their 28th year with their 13th full length album at the band’s showcase in Seoul, Thursday, leader Kim Tae-won put the historic moment into perspective.

“Living during a time when the old is discarded for the new, I am not so sure if we should celebrate or mourn the fact that we are one of the few to remain,” said the 47-year old musician-entertainer.

Kim has seen his band through tumultuous times, from its explosive beginnings in 1986, when it erupted onto the South Korean rock scene with its successful first album, on through to a faltering period when the fourth album was released as K-pop was taking off.

Fans will remember Boohwal’s first album, when the band wowed the masses with their mastery of the rock ballad genre, a soft, musically-inclined style that leader Kim would prove over the years to have a penchant and talent for.

That was when “Heeya” ― one of Boohwal’s most celebrated singles featuring former lead vocalist-turned-soloist Lee Seung-chul ― was born.

Over the decade following that golden moment, the rock band has weathered its ups and downs, including drastic changes in its line-up, with leader Kim the only original member to stay on board. 

South Korean rock band Boohwal ― (from left to right) lead guitarist-songwriter Kim Tae-won, drummer Chae Je-min, bassist Seo Jae-hyeok, vocalist Chung Dong-ha ― attend the showcase for their 13th album, “Purple Wave,” in Seoul, Thursday. (Boohwal Entertainment)
South Korean rock band Boohwal ― (from left to right) lead guitarist-songwriter Kim Tae-won, drummer Chae Je-min, bassist Seo Jae-hyeok, vocalist Chung Dong-ha ― attend the showcase for their 13th album, “Purple Wave,” in Seoul, Thursday. (Boohwal Entertainment)

Now Boohwal seems poised to revisit its iconic past and thereby carry out the mission set forth by its moniker, which means “revival” in Korean.

With the masses coming off a major wave of retro-inspired music and with Kim’s celebrity persona at an all-time high from his fixed stint on the popular KBS variety show “Qualifications of Men,” the time seems ripe for Boohwal to drop their latest album.

“After ‘87, Boohwal experienced a rough ride, but working on the album this year felt like it did back in the day, like ‘86 and ‘87 again,” said Kim.

“Our fans will be able to meet Boohwal the way that it was back when we were in our twenties.”

Indeed, it would be unwise to seek something new and unprecedented in the 13th album, “Purple Wave.”

Rather than strive to fit in with the younger crowd, the rock band does what it does best ― anthemic, upbeat rock grooves and sentimental rock ballads, all punctuated by Kim’s deft, fluid, quicksilver guitar solo riffs.

The title track, “It is Cold,” is a slow, piano-tinged rock ballad that touches upon the classic theme of unrequited love.

The power and musicality of vocalist Chung Dong-ha’s voice is given free range in this piece, allowing him to belt out, with full-blown sentimentality, unabashedly romantic lines.

Of his tendency to compose ballads, leader Kim said, “Personally, I don’t like loud music. I listen to a lot of classical music because it has no lyrics and therefore helps the creative process.”

“I kept pushing for ballads because I think it works well with Korean sentiment,” he continued. “Plus it needs to be the kind of rock that everyone will listen into.”

Kim’s passion for classical music has often influenced Boohwal’s music over the years and this album is no exception. This time around Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was re-arranged into a rock piece titled “Boohwal.”

Not every track waxes slow, according to drummer Chae Je-min, “We have a lot of fast tracks.”

Fast works equally well for Boohwal as evidenced by the summer-friendly “1982,” a nostalgic ode to leader Kim’s first love and to a blissful youth spent on the beach.

Energetic with a thrumming pulse, this is the type of track that translates well to car radios, during a drive out of town to a vacation getaway.

“Purple Wave” goes online Friday and will be out in stores on June 14.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)

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