You just have to love the underground scene. It’s such a joy to find these small bands and hear what they’re doing. Sometimes it can be derivative of something else. Sometimes they can sound pretty rough. But there’s always a great energy around these bands. They work hard and struggle to get their music out to the world. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they succeed. But they’re always a lot of fun, and South Korea’s Sahon is no different.
The thrash metal trio has actually been around since the late 90s though very little of their music has been available to the world outside South Korea. A quick search of Amazon shows only CD sales of import records for their previous records but not including their 2002 debut. The trio of Yong Ho Lee (vox and bass), Chang Myeong Lee (guitar), and Kyoung Hong Kim (drums) has been the steady lineup since their 1999 formation and have been cranking out records showing glimpses of Slayer and Motörhead influences and playing very straightforward thrash metal.
What first strikes you about their new record, Chanting for the Fallen, is just how lo-fi it sounds. This is a band of professional musicians who have been making records for almost 20 years, but it kind of sounds like it was recorded in someone’s basement. Many might see that as negative criticism, but it really only adds to record. It’s a band playing old school thrash metal in a very no frills kind of way. It really holds the whole record together.
Something definitely needs to be here to hold this whole record together because Chanting for the Fallen just exudes aggression. Every song moves a mile a minute. Which is pretty much exactly what you might want from a thrash band. It’s got a ton of riffs that all move at breakneck speed. The drums beat at the rate of pistons in a V8 engine. It all chugs along like there’s no tomorrow while Yong Ho Lee wails and shrieks over the rumbling cacophony.
Two tracks specifically stand out. On “Born to Lose Live to Win,” Sahon harkens back to the very roots of thrash metal with a Motörhead-style riff and track. There’s a ton of swagger in the song starting off with “Overkill” inspired drums and riff. It reminds me of something Lemmy used to say about Motörhead when journalists called them a metal band. He would always say that they just played rock and roll, and that is very true for both Lemmy and this Sahon track. It’s just an aggression loaded song. It’s really about confidence. “Born to Lose Live to Win” is the kind of song that would come into your house, steal you stuff, and take off with your girlfriend because it believes it should have it and you’re too stunned to stop it.
The second is “At the Edge of Cliff.” This is the more recognizably thrash metal track. It absolutely speeds through the song with riff after riff after riff. It’s such a commonly used term for this kind of playing, but it really does chug along. The thick open string muted picking between the more melodic sections of the riffs add a little flavor and give you no room to breathe. It’s what thrash fans really want: constant and consistent sound to pummel your brain. Sahon delivers that in droves with this track and the rest.
If you’re in dire need of that down and dirty thrash of days gone by, then you’re in for quite a treat. What’s even better is that Sahon’s back catalog is available, too, as long as you’re willing to put in the time to go searching a bit. 20 years is a long time for a band to scrape together the albums they have and not gain worldwide success, but not every band turns out to be Metallica and nor do they all want to do that. It can be limiting in a way to engage in that course, and Sahon seems to prefer to make the music that inspires them. We should all support that kind of artistry.
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Chanting for the Fallen is out now through Transcending Obscurity Records, and is available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.