I decided to start slow with the metal-culture relationship by starting with the presentation of a hybrid East-West band that includes a ethnic Korean lead singer. The band is interesting from a cultural dialogue perspective because it managed to be well received both in Germany and Korea, although the latter country has not seen a deep overall penetration of metal in its music culture. Krypteria is a German-Korean symphonic metal band that was founded in 2004. Athough Chris Siemons (guitar), Frank Stummvoll (bass) and S.C. Kuschnerus (drums) initially intended, as part of a music project, to do without a fixed vocalist, singer Cho Jiyin stayed with the group from 2005 on (if you read German and want to know more, you can have a look at this article). Krypteria released four albums by 2011: In Medias Res (2005), Bloodangel’s Cry (2007), My Fatal Kiss (2009), All Beauty Must Die (2011).
The vocalist Cho Jiyin grew up in Cologne as part of the Korean diaspora community in Germany (the second-largest in Europe, at more than 30,000 members – here is a German documentary about three of its members). She seems fully integrated in German society, as suggested her flawless German in this short interview. That being said, Cho Jiyin described her debut in Korea as the most important event of her musical career (see the above-mentioned interview), as she was excited and perhaps a bit apprehensive as to how she would be received by her compatriots. Fortunately for Cho Jiyin, Krypteria came to enjoy a wide popularity in Korea: Krypteria’s album In Medias Res topped the charts in 2005, despite being mostly sung in English (the popular track Victoriam Speramus was apparently also recorded with Korean lyrics). I don’t know enough about Korean society to explain this, but my gut feeling tells me that it could be linked to Krypteria’s use of gregorian chants (these angelic chants are arguably one of the most attractive characteristics of Christianity, and more than 30% of South Koreans are Christians) and Korean attraction to kyopo (교포, overseas Korean) success stories.
Although the music they are doing now is fairly “standard” symphonic metal, not folk metal with native instruments or traditional music influences (besides the gregorian chanting), Krypteria’s popularity in Germany and Korea (as well as South America, judging by the number of Spanish comments I see on youtube) stands as a testimony to the unifying force that metal can have across cultures. Those who are interested in the type of music Krypteria is doing now may want to have a look at the music videos for their songs “For You I’ll Bring the Devil Down” or “Live to Fight Another Day”:
I forgot to mention that Krypteria has an amusing relationship with football. The band actually recorded a single in Korean (Na Ga Ja) as supporting hymn for the Korean national team during the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany. This in turn apparently inspired Borussia Dortmund (a German football team) to hire Krypteria for celebrating their success in the 2010/2011 Bundesliga (German national football competition). It is indeed undeniable that football is a very important part of both German and Korean culture. As the Korean joke goes, the three recurrent discussion topics among Korean men that Korean women are most fed up with are: military service, football, and football during the military service.