Downhell is the first Korean metal band I’ve heard. (Metal-archives.com currently lists 147 metal bands in South Korea. The only heavy metal in North Korea seems to be the nuclear bomb-making kind.) The video for their new single, “Karma,” is a fascinating case of culture clash. Drummer Mike Terrana is not Korean, but American, and has played with German power metallers like Gamma Ray, Rage, and Masterplan. He really likes twirling his sticks and overplaying. His performance, which is like one big fill, makes Brann Dailor seem minimal. The bassist is too pretty to be in the band; the camera obliges with silly shots of her in a silly hat. Her bandmates – and the saccharine choruses – seemingly come from an Asian pop video.

Other tunes on Downhell’s MySpace fare better. Until now, I’d never heard of a band influenced by Fight, Rob Halford’s post-Priest band. But lo and behold, it’s true: faceless, thrashy power metal. The band has seemingly traded originality for chops, but even that’s kind of cool – hearing traditional metal in such a non-traditional context. One source claims that Downhell sold 2.5 million copies of their debut in South Korea. Could that be true??? [See correction in comments.] I must hear more Korean metal. Some of the band names seem so promising: Audio Blossom, Darkness House, Humble Ontology, Monkey Head. The most mysterious one of all: Dr. Band.