8 Korean Rock Bands That May Surprise You
From post-punk revival to Nineties Brit-pop vibes, here’s a glimpse into South Korea’s burgeoning rock movement
South Club was born when lead vocalist/guitarist Taehyun Nam left boy-group Winner, kissing the K-pop idol life goodbye in a bid for more artistic freedom and creative control. Nam’s strong foundation in blues, grunge and indie rock set the tone for South Club instantly, spurring a Nineties Brit-pop revival with their appropriately titled debut EP 90.
For fans of: Blur, The 1975, Oasis
This instrumental quartet tends to blend nu-metal and djent to make a mark in South Korea’s still rather small metal scene. Inlayer’s powerful sound also got them noticed by SM Entertainment, leading to two features on the artist management company’s popular digital project SM Station; while “Mindjack” is a display of the band’s prowess as a purely instrumental act, “Nightmare” takes it to another level, bringing in hip-hop, electronica and raw vocals to dive into rapcore territory.
For fans of: Of Mice & Men, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit
Bursters quickly gained attention in 2015 thanks to their screamo single “Lost Child” and settled well into the few bands that build the bones of South Korea’s emo rock scene. The group’s more recent work however, tones down the intensity for an alt rock turn, remaining tightly produced; all evident on their 2017 ballad “Wherever You Are.”
For fans of: Bullet For My Valentine, Staind, Black Veil Brides
Formed in 2001, Nell are veterans in the Korean indie rock scene and are considered integral to the development and gradual climb of the genre. The four-member band’s forlorn but psychedelic sound gained them widespread attention in South Korea after their fourth studio album Separation Anxiety and global attention soon followed thanks to their 2014 album Newton’s Apple. Fun fact: Coldplay’s Chris Martin is a fan.
For fans of: Coldplay, Keane, Travis
CNBLUE’s pop-rock vibes push them slightly closer to the K-pop scene than the rest of the bands on this list, but the prominent presence of funk on several tracks makes them stand out. The quartet is known for their dapper style, creative music videos and for often infusing jazz, electronica and soul into their sound.
For fans of: Maroon 5, Walk The Moon, DNCE
Formerly known as Jung Joon Young Band (JJY Band), Drug Restaurant was formed by lead vocalist Jung Joon Young in 2014 and focuses on post-punk revival. Their 2016 single “Mistake” was a landmark track in the band’s career and showcases their instrumental skill and a unique vision informed by dark humor and devil-may-care attitude. Drug Restaurant’s latest and third studio album titled Pomade released on August 4th and is entirely in English.
For fans of: The Bravery, The Killers, The Strokes
Although they officially debuted just last month, The Rose have been around in the underground indie rock scene for a couple of years and initially gained popularity by busking. Their first single “Sorry,” is an emotional ballad about lost love and is a fantastic introduction to the band’s soft-rock vibe. Frontman Kim Woosung’s immense control over his raspy vocals is particularly impressive.
For fans of: The Rasmus, The Script, Daughtry
Probably one of the biggest rock acts of South Korea, Hyukoh are known for their cinematic and often melancholic indie sound. The band shot to fame after appearing on the South Korean television show Infinite Challenge and are known for their effortless genre-blending, powerful music videos and raw lyricism. Frontman Oh Hyuk is fluent in Mandarin, Korean and English–allowing the band to produce music in all three languages.
For fans of: Arcade Fire, Nothing But Thieves, Muse