Limits are meant to be defied.
This has been proven by artists ranging from the Waitresses, who set the record for longest pop song ever , to rapper Master P, whose thoughts regarding limits are well-documented .
In any discipline, an artist need only set their own boundaries, and may breach them as they please.
On their 12-minute long genre jumping 2007 epic “Bird” Korean rock band Dark Ambition show they are an outfit truly without limits.
This eclectic suite of folk-tinged metal goes far beyond your typical pop song, both in duration as well as scope.
After emerging in 2002 with a self-released demo, Dark Ambition have positioned themselves as one of Seoul’s strongest purveyors of Korean death metal, while nodding heavily towards that nation’s traditional musics.
Two worlds that almost seem to marry together as well as this group does.
“Bird” is the final cut on the Dark Ambition album “Tears of Daewongoon,” and it is clearly an important piece within the band’s overall catalog.
Although the band stretches out well beyond the five-minute mark on nearly every track on “Tears of Daewongoon,” “Bird” goes double or nothing in terms of stretching the running time and it is the listener who wins handily.
“Bird” is in some ways less a song and more a multi-movement work, eking out every drop of intensity possible from each section.
The song launches with a Wagnerian introduction of pounding drums, takings its time with patiently sinister double-kick pedaling before introducing the other instruments.
When the rest of the group joins in, the lead instrument isn’t a squalling electric guitar, but rather traditional Korean reeds.
As illustrated with groups such as Gostwind , this combination can be plenty fruitful when tastefully executed.
On “Bird,” Dark Ambition hit that mark with ease.
The song’s first four minutes unrelentingly rides the strength of that initial swagger, a Black Sabbath-style groove that never loses its energy.
But what keeps this section fresh is the dynamic variation.
The vocals careen between guttural growls and sky-scraping wails and the interplay between electric leads and the more textural traditional instrumentation constantly reinvents the song’s contours.
The band then gives way for a new tempo allowing more traditional, almost trot-like melodramatic vocals to take center stage.
One might ask, is this even the same song? I would argue that yes, it is–the thematic thread is maintained by the creative instrumentation and emotive shrieks that hold over from moment to moment.
It’s here that the listener really begins to see the compositional smarts behind Dark Ambition’s need to go beyond the limits of conventional song structure.
This second “movement” soon becomes a full-band slog, steadily gaining anthemic strength at a head-nodding pace.
Nothing feels unnecessary.
It’s building momentum.
Finally, with three minutes left to spare, the five members of Dark Ambition kick back into high octane, re-introducing the growl and yet still making unique use of the traditional string and reed instruments, seamlessly weaving them into the dense mix.
The fact is, a band cannot achieve this sort of strength in a three, or even six-minute long song.
The heights achieved on “Bird” are only arrived at by going through the entire journey.
It takes focus and clarity of vision for a band to throw a hail Mary in this way without meandering or becoming self-indulgent.
“Bird” never feels like a waste of time.
In fact, it could be the best 12 minutes of Korean folk-metal I’ve ever heard.
Listen to the 2007 song “Bird” from South Korean heavy metal band Dark Ambition RIGHT HERE Jeff Tobias is a musician, composer and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York.
As of late, he has been teaching himself both trumpet and how to refine an already strong chili recipe.