Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Sofia Rock City

May 10th, 2010 · 6 Comments

Okay, quick word association game: When we say “Bulgaria,” what’s the first thing that pops to mind? For us it’s french fries slathered in partially melted sirene, but heavy metal is a close second. And so you can only imagine the great times we’ve been having sifting through the archives of this stupendous site, inarguably the world’s leading repository of Bulgarian metal music and trivia.

The site led us to discover the clip above, from Bulgarian metal forefathers Impulse. It’s off this 1988 album, which means its release predated the collapse of the Soviet Union by many months. So how did Bulgaria’s Communist regime let such obviously decadent music slip through the censorship net? We credit the Scorpions, whose landmark tour of Eastern Europe in 1987 made Bulgaria safe for metal—and alsomay have played just as big a role in Communism’s destruction as the aggressive posturing of Ronald Reagan. Legs McNeil covered the tour for Spin, and his account is well worth your time. One of our favorite passages:

I leave to search the huge playing field for girls. I am amazed at the mind-boggling sameness of it all. In New York City, you can always tell when a heavy metal band is playing Madison Square Garden, because the angel dust casualties and the kids in motorcycle-gang gear, sans motorcycles, train in from the suburbs to Pennsylvania Station under the Garden and wander around the garment district in a drunken stupor. Here in Budapest, 40,000 kids have trained in from all over the Eastern bloc, looking like the same fucking kids! Same greasy hair, same sneakers and blue jeans, same denim jackets with 666 painted on the back. But no one is smoking pot or drinking beer. Jerry Falwell would be proud.

Fun addendum to McNeil’s reporting: Those kids weren’t wearing Levis, but rather cheap Bulgarian knockoffs known generically as panacas. Those Communist-era pants have since been memorialized in agreeably metal fashion.


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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    I always think of Shopska salad, also with a heavy dose of Sirene.

    My local pub has a cook from Bulgaria, but for some reason they don’t serve any Shopska or play Bulgarian Heavy Metal…….

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Next time you go in there, flash the cook some metal horns and say “Impulse, dude.” You’ll have made yourself a friend for life.

    Unless, of course, he’s more into his native land’s hip-hop scene:


  • Jordan

    Truly, hip-hop knows no bounds. Though it’s always interesting to see how American elements and local elements get woven together. Splashing cash around is a pretty standard hip-hop trope, but I got the sense there were some regional variations going on there.

  • Lucia

    I’m amused that Ustata, the Bulgarian Vanilla Ice, is mentioned here when Upsurt (http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=Dbib0JTrxdE) is much more of a solid hip-hop choice from the country.

    Ever been to Kavarna? It’s the heavy metal capital of Bulgaria, located right on the Black Sea. In the summer, they have outdoor discos but also concerts featuring Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. It’s great – you can even eat your fries and sirene on the beach.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Lucia: Thanks a million for the rec on Upsurt. You’re right–much, much better than Ustata. Enjoyed the vid for “Vtora Cedka” as well.

    I’ve only been to Sofia, alas. Kavarna sounds lovely–I’ve always wanted to hang at a Black Sea resort, and the addition of the heavy metal element only enhances the allure. Hopefully one of these days…

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