Artist: The HU
Album: The Gereg
Label: Eleven Seven / Better Noise Music
Music is truly a universal language and there is simply no other way to explain the landslide level of interest toward the Mongolian band, The HU. After all, they are a band that delivers their rock gospel by singing in their native language, using the ancient art of khoomei throat singing and reinforcing the default rock instrumentation with such traditional Mongolian instruments as morin khuur (a two-stringed, horse-head fiddle), tuvshuur (a Mongolian guitar), and tumor khuur (a jaw harp). It is indeed a band that charges the clichéd “warrior metal” term with a whole new meaning. Here is a band that is taking the world by storm, pretty much like one Emperor of the Mongol Empire did around the 1200s. This peculiar quartet has racked up over 70 million YouTube views – not bad for a band that was formed in 2016!
In this day and age, we have seen everything from bluegrass versions of metal classics to koto ensembles covering the prog-metal epics of TOOL – and still, The HU managed to take us by surprise. They certainly are the zen masters of “hunnu rock,” as they call it. The band’s debut album, The Gereg, was released in 2019 via Eleven Seven Music. The deluxe edition of the album, equipped with six bonus tracks, will be released on July 10th, 2020. The name of the album, The Gereg, relates to the diplomatic passport carried by Mongolian nobles during the 13th century and it couldn’t possibly be more appropriate: last year, The HU were awarded the highest state award for Mongolia, the Order of Genghis Khan, for promoting Mongolian culture around the world.
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The album is structured around thundering riffs and droning sounds that create a trance-like backdrop for the vocals to deliver the message – whatever it may be. More than likely, it has something to do with spirituality, nature, and paying homage to your roots, rather than indulging in the whirlpool of cheap sex, bad drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
The shamanic vibe cannot be fully avoided, although I reckon that The HU are not exactly about magic mushrooms and transcendence – except in terms of music. The album takes you on a horseback ride through time, to the meadow grounds of ancient Mongolia, or into the spheres of such Asian-themed films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with the songs like ”The Legend of Mother Swan” and ”Shireg Shireg.” On the other hand, the journey is punctuated with the groovy riffathons of songs such as ”Wolf Totem,” ”Shoog Shoog,” and ”Yuve Yuve Yu.”
The music video track, ”Wolf Totem,” for instance, is a genuine rock anthem with appropriate singalong chanting and the best stadium drum breaks since the heyday of Queen. The remixed single version features vocals from Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, which kind of turns the song into a pop-punk version of AC/DC with a Mongolian warrior vibe. ”Shoog Shoog,” in turn, is structured around a groovy rock riff that could make certain Mr. Young jealous. ”Yuve Yuve Yu” is the superlative “hunnu rock anthem” that broke YouTube in 2018. When you shave off the throaty singing and strange instruments, the song could be one of the best songs Rammstein never wrote.
The third track on the album, ”The Great Chinggis Khaan,” might easily have been accepted as a semi-acoustic epic for any Iron Maiden album in the early 1980s… if Bruce Dickinson could execute the khoomei vocals, that is. In general, the riffs on the album lean more toward the old school aesthetics of metal than the modern, overly-quantized math-riffing. The swinging triplet rhythms, paired with the throaty drones, in the album version of ”Song of Women” are actually a bit more reminiscent of the sophisticated art-rock of Peter Gabriel’s later solo efforts than stereotypical metal blasting altogether. The single version, added on the album as a bonus track, features the vocals of Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, bringing the song closer to the metal spheres.
The deluxe edition comes with the remixed, single versions of the album tracks, ”Wolf Totem,” ”Yuve Yuve Yu,” and ”Song of Women.” The single version of ”Yuve Yuve Yu” features vocals by Danny Case of From Ashes to New. The new mix also sounds a bit heavier, like a peculiar hybrid of outlaw country and nu metal. The rest of the bonus tracks are acoustic versions of the album tracks, ”Shireg Shireg,” ”Yuve Yuve Yu,” and ”Shoog Shoog.”
For a band that is basically still going through its toddler years in the music business, The Gereg is quite an astonishing debut. It is definitely one of those albums of which it is pretty justified to say, this is something you’ve never heard before! The album is a genuine and sincere combination of traditional Eastern vibes and contemporary western rock – and what makes it so brilliant is the fact that it sounds pretty damn good.
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars
1. The Gereg
2. Wolf Totem
3. The Great Chinggis Khaan
4. The Legend of Mother Swan
5. Shoog Shoog
6. The Same
7. Yuve Yuve Yu
8. Shireg Shireg
9. Song of Women
10. Wolf Totem ft. Jacoby Shaddix
11. Yuve Yuve Yu ft. From Ashes to New
12. Song of Women ft. Lzzy Hale
13. Shireg Shireg (acoustic)
14. Yuve Yuve Yu (acoustic)
15. Shoog Shoog (acoustic)