The Hu

support Fire From The Gods
author RUB date 16/01/20 venue VoxHall, Århus, DEN

I feel like much has already been said about The Hu — the Mongolian folk metal / hunnu rock band, who have quite frankly taken the world by storm. Having only existed since 2016, they have already toured the ‘States as well as Europe, and now the time has come for our continent to experience this phenomenon again. Although I really can’t name many of their songs, I, too, have been captivated by the band’s unique sound and style, which includes traditional Mongolian instruments and of course their trademark throat singing. On top of this, I had actually heard that they put on quite the live performance, so when they announced they would be paying a visit to the city I live in, I had a hard time passing on the opportunity to witness this for myself, even though the opening act of the evening was scheduled to take the stage as late as 9 p.m. on a weekday.

All photos courtesy of Hasan Jensen

Fire From The Gods

First up is the Texan five-piece Fire From the Gods, for whom this is their first-ever tour of Europe. As told by my friend and colleague KW, the band plays melodic metalcore, which is literally a far cry from the main act strictly genre-wise. Nevertheless, the band starts out in a fairly energetic manner, and AJ Channer on the vocals seems like the perfect fit for the music with his quite impressive clean voice. ”Do we have any headbangers in the house tonight?” seems like a rhetorical question, but it still garners considerable applause. Their songs contain some well-placed breakdowns in the otherwise constantly melodic soundscape. A small sound issue (at least where I am standing) is fixed after the first song, ensuring that the volume of the vocals of both Channer and rhythm guitarist Jameson Teat on the backing vocals seems more appropriate than during the first moments of the concert.

AJ Channer of Fire From the Gods

Even though I don’t know the band’s music — and to be honest, I find the genre, for the most part, very lackluster and uninspiring — I am constantly impressed by Channer’s vocals. The style of the music (especially some of the beats and rhythms) is perhaps best described as similar to Skindred, albeit without the extravagant usage of reggae elements. And even Channer’s vocals and impressive stature are, to some degree, comparable to those of Benji Webbe who fronts that band. Just like Webbe, Channer has a firm grasp on the concept of crowd control, as he gets the audience to wave their arms, clap, scream, and raise their middle fingers to the sky. The response from the crowd is generally good, although nothing super insane. The heavy, catchy and yet simplistic riffs and song structure speak in favour of nü-metal, which is why a band like P.O.D. also springs to mind here – and in a good way, as it gets the venue bouncing on several occasions. But for the majority of the set, the ultra-packed venue resorts to simple headbanging and some occasional jumping whenever Channer commands us to. Nonetheless, both the show and the music is still better than I had feared, even if I do find the genre-mixing on this bill quite strange.

It is not a massive surprise, as Channer is wearing a “The rich man’s war is the poor man’s blood” patch sowed onto his jacket, but he does touch the political climate, lack of freedom, justice and liberty prevalent in the ‘States just scarcely. People don’t seem to mind this, and generally speaking the crowd deserves some credit too, as rarely have I seen so many people to see a warm-up band at this venue. The place was already completely packed when Fire from the Gods took the stage (in fact, the small access area between the main venue and the bar was also full at that point), and people seem to actually be staying until the end. That’s quite spectacular, and to be fair, I don’t think the band is terrible in any way like some others around me seem to think. So even though I won’t be holding my breath for the next time they visit these shores, I still think they put on an OK show here, as well as warming up the enticed crowd on this cold Thursday evening.

Nyamjantsan ‘Jaya’ Galsanjamts of The Hu giving his best war cry impression

The Hu

As the main act of the evening takes the stage, I’m baffled by how many they actually are. Eight men tall; four in the front sporting the aforementioned traditional Mongolian instruments and vocals, and four wielding the more classic metal instruments in the background. Just to get the crowd going, The Hu start off with chanting ”shoog shoog shoog shoog” and then the crowd chimes in as the first track “Shoog Shoog” is kicked off. Apparently, the majority of people here are already familiar with the “HU!” chants that erupt several times from the crowd throughout the evening, ensuring that everyone gets a warm welcome. And indeed, it all feels very intimate and cozy. Everything about this show thus far should suffice to get everyone’s attention: hunnu rock, throat singing and even a Jew’s harp is used, in order to render the music very different to your ‘ordinary’ rock and metal styles. In fact, think of Apocalyptica and Chthonic because of the usage of the traditional instruments (The Hu actually use a very similar instrument to the cello), and to some degree also Heilung… but just different. The music isn’t metal per se, as the band tends to focus more on the folk aspect in their songs, but the rhythm section remains heavy and infectious throughout. And nevertheless, the octet creates an atmosphere that entices the crowd effortlessly, which is probably one of the reasons this show was sold out far in advance. As I write this review, I actually just noticed that every single show on their European tour is sold out… so, how about that?

Everything about The Hu screams authenticity. Their hair is set in what I would imagine is a traditional fashion, and when they bang their heads almost in unison, it looks nigh unreal. They have so much charisma, too, so the gig transcends beyond a mere musical experience. It is about culture and tradition, and the atmosphere created by this display is superb. I can only imagine this is possible if you actually are affiliated with the culture explore in your music, and as is the case with The Hu tonight, you look like you love being on stage. The movement of the eight musicians on the stage, however, is fairly limited. But this just strikes me as unimportant for this constellation, because the atmosphere and intimacy of the spectacle feels so sincere. But when the songs take on a more energetic character, the crowd’s response is equally energetic. Even the more slow-paced build-ups with plenty of throat singing and various string instruments are captivating. The folkish nature of the songs makes people clap and cheer with joy, which is always pleasant to behold.

All the different instruments included makes this quite the journey to witness, and I can understand why I’ve heard people praise The Hu’s live shows as something to witness, because this mixture of various genres makes for a great party-starter as well. As the set nears its end, some of the more popular songs like “Yuve Yuve Yu”, “Wolf Totem” and “The Great Chinggis Khaan” are aired. People are definitely still feeling the Mongolian rock spirit flowing through them, with the crowd still engaged in enthusiastic movement, plenty of clapping, and a lot of “HU, HU, HU!” chants. As a small disclaimer: several people around me seem to think the encore that follows features a song that was already played earlier during the set, and if that is indeed the case, it is a rather cheesy decision, though not enough to stop the HU-party. This is without a doubt a standout gig to me, as I didn’t quite expect this to have been so different and unique, and I’m pretty certain I haven’t witnessed anything quite like this in a rock / metal setting before. All in all, The Hu put on a very solid, interesting, and perhaps most importantly, credible show, and you should definitely check these guys out… and to be honest, I could see this work very, very well at a festival like Copenhell. So here’s hoping for that to happen!


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