Not since Van Halen’s game changing first album in 1978 has a debut album caused such a global phenomenon as The HU’s ‘The Gereg’, its mix of Mongolian traditional instrumentation, throat singing and hard rock truly groundbreaking.
As with other, more exotic, Asian exports such as Babymetal, the group seemed to have captured not just the own home market but really struck a chord with the wider public and, unlike some aspects of the kawaii band, there seems to be a real naturalness to what they do.
Already a massive seller, the band have retooled the release and added even more tracks, expanding its original nine tracks to fifteen including three guest artists and three instrumental versions.
The album opens with the titular ‘The Gereg’ and you’re immediately thrust into their otherworldly atmosphere, the music and singing extraordinary and unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
Taking the same rough-edged appeal of Rammstein but putting it in a setting that speaks more of high plains over glaciers than an industrial German landscape, you find yourself captivated and shivers run freely down your spine at the haunting rhythms and ancient lyricism take over.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM8dCGIm6yc&w=560&h=315]
‘Wolf Totem’ has a primal swing that is both ancient and modern, the throat singing adding a really earthy edge to the hard rock the flows underneath it like molten lava and the same is true of ‘The Great Chiniggis Khaan’ as it continues to build their mystical aura.
‘The Legend of Mother Swan’ is another epic, soaked in the blood, sweat and tears of the centuries, imbued with an atmosphere so strong that you could practically cut it with a knife.
Things turn from the ethereal to the pounding in the AC/DC meets Rammstein grinding shake of ‘Shoog Shoog’, as ‘TNT’’s gang vocals and street-wise rock ‘n’ roll and ‘Ich Will’s’ industrial mania get rolled into one teeth smashing whole.
Done with a wide screen fury, ‘The Same’ is a growling and epic bit of Mongolian melodic metal that enjoys a battle soaked intensity offset by the beauty of the traditional instruments, the juxtaposition making listening to it a very intoxicating experience.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4xZUr0BEfE&w=560&h=315]
There’s more of a blues feel to the romp of ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ and this time they layer it with some syncopated military style drumming and a staccato dark glam menace, it’s more modern flavours providing a marked contrast to the joyous and naturalistic ‘Shireg Shireg’ that follows.
Original album closer ‘The Song of Women’ is a truly extraordinary piece that is incredibly hypnotic, its ancient chants and growling voices gently crash over the undulating and pounding rhythms like a midnight surf on a moonlit beach. The quartet show an innate grasp of a deeply rooted heartsong that lifts the track into an almost spiritual realm,
having a simmering presence in the deepest of valleys whilst reaching up and touching the stars. Seldom do you get a band who understand these dynamics and use of light and shade, so for The Hu to have mastered this for their debut makes the feat even more jaw dropping.
With these nine tracks the band have sealed their claim to rock immortality and it would be easy to dismiss the additional six tracks as just bolted on to engender more sales, but that would be entirely the wrong viewpoint.
Each one of the new additions to this expanded edition adds another layer or, conversely, strips one away to reveal even more of the skill and ambition behind the project. Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix adds his melodic tones to the heavier and menacing second version of ‘Wolf Totem’, the track a huge sounding call to brotherhood that works exceptionally well with the mix.
‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ also gets a more visceral treatment, From Ashes To New joining the party for a rampaging stomp that bounces as it shreds but it’s Lzzy Hale’s contribution to ‘The Song For Women’ that provides the cream of the extra material.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdN1U9NvuIc&w=560&h=315]
The Halestorm frontwoman is well used to holding her own against her male counterparts and the addition of her glorious voice provides not only a real contrast to the primal, testosterone-filled feel of the rest of the album but also an incredible strength, beauty and fierce passion.
The power of these two realms colliding is unquestionably seismic and may well be one of the most stratospheric things you will hear all year. With acoustic versions of ‘Shireg Shireg’, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ and ‘Shoog Shoog’ that let the instruments truly breathe rounding things off in fine style, ‘The Gereg’ comes full circle and stands as something that will be held as a benchmark, not just in its nature as a crossover album but in the pantheon of music.
With a debut this good, who knows what The HU will be able to achieve as Gala, Enkush, Jaya and Temka march ever forward, their place in history assured. Stunning is an overused word sometimes but even that doesn’t do justice in this case because The HU will change your world forever.
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM