36 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

It’s another run to Rock City tonight, the second night in Nottingham in a run of five shows in quick succession. This is another solo run as work has yet again tied up brother Waldorf, not to worry as a team we can pull this one off.

So, after hearing great reviews about this incredible band, I’m finally getting to witness them bringing their brand of Hunnu Rock to the East Midlands, in fact my phone has just pinged, a friend has told me I have to get and see them, he saw them last night and they were fantastic. I’m looking forward to this one,

It’s a band I’ve been waiting to catch for a long time, first a bit about them, put some meat on the bone so to speak.

The HU are a Mongolian Folk Rock band, formed in 2016 in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and as a trivia point, is the coldest capital city in the world.

The band consist of four main musicians, Galbadrakh “GALA” Tsendbaatar, Nyamjanstan “JAYA” Galsanjamts, Enkhsaikhan “ENKUSH” Batjargal and Temuulen “TEMKA” Naranbaatar. The band also feature a ‘touring’ section of Unumunkh “ONO” Maralkhuu, Jambaldorj “JAMBA” Ayush, Nyamdavaa “DAVAA” Byambaa and Odbayar “ODKO” Gantumur. They shall now be known by their short names.

The band’s name simply means ‘Human Being’, nothing scratchy or blood thirsty that their imagery might depict on first seeing them.

The band feature their homeland, sounds. They blend their traditional instruments like the Horsehead fiddle (Morin Khuur), The Mongolian guitar (Tovshuur) and the Jaw Harp (Tumur Khuur) along with the traditional art of throat singing with Western Instruments to give us, what they refer to as ‘Hunnu Rock’. Screaming fiddles and guttural throat singing make for an interesting sound.

Inspired by Hunnu, the ancient Mongolian Empire known as Xiongnu in Western culture. A race that invaded Europe under the fierce leader ‘Atilla’. Their bands lyrics include everything from primaeval War Cries to ancient Poetry.

The band have conjured up a huge interest meaning that their live shows have been sold out globally since they hit the scene. The band have appeared at the infamous Download Festival, a must do gig on every band’s agenda.

The HU have collaborated with several Western musicians, including Jacoby Shaddix of PAPA Roach, and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. More recently they covered Metallica’s ‘Sad but True’, in doing so, Metallica invited the Hu to play on ‘Through the Never’ for the 2021 30th Anniversary Blacklist album. The band have also featured on EA Sports Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order video game.

Their debut album ‘The Gereg’ topped the charts and went on to accumulate over 250,000,000 streams and video views. In August 2022 they toured with Megadeth and Five Finger Death Punch across the U.S. In May 2022 they shared the single ‘This is Mongol’, ‘Black Thunder’ parts 1 & 2 followed in July and August and in the September ‘Bii Biyegee’ hit their official YouTube channel.

Before we get to hear this amalgam of ancient meets modern, we have an undercard consisting of KING NUN. A young, vibrant, four-piece band from South West London.

Having been around a few years they have already supported the likes of ‘Black Flag’ and the mighty ‘Foo’s’. With a 5 track EP, entitled ‘ I Have Love’, released in 2018 and their debut long player released in 2019 simply called ‘MASS’. The band haven’t been slouching around in coming forward. It’s been said that their Jarring Harmonies and Syncopated Bass Lines shouldn’t work, but some how they do. This should be an interesting night.

Getting any information on the band has been hard work, so I resorted to sending a message via their ‘insta’ account. I just hope they are active with its usage. They have!

KING NUN hit the stage slightly after the 6:55 time slot. The crowd are respectful and give them a rousing cheer as they kick off into the opener, ‘Golden Age’. With a set totalling 12 tunes and only 30 minutes to get them played it meant we are in for a hell of a ride.

Frontman Theo Polyzoides is at the microphone delivering a harsh lyric one minute, the next he’s high kicking around the stage, new boy Ethan Stockley-Young is tying himself in knots on the guitar whilst his brother, Caius, is knocking hell out of the kit. The energy flowing from the stage is phenomenal.

Dirty guitars and a hard drum beat set the stall out as we go into ‘Lightning to Fly’. Theo has now donned a guitar that he shoves in the faces of the crowd as he belts out the lyric, Ethan, has taken to the air as he leaps about, there isn’t a lot of room on the stage so well done for grabbing some air.

The lyric is hard and brash, the wall of jagged sound caressing with all the subtleties of a chainsaw. The screaming guitars and crashing cymbals and displaced bass lines give the bands songs a strong identity, listening carefully, the frenetic energy combining with the syncopated delivery make it work, although your gut says it shouldn’t.

‘Chinese Medicine’ from the 2019 album MASS keeps this thumping sound going. Screaming guitars and distortion abound as each member rocks about, in what seems like a chaotic stage. There are elements of the Stooges and Ramones, the Clash and even the Pistols, as the band carry on and deliver at 100mph, delivering with an epileptic episode inducing ferocity.

On leaving the pit there is nowhere for us to migrate too as the room is rammed! We enjoy the rest of the set from the side-lines.

‘Heavenly She Comes’ from the ‘I Have Love’ EP, keeps the boys dancing around on the stage. Thundering drums and screamed lyrics gives this one an early punk vibe. I think ‘OCD’ gets a shout as being from the new ‘hush hush’ album that is in the offing, something that comes as a surprise as doing my research on the band, I could find very little about them. I get that the Label likes to keep things ‘Hushed’ until the time is right. It carries on with the hard thrust of the previous songs.

The relentless wall of sound and energy continues, as does the seeming mayhem on stage. ‘Selfish’ is up next quickly followed by ‘Tulip’, one of the older songs in the set. More distorted guitars and furious drum beats. Staccato lyrics punctuate as the guitars go their own way, ripping a hole in your heart with the ferocity.

The band are bouncing around like coiled springs. Fast and furious continues as ‘Sinking Feeling’ and ‘Live on The Beach’ are up next. The guitars strike up and there’s a familiarity to the opening riff of ‘Live on the Beach’, the guitars seem an odds with each other but meld wonderfully to form a vibrant sound stage all be it a bit hectic. Theo’s vocal is on the money and slides in without jarring, well not too much.

Hung Around’ is another older track, kicking off with a strained guitar and drum riff, Theo’s hard delivered vocal gives another dimension as he screams along. The song is pushed by a steady drum beat. The breakdown is a strummed affair whilst James Upton crushes a hand full of screaming licks as Polyzoides is on his knees writhing around, strumming hard on his battered guitar. Again, the vocals are delivered with bullet point accuracy finishing off with a “thanks”.

Dirty guitars and a thumping bass follow. The boys are, again dancing around on the stage. Asking if the crowd are with them, Polyzoides gets back to riffing out, ‘Escapism’, hard and fast is the order of the day, or rather night.

The cymbal crashes would wake the dead with their sharpness. That aside Polyzoides introduces the final song of the set, the Stooges cover, ‘I Wanna Be You Dog’. A great tune that’s been covered by David Bowie and Maneskin. It’s a brutal few minutes that leaves you reeling with its frantic pace and energy. At times the vocal is hard to hear with the force of its delivery, but the crowd are loving it. When the smoke finally clears the band get a huge, and deserved round of cheers and claps. They have brought the energy and have certainly entertained.

They are a new band to be, and I found that there’s not a huge amount out there about them, so I didn’t know what to expect, I’m pleased to say that they didn’t disappoint. The huge sound and energetic live performance mean I’ll keep an eye out for KING NUN in the future. Now when’s the new album due out? I hope it’s’ soon as these boys can put a tune together.

KING NUN are:- Theo Polyzoides – Vocals, Caius Stockley-Young – Drums, Ethan Stockley-Young – Baritone Guitar, James Upton – Guitar and Nathan Gane – Bass.

The mighty crew at Rock City now, quickly disassemble the stage and rig it for tonight’s Headliners, The HU. There’s 8members of the touring group so all the stage will be needed.

With an 8pm start time and a curfew of 10pm the band are on stage a little after the agreed start time. Looking at the set list’s, neatly taped to the deck, it’s a 90minute set, so no curfew worries, in fact I could be home by 10:15. The crowd great the band with a stunning round of cheers and applause, this band is huge!

Kicking off with ‘Shihi Hutu’, from the latest album ‘Rumble of Thunder’, with its thundering volley of drums, the Horse head fiddles of ‘Gala’ and ‘Enkush’ are rasping away as the deep guttural’s are unleashed. Already, the music has the crowd cheering enthusiastically, much to the bands delight. We have had less than 90seconds of music and the band have the crowd eating from the palm of their hand.

The drums build as the bows strike the strings of the fiddles. ‘Jaya’ is up front, his lead vocal, harmonised by the rest of the band, as this one gallops along.

The almost hypnotic feel is carried on with ‘Shoog Shoog’ from the first album, ‘The Gereg’ from 2019. The chants are copied by the crowd as this one builds, ‘Gala’ is a bit more animated in this one as he rocks out, his hand and bow are waving as he plays, ‘Jaya’ has the jaw harp working between verses, its distinctive twang coming over.

‘Temka’ is the rock star with his lute while ‘Enkush’ is playing down in the dirty end of his horsehead, putting together some great licks on the 2strings he has to play with. Over, on the drums, ‘Odko’ and the percussive toms work of ‘Ono’ thunder around them. ‘Davaa’ on bass guitar behind ‘Temka’ is working hard as is ‘Jamba’ on les Paul behind ‘Enkush’ is massaging the strings to his guitar. The band stand back as ‘Enkush’, momentarily has his head down as he bow’s a tasty riff. ‘Jaya’ has the end blown flute out to finish this mighty tune off.

Its apparent that there is a movie sound track quality to the band, it wouldn’t seem out of place in The Vikings or episodes of Game of Thrones.

‘The Gereg’ is up next from the 2019 album. This has the crowd clapping along as ‘Jaya’ is jaw harping and the horsehead fiddles are grinding away. Squeals are ‘shredded’ from them as the vocals start, again harmonised by the front row. The crowd are punching the air as this one moves along. ‘Jaya’ control’s the band with his arm up, his hair flowing in the breeze generated from his on-stage fan. The traditional costumes are no doubt heavy and warm.

The growls from ‘Gala’ announce the band are so happy to be here. The lighting changes again as we race into ‘Huhchu Zairan’. The four main members of the band harmonise as they deliver the vocal. The Horsehead Fiddles cry out, making me think of the fiddle in the Charlie Daniels bands, ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, the tones are so similar.

This is then followed on with ‘Gala’ again announcing ‘The Great Chinggis Khaan’ in his deep gravely vocal growl, his hands raised above his head. A steady lute riff is strummed by ‘Temka’, as he starts, he is soon joined by ‘Jaya’ on vocals. The band harmonise with guttural throat singing as the song picks up and runs, before it quietens down, momentarily, the crowd cheer as the Horseheads duet with each other. The back line is thumping along hard keeping everything in check. The band are bathed in red light and blue light as the song thunders along, hypnotically capturing the crowd who have their heads nodding in time.

Another from the latest album has the crowd clapping along to the drums. ‘Triangle’ with its rolled vocals and rocky feel has ’Jaya’ on his toes as he sweeps his hair from his face. This has more of a modern ‘Pop rock’ feel to it. The drums are crashing and the lute is riffing ’Gala’ is enjoying himself, as he grins across at ‘Temka’ while he’s waving his hair around. A great tune, enjoyed by the crowd who respond with a round of cheers. “Thank you so much” growls ‘Jaya’ or was it ‘Gala’?

A jump back to 2019 with ‘Shireg Shireg’ is next. Lead by the Lute of ‘Temka’, he has a riff going on while ‘Jaya’ stands and blows on the end blown flute, before his distinctive vocal takes over. There’s a steady percussive beat throughout, locked into you your heart beat. The throat singing growls as the flute continues. Enkush is stood straight providing backing growls as ‘Gala’ is rocking out on his two-string horsehead fiddle. The jaw harp features again as the tick tock back beat comes to and end.

‘Jaya’ introduces the next song, ‘Bii Biyelgee’, in Mongolian, finishing with “let’s Dance”. This song bounces and has folk light in their loafers, it’s a happy sound especially with the flute piping through. The band are now quite animated, there are calls and cry’s from amongst them to each other. The audience has an oriental contingent in tonight who are loving everything. The song speeds up, to finish in an almighty round of drum crashes and crowd cheers. ‘Gala’ asks us if we are having fun in a sort of Klingon voice, immediately followed by “Thank You” the crowd are happy and gleefully cheer back.

The ever-present chant of “Hu Hu Hu” is heard again, its’ been there after each song played, but is growing louder as we go along, it’s acknowledged by the band. ‘Jaya’ announces ‘Tatar Warrior’. Its guttural growled start and dark brooding playing leave you in no doubt that this is a tune about a bad man. Bathed in red light, ‘Enkush’, ‘Jaya’ and ‘Gala’ sing as one. ‘Jaya’ is quite animated as the both horseheads cry out. ‘Gala’ is singing a lot more during this one. The strings have an almost orchestral feel to them as the song builds to climax. ‘Gala’ punches his chest, as ‘Jaya’ leads the crowd in a “HU HU HU” chant, the kick drum of ‘Odka’ thumping along keeping order.

‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ bounces along, this is a head nodding fan favourite it would seem, looking at the crowd, the phones are out recording every note to share with friends.

‘Wolf Totem’ is next. This is the one that Jacoby Shaddix of PAPA ROACH collaborated on and is a banger. The official video has accumulated almost 81,000,000 views on YouTube. The first notes have the crowd clapping along. ‘Gala’ riffs out on his horsehead as the now familiar tune slams in to the crowd who are now punching the air in time to the chanted vocal.

Black Thunder’ is announced by ‘Gala’. This is from the new album. It has a distinctive ‘Vikings’ feel to it as it starts up. Again, ‘Gala’ leads off the vocal as the band, in blue light, harmonise alongside him. The hypnotic beats are back as the throat singing growls along bringing in the soaring horsehead fiddles and the twang of the jaw harp. The percussive beats of ‘Ono’ are thumping, providing the song with a heartbeat. ‘Gala’ and ‘Enkush’ bring the song home with an animated bit of playing as the lights flash and strobe.

‘This Is Mongol’ is announced as the last song by ‘Gala’ in a very matter of fact manner. Thundering drums smash into your soul as the repetitive vocal calls out, ‘Jaya’ takes this one onwards. The song gallops along full of cymbal crashes and soothing horsehead fiddle. ‘Jaya’ moves aside and swooshes his long black hair in time to the music, headbanging style. The crowd have their hands up as they bounce along. I’m curious to know if many of those in tonight have translated the lyrics?

The last words of the song come from ‘Gala’, as the song stops, temporarily, before starting off into a kind of reprise. The band have the crowd punch in time as the beat slows. ‘Gala’ seems to be the main spokesperson as he shout’s “we love Nottingham”, and then “We are the HU”, the HU has all the band say it so carry’s a bit of weight.

The stage is cleared and the “HU” chant starts, it gathers momentum and results in wild clapping, and cheering before starting over again. The band eventually walk back on stage.

‘Jaya’ punches the sky and then gets the crowd to ask for “one more song HU”.

‘Gala’ and ‘Enkush’ start on the horsehead fiddles, bowing back and forth before they drop into ‘Sad but True’ by Metallica. The throat singing is spot on for this one. Sang in Mongolian it still works. Hammett and Hetfield’s parts played on a fiddle sound awesome. The tempo suits the Hu as they power through this great Metallica cover and make it their own. The song is brough to a timely end with ‘Gala’ pulling faces as he riffs out. The band say thank you so much as they wave and acknowledge the crowd who are now clapping along. The band seem a bit reluctant to leave as they wander the stage.

I eventually get swept out of the doors with the rush of people hurrying to get the early Tram home.

I make my way back to the car and head off, happy. The fog has descended so it’s a slow drive back as I fight with balls of light coming the opposite way, some folk won’t use dipped beam in heavy pea soup.

I have my HU playlist blue toothed to the car stereo so I’m in a good place as the hypnotic tones keep me calm as I weave my way home.

The HU are a big deal, the turning away of people tonight proves they could have sold more tickets. Rock City was full to the gills with fans of these Mongolian rock stars.

After enjoying their 90minute set I can see why they have the attention of the world.

A stunning night and a welcome break from some of the more extreme bands I have witnessed of late.

If you can get a ticket, go and see them, if you have a ticket then you’ll love them, if you have already seen them, I’ll join you in saying WOW!

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