The Hu

Live at The Fonda

Los Angeles, CA

December 10th, 2019

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

The Hu are a Mongolian folk metal band incorporating the traditional instruments and throat singing of their native culture into a modern heavy metal entity.

Utilizing the Morin khuur, or "horsehead fiddle", as well as the Topshur, a three stringed lute, jaw harps, flutes, and traditional percussion all infused with electric guitars, modern drums, and a rock sensibility, The Hu bring a new edge to the thriving folk metal music scene.

Based around a core quartet of talented musicians The Hu are made up of Galbadrakh Tsendbaatar, or "Gala" for shortm on lead throat singing and Morin khuur, Enkhasaikhan Batjargal, also know as"Enkush", playing lead Morin khuur and throat singing, Nyamjantsan Galsanjamts, or "Jaya", on Jaw harp, tsuur (a Mongolian pipe instrument), flute, and throat singing, and Temuulen Naranbaatar, a.k.a. "Temka", playing Tovshuur and backing vocals.

This roster is expanded to a full eight man band for touring with Jambaldorj Ayush "Jamba" on electric guitar and backing vocals, Batkhuu Batbayar on bass guitar and backing vocals, Unumunkh Maralkhuu "Ono" playing traditional percussion, jaw harp, and backing vocals, and finally Odbayar Gantumur a.k.a "Odko" on rock style drums and backing vocals.

The most intense parts were when all eight men raised their voices in unison, the multiple instances of throat singing mixing with the other chorus vocals to profound effect, making your hair stand on end as all of the combined traditional and conventional instruments lifted the power of the music even further.

I am a huge fan of folk metal and pagan folk music in general as the global scene has exploded with bands ranging from Scandinavia to Russia, and throughout Europe but The Hu are the first of their kind to bring Mongolian instrumentation, mythology, and language into the metal world.

The Hu released their debut album "The Gereg" earlier this year and embarked on a massive North American tour, many dates selling out. The Fonda was packed with fans, drawing not only from the Los Angeles metal scene but forming a diverse crowd, many of whom normally do not attend shows of this nature.

They started off the set with "Shoog Shoog". While most of their songs are in their native tongue, the fans sang along to nearly every song as the chorus lyrics are fairly easy to catch on to.

They proceeded to play the entirety of "The Gereg" but rearranged in song order along with a number of songs not featured on the release intermixed including "Uchirtai Gurav", "Bii Biyley", "This is the Mongol", and the amazing "Black Thunder".

Highlights of the set for me were "Wolf Totem", "The Gereg", and "The Great Chinggis Khaan" as well as the aforementioned "Black Thunder". Songs ranged from nearly fully traditional folk to moments where the electric guitars combined with the traditional instruments getting super heavy, riffs rivaling some of the best head-banging thrash metal icons around.

As "This is the Mongol" came to a close the band left the stage. The crowd starting yelling "Hu! Hu! Hu!" almost barking it out in loud revelry.

The band came back out, and even though they had played literally every song of their catalog, they gave us a reprise of two of their bigger hits but this time around with guest vocalists. Danny Case of From Ashes to New sang with the band for a rendition of "Yuve Yuve Yu" followed by Papa Roach lead vocalist, Jacoby Shaddix singing an alternate version of "Wolf Totem".

It was really an amazing performance. The Hu are obviously really talented but beyond that, they have tapped into a special sound that really resonates with the listener and leaves a powerful impression. That power is magnified a hundred fold in a live setting with the additional members building such a lush and intense sound, I highly recommend checking these guys out when they tour again.

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