When the Past Meets Present, The HU Make Music That Soars

It's not every day you see a horsehead fiddle in the flesh.
It's not every day you see a horsehead fiddle in the flesh. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Modern music is performative. The moment we invented amplifiers, devices that exist specifically to make the music we create louder, there was no turning back. Every concert is a performance, even the ones where the band on stage is trying really hard not to perform. That doesn’t make modern music less pure than what our ancestors made banging on rocks or blowing in tubes, but nine times out of 10 what you’re doing when you go to a show is watching someone perform rather than have an experience.

The HU feel like an experience. The Mongolian folk/metal band — and it’s very important that you include the word Mongolian for the purposes of genre clarification so that no one thinks these are just Scandinavian dorks who couldn’t cut it in death metal — makes songs that soar in the way most rock bands can only dream. If you covered your ears they may look like most metal bands you’ve seen — the black clothes, the pumping fists, the signature instruments — but there’s so much more going on under the hood.

Listen carefully to any song by the band and you’ll hear sounds that aren’t unlike what you’d find on a southern rock record, or a country record, or a new age album, or an experimental ambient record. These sounds speak less to the band’s individual influences and more to how just because we were all born in different places, humans come to recognize that certain sounds are just pleasing to our ears.

In fact, the most enlightening thing about seeing The HU live — other than yes, it is cool as hell to see someone shred on a horsehead fiddle — is realizing they aren’t a folk metal band at all; they’re Mongolian dance rock. Mongolian throat singing produces sounds that aren’t that far away from a vocoded vocal sample; the jaw harp creates pads more interesting than the average synthesizer; combine their with the repetitive, feel-it-in-your-chest drum patterns and the grooves their string instruments provide and you’ve songs that are just as much “let the beat drop” as they are “bang your head.”
click to enlarge Connecting to the modern world via their cultural past. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA.
Connecting to the modern world via their cultural past.
Photo by Eric Sauseda.
It would be incredibly easy to write off The HU as a meme band, but that would be doing them a great disservice. This isn’t a band of guys in costumes writing parodies of Black Sabbath songs about hamburgers or cosplaying as a character from a famous cartoon. They’re just connecting the modern world to their cultural past, and if they have to turn the dials up to get people to listen, then they might as well turn them up to 11.

So, How Was The Opener: The Haunt is a delight. They’re still pretty new to the scene — they haven’t even released their debut album yet — and their presentation shows them to still be a little rough around the edge. Still, their earnestness is charming, and their songs have the right amount of edge to them that they can be slotted as an opener for pretty much any band roughly as heavy as say Coheed and Cambria.

Personal Bias: The HU might be my platonic ideal of background music. I can put them on when I’m doing a repetitive task that requires my attention and be secure in the knowledge that it’s going to be engaging enough to get me to tap my feet but not engaging enough to distract me from my work. It’s “get things done” music.

The Crowd: Not wearing enough masks.

Random Notebook Dump:
Kudos to the security guy at House of Blues who let me take the elevator down to the ground floor after the show. My dude saw me limping and had mercy on me. Who knew that sitting on my couch watching Youtube for two years and not going to shows was going to ruin my ability to stand for *checks notes* three hours.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia