Album Review: Mongol Horde – “Mongol Horde”
In the early 2000s, a small band in North London began making some major noise and grabbing a lot of attention for their highly politicised, highly opinionated, intellectual lyrics coupled with a loud “hardcore” sound (I use quotation marks, as they were far more stylistically varied than that generic term suggests). The band in question were of course Million Dead. Fast forward two albums later and the band called it quits due to irreconcilable differences and the wish to ‘leave a good looking corpse’, leaving their legion of fans in a state of disappointment.
Lead singer Frank Turner went on to have a well-documented successful solo career, but as the legacy of Million Dead grew, there always seemed to be the lingering question, will there ever be a Million Dead reunion? Well, while the answer to that question has always been a definitive no, Turner, alongside former Million Dead cohort Ben Dawson, and current band member Matt Nasir, has decided to revisit his roots with brand new outfit, Mongol Horde. The results of this collaboration are nothing short of spectacular.
The eponymous debut album from Mongol Horde opens with the screaming vocals and pounding riff of Make Way, literally announcing the arrival of the band with the lyrics “Make way for the Mongol Horde/Coming now to fuck you up”, before marching onwards in unrelenting fashion for the following 12 tracks. Matt Nasir is phenomenal throughout on guitar, providing a surprisingly dense sound for a single guitarist, but still being able to switch seamlessly into complicated intricate solos. Ben Dawson is, as you would expect, the heartbeat of the band furiously setting the pace for Nasir and Turner. As for the lead singer, very little needs to be said, Turner is an incredible presence fronting any band, and as much as his folky solo material is excellent, there is a wonderful level of aggression and measure to his work with Mongol Horde, but without ever compromising the subtlety and nuance that has been so prominent in his work to date.
One of the biggest strengths of Mongol Horde’s debut album is its consistency. While each track is completely unique, the quality of the album doesn’t dip even once. From Make Way, to Tapeworm Uprising (likely the only song you’ll hear this year about Natalie Portman having a tapeworm crawl out of her arse and try and attempt to take over the world), all the way along to Hey Judas, a more sprawling effort that offers a perfect contrast, and a fine album ending, each track is continually outstanding, offering the requisite attitude and dark humour that helps this LP to haul itself out of the pigeon-hole of hardcore punk, or any other generic convention into something wholly more unique and awe-inspiring.
Mongol Horde is a solid contender for my album of the year thus far, and while it will always suffer from inevitable comparisons to Million Dead, it rises to the challenge with aplomb, recapturing the lightning quick wit, and brutally raw musical elements that made Million Dead so beloved, but with a maturity and refinement that marks Mongol Horde as a different animal completely. Make way, indeed.