Look, Frank Turner’s folk stuff is by and large really enjoyable. It’s nice, well meaning and at times quite poignant, but there does seem to be something missing. With so many songs about love, life and the road; a sojourn to the old fertile hardcore punk grounds which Turner left behind would not go amiss. A blast of 200 bpm noise to cleanse the pallet. With Mongol Horde, the big man seems to have given himself just that.
Mongol Horde are a three piece made up of Mr. Turner on vocals, Sleeping Souls keyboardist Matt Nasir on baritone guitar and human leviathan and former Million Dead drummer Ben Dawson behind the kit. If this album is to be believed, then the band’s mission statement seems primarily to tear shit up and burn what remains to the ground in the most aggressive manner possible. This is not Tape Deck Heart or England Keep My Bones, this is Million Dead with a healthy dash of You Fail Me-era Converge and the heavier moments of Reuben. As a person who has obsessed over those records, it is an incredibly gratifying experience. Dawson’s behemoth drums combine Nasir’s pummelling riffs to just beat you into submission and get you moving. Despite singing in a much softer style for the last ten years, Turner can still scream with the same power and intensity.
What is so refreshing about this group is the diversity of sound and the tongue in cheek vibe that runs throughout the whole record. When the album wants to crush your skull, it will do so with great gusto and a sufficient amount of melody. Dawson does not shy away from smashing his kit to within an inch of its life, but thankfully he doesn’t overuse the double kick drum as a way of making the tracks heavier, something which spoils a lot of metalcore. Nasir’s riffs have Kurt Ballou written all over them and sound absolutely wonderful. However, the band also allow themselves some breathing room. ‘The Yurt Locker’ with its smooth piano and apocalyptic undertones lulls the listener into a sense of calm before smashing straight into album highlight ‘Stillborn Unicorn’.
Turner’s lyrics have the same kind of vibe. At times they evoke the lyrical styling of Future of the Left’s Andy Falkous: they’re either quite astute and intelligent critiques of modern society and it’s failings or they’re just some absurdist tosh. All of this just adds a level of fun to record. At the end of ‘Winky Face: The Mark of the Moron’, Turner unapologetically calls anyone who substitutes emoticons for language is a dick. Weak Handshake has the same kind of venom that fueled mclusky‘s ‘Gareth Brown Says’. Never have words “Morrissey t-shirt” had so much vitriol in them. ‘Tapeworm Uprising’ is about Natalie Portman’s tapeworm leaving the star and leading an uprising. It’s bonkers and a far cry from the likes of ‘Balthazar Impresario’, ‘The Road’ and other solo Turner hits.
Mongol Horde may be one of the best punk albums released this year. Loaded with enough indignation and fury to power a scene’s worth of moshing and riffs heavy enough to be brought up on charges of GBH, this is just a great record. Welcome back, Mr. Turner. We’ve missed you. Will Murphy