In terms of surprise returns to have occurred in recent times, perhaps one of the most unexpected bands to make their comeback is MÖNGÖL HÖRDE – the hardcore punk side project of folk-punk singer-songwriter extraordinaire Frank Turner, former MILLION DEAD drummer Ben Dawson and guitarist Matt Nasir (best known as the keyboard player in Turner’s backing band The Sleeping Souls). Having been on hiatus for several years by the end of 2017, many assumed the band were finished, until a sudden announcement of reactivation and a tour caused a frenzy within the band’s fanbase, as hundreds clamoured to grab tickets for the four tiny gigs that would mark the band’s first activity in four years. We went down to the second night of the tour, at Manchester Academy 2, to see how they’d get on.
Opening tonight’s show are North-West duo RIVAL BONES (8), whose ensuing set might as well be described as the sound of ROYAL BLOOD if they were raised exclusively on a diet of CLUTCH and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. Starting their set to a surprisingly full room, frontman/guitarist James Whitehouse and drummer Chris Thomason certainly embrace the opportunity before them, pummelling the audience with a set of delightfully fuzzed-up anthems that surely deserve to be heard on a much wider scale.
Next up are GOOD TIGER (8), a progressive-sounding supergroup comprised of ex-TESSERACT vocalist Elliot Coleman, ex-THE SAFETY FIRE guitarists Derya Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles, ex-THE FACELESS drummer Alex Rüdinger and former ARCHITECTS touring guitarist Morgan Sinclair on bass. Packing a sound that manages to be both technically challenging in its instrumentation and relentlessly catchy at the same time on tracks like Blueshift, the quintet put on a massively strong showing tonight. Coleman in particular is a joy to watch in action, charismatic and confident throughout, and he and his bandmates have undoubtedly won themselves some new fans by the time they leave the stage – this writer included.
As the lights eventually go down for tonight’s headliners, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a feeling of something special in the air this evening. MÖNGÖL HÖRDE (9) haven’t even played a single note of music before the chaos commences either – such is the level of anticipation for their return. As if from nowhere, frontman Frank Turner suddenly appears at the rear of the room and proceeds to crowd-surf up to his bandmates, before launching into the vicious opening salvo of Hey Judas and Winky Face: The Mark Of A Moron. As you’d expect from putting a man more familiar with arenas and large theatres into a sub-1000 capacity room, Frank Turner immediately begins hurling himself into the crowd with hilarious frequency and his microphone ends up shared between many of the punters present on multiple occasions, as seemingly the entire room bellows along to the likes of How The Communists Ruined Christmas and Tapeworm Uprising.
There’s a handful of surprises scattered throughout the band’s setlist tonight too, including two brand new MÖNGÖL HÖRDE songs currently titled Godfrey Newman and (rather hilariously) Full Tits, MILLION DEAD tracks Pornography For Cowards and Smiling At Strangers On Trains, and a storming rendition of THIN LIZZY’s Jailbreak; but perhaps none funnier than a fully tongue-in-cheek hardcore punk take on MADONNA’s 1989 pop mega-hit Like A Prayer, which simultaneously manages to be both completely ludicrous and utterly brilliant, as legions of fans who up until this point have been circle-pitting like their lives depend on it all embrace the madness and begin drunkenly bellowing along to the track’s massive chorus. Eventually though, the band reach the end of their set, and close off the night with a positively incendiary performance of Make Way that essentially encapsulates all of the chaos we’ve just witnessed in one brilliant chunk. With Frank Turner about to release a new solo album, it’s unclear how long it’ll be before we actually see another MÖNGÖL HÖRDE full-length, but judging by the band’s performance tonight, it’s sure to be more than worth the wait.