Tonight was a night I’d been looking forward to for a long time. I first caught The Hyena Kill at Camden Rocks festival early last year, I was so astounded by their punchy set and brute force of deliverance, that I couldn’t wait to get hold of their back catalogue. Hailing from Manchester, Steven Dobb (guitar/vocals) and Lorna Blundell (drums) have had an intense year. Their debut album Atomised was released back in May and after a launch night, UK tour and a string of festivals this summer, The Hyena Kill are back on the road again. Supported by two local bands, I can’t wait to get into the city to my favourite venue and meet my friend Ross who, having seen them play just six days ago in Glasgow decided to make the long trip down to see them again. Yes, they’re that good.
We meet in The Sunflower Lounge; a quirky, friendly place. With a capacity of just 120, you know you’re always in for a real intimate experience down in the cellar. Ross gets the drinks in and we have chance to catch up and say hi to the bands as they load in their gear. Before the first support band kick off, I meet Lorna (The Hyena Kill) for an interview. Unfortunately Dobb is laid up with flu so is resting as much as possible before tonight’s show.
Scuzzy, grunge tones jack up the stairway and we hit the cellar to watch Third Angle Projection take the stage. Frontman Arron Tipper (guitar/vocals) in ripped jeans and an open shirt, with a beaten up guitar pretty much held together by gaffer tape, looks every bit the part as he slays the set track by track. His raspy yet well-tuned vocals are spellbinding. Pounded out with heavy, technical riffs, he delivers a passionate performance that brings more people downstairs to listen. Angst and torment rage through the lyrics, “Going Away”, “Useless” and “For What You Are” to name a few, are executed effortlessly. Bass man Dean Tipper shreds the bass like I’ve never seen or heard before. The power he plays with comes to a crescendo at the end of the set as Aaron throws down his guitar and walks off stage, Dean literally punches his instrument into defeat until all but one string is left intact. It creates the filthiest bass tones that, combined with Charlie Brotherton’s thrash drumming, produce an electrifying resonance around the room. All too soon this first set is over to an abundant, well deserved round of applause. This is grunge rock at it’s best, it leaves a real vintage, garage rock taste in your mouth. No gimmicks, this band are completely stripped back and what you get is raw and sincere.
A quick set change and deny all ROBOTS are up next. I’ve long been a champion of this post-punk band and on the verge of releasing their second EP Crash, they seem to be getting regular slots around Birmingham’s thriving underground rock scene. Frontman Danny Roberts (guitar/vocals) takes no time launching into first track “Thank You, Linus”. Bawling down the mic, backed by Dave Anderson’s harsh, rapid drumming and Glen Ogden’s frantic bass playing, the crowd are left in no doubt of the intention and direction of tonight’s set. Primordial punk-rock, untamed and unconfined bursts from the stage in an unrelenting assault of sound. Noise makers yes, but catchy cathartic riffs emanate throughout and lyrical sparks of genius that leave fragments of contemplation in your head long after the set is over also.
“D.O.C’ and “Digital Blood” have a little more depth when Glen’s backing vocals intensify the sound. With an array of distortion pedals, there’s a fight for floor space but it creates an unearthly buzz that reverberates around the cellar, all credit to tonight’s sound guy. I look around and the crowd are really getting into it as the aptly titled “More Shake” is bellowed out. “Crash” and “Knife Games” see the set come to a close with the band culminating in a delirious explosion of sound with an abrupt, perfectly timed silence. Punk is definitely not dead, it is at the very heart and lungs of this band spewed from every pore, in abundance…..
Headliners The Hyena Kill slam onto the stage with “Your Loss” from their debut album at full throttle. Lorna dominates the intro with her unique, faultless attack on the drums. Dobb’s brutal vocals resonate around the room and I get bounced off the amp I’m leaning against, so powerful are the vibrations. Talk about feeling the noise! It’s nothing short of what I’ve come to expect of this band, an utter power house of sound and energy, they compare to none. The connection between these two is palpable, indestructible.
Not coming up for air, a blistering rendition of “Crosses” ensues, Dobb’s screaming intensifies and the veins on his neck look as though they’re about to burst and I suddenly get a flashback of an old horror movie, a scene where a werewolf is just about to transform from a human into a feral monster. But just as he reaches this point of transformation, he pulls off one of the slickest, grungiest riffs ever whilst throwing himself around the stage in a mosh-pit for one. Lorna’s skillful, brutal intensity of drumming feeds his head banging compulsion.
Grabbing the mic after, Dobb gives an apology: “Sorry to cut the set short tonight,” he says. “I’m really not well. In fact, my main ambition tonight is to get through the set without shittin’ me’self. Applause and laughter erupt, there’s always great connection with the crowd at these shows. Honest and ever the professional, he’s determined to pull off a set of sorts. Slugging water by the gallon, a glance to Lorna and they’re off again, this time a new track, raw and unpolished it’s delivered effortlessly.
Tightly thrashing through the rest of the set, “Tongue Tied” and “Choke” (my favourite track from the album) leave me with goose-bumps. Ending the set with “Still Sick” I remain aghast at the power and presence of this twosome tonight. I’m left in no doubt why The Hyena Kill remain to be one of my favourite live bands. An utter inspiration to any young musicians out there and Dobb’s performance anything but that of a sick man. Although sick has a whole new meaning these days, so I’m told. There’s still a few dates left on this tour, be sure to catch them, ones to watch for sure.