“This will probably be the last time you see us as a two-piece,” The Hyena Kill’s Steven Dobb said before he and Lorna Blundell delivered their pleasingly familiar crushing set at Camden Rocks in 2019.
“Really?” I asked, half-convinced I’d misheard him as the whisky was beginning to kick in but gratefully rid me of the taste of the awful preceding band.
“Yeah, man,” grinning and continued to set up for a ridiculously tight performance.
Indeed, the vocalist/guitarist was right. This, their second album continues the path of evolution we’ve seen from their debut album to its follow-up EP, Spun, which has led to them doubling the arms and legs making their own brand of noise. Now, the quartet are intent to keep pushing forward, and A Disconnect proves these additions are well-warranted.
Instrumental opener “Septic” buries itself under your skin with its ominous and dissonant tones and it begins to make you feel uncomfortable, setting the stage for the rest of the album. However, the whiplash-inducing heel turn of “Passive Disconnect” places you in more familiar territory of The Hyena Kill to ensure that this album is anything but predictable. Raw, feral and one of the most brutal tracks they’ve recorded to date, it’s a hulking beast of a track laced with angst-laden vocals from Dobb.
Lead single, “Cauterised” fully shows the band’s evolution into a more complex creature. It’s filled with light and shade, equal parts atmospheric soundscapes and throat-shredding screams to fill the dark voids. Taking a cerebral route, there’s hints of Deftones to it but unburdened with the same pretension. Meanwhile, the final trio of songs doubles down on the benefit of new additions Sam Jones (guitar/synth) and Charlie Seisay (bass). As riffs from both Dobb and Jones batter against each other, mingling with synth work and the latter also having its own room to breathe, but there’s also subtle bass lines to work in too, bulking out the lower end.
Marching drumbeats from powerhouse drummer Lorna Blundell fuel “Incision”, full of finesse and panache before explosive intervals, a direct contrast to the casual percussion on “Glass Scene”. The two tracks show the scope of her skill and continuously upping her prowess but that’s a commendation that can be awarded to her for the entire album and similarly to Steven Dobb. Riffs are deft, snappy, full-on but equally minimalist when necessary.
Between the pair of them, the musical chemistry has always acted like a third member of the band. But that also extends to Jones and Seisay and it feels like they’re part of the foundations, that rare chemistry found in such bands as The Virginmarys, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators or even early Guns N’ Roses (when they were strung out on all manner of substances and not their present-day lethargy). They don’t bulk out the music just for the sake of it, instead enhancing it and allowing for greater depth, challenging the listener to what a Hyena Kill song can be whilst remaining true to themselves. There’s a sense that this is what Dobb and Blundell have been building to all these years and now they’re finally ready to unleash it.
However, it’s “Witness” which ties the album together as a whole with one foot in the past and one in the future. It’s sharp and nasty with the danger of a cornered, injured animal. But it also has moments of clarity and its driving undercurrent to bring it to a quick calm. Elsewhere, there’s the acoustic-driven “Thin”. Haunting, eerie and cloaked in misery, it packs as much of a punch as the album’s more relentless numbers. “Bleached” has the band at their most recognisable. A quick barnburner of a track at just over two minutes and laden with filth. It’s reminiscent of much of their back catalogue and shows they’re not quite ready or willing to turn their back on it and is a welcome sound amongst the new material.
While it may sound trite to say the album takes you on a journey, that’s exactly what it does. Where past releases have allowed the songs to function as individual works and you can drop in and out, this album demands your attention from start to finish. As their most complete and complex album to date, there’s a newfound sense of maturity, born not out necessity but desire.
It may not be an album full of ferocious headbangers but they show how tranquil moments can be just as intense. Because when they do unleash their full fury, it hits with even more fervour. A Disconnect is every bit The Hyena Kill, just not as you know them.
Header image by Jen Hingley
A Disconnect is released on 5th March