Ah, Digbeth, or home as I like to call it. My favourite part of Birmingham has and always will be, due to its arty, vibrant feel and pic ‘n’ mix of music venues. Sat in the very heart of it is Subside, a traditional rock/alternative bar where you’re guaranteed a great night with or without any bands playing. After a bit of research, it seems there’s an eclectic mix on offer tonight; The Hyena Kill magnetising me here.
I’ve been following this hard rock duo from Manchester for a few years now. I’m always left open mouthed at the sheer brute force they deliver their live show with and knew that tonight would be no exception. Fresh off the back of their debut album Atomised last year, their outstanding new single “Red” has just been released. Speaking to Steven Dobb (vocals, guitar) and Lorna Blundell (drums) prior to the show, they were absolutely stoked to be debuting some new tracks for us tonight.
First up tonight is opener Cave Canem, self described as “acoustic pop punk”. Clear, angsty vocals ring out and draws listeners forward. A short but sweet set pursues, draped in bitter and heartsick lyrics. We’re introduced to old and new tracks from his demo release Songs About Girls, Being Sad and Girls Making You Be Sad. And although apologetic about the sad nature of the songs, I actually felt the set was quite upbeat musically, passion-driven and heartfelt but just enough anger and punk to balance the mood. “Focus” and “Pictures” were stand out tracks for me, you should definitely give this guy a listen.
In complete contrast then, The Hyena Kill take to the stage and unleash a huge barrage of sound that makes people’s heads turn so fast their necks crick. I get an excited knot in my stomach as I watch faces aghast at the sound they are consuming from this powerful duo for the first time, and I know instantly they have won over a whole room full of new fans.
“Your Loss” is a great opener, hard and heavy as they come, Steven screams down the mic with a guttural force that pierces the gut and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Backed by an onslaught of raucous riffs and a savage attack on the drums, this pair are beyond compare.
No breather before the emotive “Crosses” is heaved upon us, Steve uses his array of effects pedals to produce a cacophony of distorted riffs and drone sounds. The connection between these two masterful musicians is palpable, totally in tune with each other, their set is as tight and correlated as a pack of lions set for the kill or, ahem, hyenas.
Just when you think these two are at the top of their game, they thrust upon us two brand new tracks (so new they don’t even have titles yet) and holy hell! Delivered at breakneck “Territorial Pissings” speed, I am unable to breathe, sweat lashing from Steve as he head bangs and plays with immense skill and speed and Lorna literally destroys the drum kit. It’s having the punishment of its life to the point where I think it’s actually gonna tip over in fearful submission. The second track is just as mesmerising with a slower intro building into a crescendo of epic proportions. I’m speechless (and wondering at the time how am I ever gonna put what I’ve just witnessed into words?!).
Closing with two personal favourites “Tongue Tied” and “Still Sick” their momentum and aptitude doesn’t waver for a second. Their explosive set just expands and amplifies; powerful, aggressive rock delivered with an all-consuming passion and force this performance was utterly breathtaking. Speaking to the pair afterwards, Steve sums up the set perfectly “My crotch could do with a baby wipe now!”
At this point I could have easily left fully satisfied with my earful for the night; thank God I didn’t! For I wasn’t quite prepared for the next band I was about to witness:
Frown Upon. Travelling all the way from Cardiff for tonight’s show, this hardcore punk band are supporting Catch Fire on all four dates of their tour. This four piece waste no time setting up their gear off stage in the middle of the room, abandoning the drummer completely and it’s soon apparent why, this stage won’t contain them.
Launching straight into their punk rock set, I’m immediately hooked. Frontman Zac Noneley is enthralling. Screaming into the mic with great ardor, his angry lyrics are spewed out grabbing everyone’s attention in the room leaving no one in doubt of the band’s intent or drive. Stamping and spinning uncontrollably between lyrics; I know we’re in for a ferocious set, the crowd already nodding along.
The guitar riffs are heavily grunge-laden, with the guitarist himself hidden under a mop of hair giving it a real early 90s feel, he thrashes about completely absorbed in his sound. The bass lines are chugging and fleshy and this too gets the audience moving in sync. “Enough” and “From the Ground” are huge opening numbers, intimidating and punk charged. From their self-titled EP, “Waster” comes in at full throttle, bitter and helpless lyrics: “Is there anyone there? Do you even fuckin’ care?” Emotive and passion-driven, Zac’s pain palpable. “Impolitic” starts with a trippy, distorted sound and is politically driven and panicky in it’s delivery. “Float” is introduced as a new track followed by “Whisper” which starts slower but builds into a massive swell of sound enhanced by distorted guitar tones, utter filth.
“Peace at Last” ironically was the heaviest, loudest punk track of the night and latest release “Scratch” (you really need to see/hear this video) left me exasperated. These guys are everything I want in a punk band and more and are now etched firmly on my radar.
Still reeling from the previous set I await headliners Catch Fire, who seem to have brought with them a small fanbase and the venue is nicely filled. It’s a big band: five take their slot again on the floor, leaving just the drummer on stage. I’m expecting huge noise, but they just don’t quite deliver for me. As “Curfew” is introduced, poppy mainstream rock with an emo twinge is delivered in a tight energetic set that has the crowd jumping around in pleasure. Vocals are sharp and melodic but it’s just nothing I haven’t heard before.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s great musicianship and potential here, with their drummer in particular catching my eye with his frantic, unrelenting style. New track “Guilty as Charged” has a really heavy rock intro and a more pop punk vibe, and two slower, more heartfelt songs mid-set are delivered with passion and emotion. But as the songs start to blur into one, following pretty much the same format and breakdowns, I find my mind wandering.
Set closer “Anaesthetic” has the audience bouncing in glee, their bassist who provides polished backing vocals as well, is in the crowd, lapping it up. A funpop rock set delivered with gusto and skill.
Cave Canem: facebook