For essentially the best part of their career thus far, Manchester’s The Hyena Kill have been dubbed as one of the best kept secrets of the underground alternative scene. As many bands who have been gifted such an accolade will know, such an inscription is both a blessing and a curse. Despite performing in lofty venues with acts such as Arcane Roots, Employed To Serve, Delta Sleep and performing at events such as Download, Camden Rocks, 2000 Trees and many others, the abrasive noise-metal collective are still a unit reserved primarily for those indulging in the sounds of the subterranean scene. A dreadful shame for those who have remained ignorant to their namesake, as the band’s take on scalping and lesion causing alt-metal is as thrilling as it as intelligently composed.
Recent times have seen significant changes within The Hyena Kill camp however. Following on from their Spun EP in 2018, the then duo recruited two new members in the form of Sam Jones (Guitar, Synths) and Charlie Seisay (Bass) in order to add further dexterity to their sound. At the same time, vocalist and guitarist Steven Dobb found himself mentally bound and chained by past traumas and pains; haunting experiences that ultimately suffocated his mental state, dominated his life and defined his existence. It’s the band’s new record A Disconnect that sees Dobb channelling such agony and woe. It’s also the record that’s bound to see the now quintet break forth from the shadowy confines of obscurity in a way that’s urgent and long overdue.
Against a backdrop of medical visuals – one utilised to draw comparisons between the suffocation of the mind and the horror of being chained immobile to life support – The Hyena Kill swerve from the musical road they’ve been barrelling down in order to explore new territory. A layer of lacquer has been applied to the once raw and scraping riffs, the piling bombardments courtesy of Lorna Blundell (Drums) have been reined in and the noise rock angles that jettisoned from their output have been sanded down. However, the sense of unapologetic rawness that defines their sound is more evident than ever before with this record. A Disconnect starkly lays out its subject matter of personal trauma in a fashion that’s so intimate it borders upon being uncomfortable. As the droning introduction of ‘Septic’ flows into ‘Passive Disconnect’ and the creeping animosity of ‘Cauterised’ - a track that sees the band showcasing their newfound progressive dexterity – Dobb explores the events that led to the creation of this record with unflinching honesty and a Chino Moreno-like drawl.
Whereas this record is by no means as musically heavy as the aforementioned Spun or their 2016 LP Atomised, the sheer emotional gravity on display combined by it’s frank delivery make A Disconnect a far more dense and substantial experience. It’s more earnest and showcases the band’s evident understanding of both juxtaposition and negative space; the moments of still respite that resonate suffocating darkness far more than any wall of frantic noise could ever do. While moments of tender respite were rare occurrences in their previous work, there’s a consistent dichotomy of tenderness and hostility hanging here, one that’s explored with a dynamic progressive edge not unlike that found within acts such as Black Peaks, Palm Reader and clear influencers Deftones. ‘Witness’, ‘Close Enough’ and ‘Incision’ are impeccable examples of the band’s shift into more composed and considered dynamism, with such material ebbing and flowing from troubled apprehension to caustic metallic annihilation with agile proficiency and animated atmosphere.
Despite such finesse in interweaving intricate layers, some of A Disconnect’s most memorable moments are its most minimalist. Led with a mournful funeral horn and isolated acoustic strumming, the exposed and slim nature of ‘Thin’ is completely removed from anything The Hyena Kill have dedicated to record thus far. It’s quiet, lethargically gothic and sorrowful with its delivery - almost to the point of being reminiscent of Chelsea Wolfe - but frenzied and urgent in the way it sees the band desperately searching for much required catharsis. Placed in contrast with the following ‘Bleached’, a track that’s a one-off return to the scuzzed metal roots of the band, here is where the harrowing emotional expansiveness of the record becomes strikingly apparent.
As the grandiose closer of ‘Mire’ delivers the therapeutic release this album strives for, it’s likely many will be left combating a flurry of emotions prior to delving right back into this record again. Harrowing in subject yet articulated with finesse, A Disconnect is truly a breathtaking piece of work that sees the band magnificently shedding their scrappy demeanour to showcase their true skill as musicians. Not only does this stand as the group’s most determined, mature and meaningful work to date, it’s an unwavering demonstration in perseverance, and even if the uncompromising exploration of trauma does ultimately disturb, it’s a record of great inspiration and hope for those enduring similar pain. An early contender for the album of the year without question.
A Disconnect is released March 5th via APF Records.