The last time we heard from Manchester’s The Hyena Kill was on 2018’s ‘Spun’ EP. It saw vocalist/guitarist Steven Dobb and drummer Lorna Blundell make a statement of intent, cementing them as a band worth keeping an eye on. Now, after almost a decade since their formation, Sam Jones (guitar, synth) and Charlie Seisay (bass) have joined the pair to complete the newly formed quartet, looking to expand and explore their brand of noise rock.
Their second full-length, ’A Disconnect’ takes the melodic rawness of ‘Spun’ and leads it down an intense route, full of sonically brooding rewards. With Dobb summarising the record as having “no happy endings or moments of clarity”, these ten tracks paint a bleak, claustrophobic picture as he reflects on a difficult period of his life.
Following the introductory fuzzy ‘Septic’, ‘Passive Disconnect’ arrives with an abundance of energy, with the addition of Jones and Seisay allowing the band’s sound to become fuller and more layered. A dense wall of sound made up of driving guitars and thriving bass compliment Dobb’s soaring emotional turmoil, and by the halfway point, spiralling sound effects represent his internal suffering, with Blundell’s punchy drum work triggering a release for the vocalist.
The Hyena Kill can execute urgency well, but tracks such as ‘Cauterised’ show how brilliantly they’re also able to create and utilise space with stunning effects. The spacious build allows the four-piece to create a well-balanced and alluring atmosphere, erupting in the chorus with razor-sharp guitars and a dense rhythm section, while Dobb’s towering vocals simply add to it, becoming one of the album’s most rewarding moments.
Throughout, Dobb’s vocals are delivered with a reverb effect that, at times, takes away from how otherwise impactful a song can be. For example, ‘Close Enough’ is a musically riveting midway point, delivering blistering sharp riffs amongst one of the album’s heavier moments – yet the semi-autotune Dobb uses feels unneeded. ‘Bleached’ is considerably spoiled by this, too, however, on ‘Witness’ it proves beneficial, allowing the band’s instrumental side to shine with pluckiness.
While the heavy moments on ‘A Disconnect’ prove to be thrilling, it’s when The Hyena Kill rein things in that is most impactful. ‘Thin’ takes a slow, almost ballad-like, tone yet with its acoustic guitar, Dobb’s mournful vocals and cello use, they create a mesmerising highlight.
As much as there is admiration for The Hyena Kill’s slower, layered moments, the later parts of ‘A Disconnect’ do send the album into an unfortunate lull. With three tracks spanning across the final 15 minutes, the atmospheric slow-burning ‘Glass Scene’ segues into the murky introduction of ‘Incision’. Thankfully, brief blasts of heaviness pulls you from the slumber, before settling back down. Overall, it does prove to be a compelling number, with an underlying intensity to its ebb and flow structure. If it was the album’s finale, we wouldn’t be complaining.
The actual album closer, ‘Mire’, begins with three minutes of atmospheric, electronic drums before pivoting into clean guitars and Dobb’s reverb-drenched voice. While light piano keys adds to the dreamy allure, there’s no real pay off, just an ominous end.
Besides the pacing of the album, The Hyena Kill have achieved in expanding their sound beyond the dense riffery of their earlier material. The addition of Sam Jones and Charlie Seisay is certainly beneficial, allowing them to explore different tones and textures, albeit with mixed results. Their inclusion sounds seamless alongside the established drum work of Lorna Blundell, whereas Steven Dobb’s cohesive songwriting threads together an emotional record, opening himself to bare his mental scars. For the listener, ‘A Disconnect’ demands repeated listens to be appreciated and understood.