A Disconnect – the latest slice of garage/ noise rock from Manchester’s The Hyena Kill, is a lot like snorting bath salts for the first time and going for a nap in an industrial tumble dryer; every time you manage to get your heart rate under 125, someone comes along, unloads something very private and very upsetting on you, and you have to spend the next 20 minutes getting your eardrums blown out and thinking about your life choices.
Written by frontman Steven Dobb during a recent, debilitating stay in hospital – a period which would turn out to be one of intense isolation and self-reflection – the album is an ambitious leap forward for the one-time two-piece. Inspired by feelings of “claustrophobia and finality, of being trapped in a hospital bed, linked up to life support, unable to regain your own agency and escape the situation you find yourself in”, Dobb and bandmates Lorna Blundell (drums), Sam Jones (guitar) and Charlie Seisay (bass) have broadened their stylistic and instrumental horizons accordingly, delivering a visceral fragment of anthemic, obsidian-edged anguish that dips liberally into prog, post, alt and stoner rock.
Since beefing up their line-up from two to four, the band has developed some serious stylistic upgrades; the chaotic, aggressive riffing and throat shredding screams of old remain, but are often complimented by a gentler, more contemplative side which provides frequent, welcome moments of respite, arriving like trays of orange slices during a violent home invasion. Dobb’s breathy, expressive vocals frequently oscillate and meander, rising and falling like air currents and sounding distinctly Chino Moreno-adjacent. Besides the odd moments of Britney-esque “vocal fry”, Dobb’s pained, surprisingly malleable pipes hit the high-octane highs and pleading lows and prove the perfect vessel for his full-bloodedly miserable lyrics.
Album intro Septic begins as a hushed, industrial pulsing – not unlike a life support machine – that eventually swells to an ominous, electronic roar; a deafening white noise that answers the age-old question “I wonder what it would sound like to be set on fire and catapulted into the afterlife?” Immediately after, Passive Disconnect establishes the album’s sure grip on its newfound sense of dynamism, propelling the listener along tight, menacing corridors that explode suddenly into deep, anthemic landscapes of sound, eventually evolving into a brief but studious homage to modern prog masters like Karnivool and Fall of Messiah.
The addition of Jones and Seisay has certainly freed up some hands: rhythmic riffs and use of sustained, reverb-heavy open chords underpin the relentlessly frantic dual guitar work and screeching, layered lead lines most impressively on tracks like Incision and first single Cauterised. In contrast, Witness has a mischievous, refreshingly bouncy, Band of Skulls-style chorus and Thin graces the album’s mid-point with a tender, minimalist dirge that simultaneously invents and hits a sweet spot between hope and despair. Despite the recent increase in band member real estate and emotional acuity however, the songs still retain that crucial, scrappy punk-rock energy and the album largely finds its contemporaries in bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Turbowolf and Stake.
With A Disconnect, the band has lived up to its namesake, delivering a breathless, primal shock to the system that grasps the listener by the gizzards and gives ‘em the old baby gazelle treatment. With a couple of shiny new members and an altered outlook on life, The Hyena Kill have delivered a hungry, formidable collection of songs without an ounce of fat on its bones.