Written by Ellis Heasley
The Hyena Kill – A Disconnect
Alt Rock from Manchester, UK
Released March 5th, 2021
It’s hard to know where to start with A Disconnect by The Hyena Kill. Probably one of the best words to sum it up is ‘cathartic’, but that doesn’t really shed much light on what it actually sounds like. The Manchester-based four-piece’s second full-length is difficult to pigeonhole for sure, but chances are if you enjoyed relatively recent offerings from the UK underground like Phoxjaw’s Royal Swan or Black Peaks’ All That Divides, you should get on pretty well with this. It’s also difficult not to hear a heavy dose of the alternative metal of the likes of Tool and Deftones (neither a huge surprise given the band was drawn together by a shared love of both those artists, among others).
The album starts with a rather typical ‘calm before the storm’ type piece in Septic. This builds gradually with ominous electronics which don’t give much indication of quite where things are going next. These eventually reach a crescendo of static before giving way to the record’s first song proper, Passive Disconnect. This one’s an absolute rager and quite possibly the best track on the album. It runs along with driving verses and ethereal vocals which explode into gigantic, furious choruses, stopping off halfway through for a trance-inducing progressive jam with the first of many mesmerising performances from vocalist/guitarist Steven Dobb.
Passive Disconnect may be the strongest song on the record, but it’s by no means without its challengers. Cauterised directly after it is a huge, dynamic piece whose choruses are toweringly expansive, while fifth track Close Enough features the kind of swaggering riffs Tool’s Adam Jones would be proud of. Later, the album’s ninth track Incision does just about everything. It goes from relatively mellow bass and tom-led verses to an epic atmospheric post-metal outro via ethereal progressive jams, moments of bounce, and a savagery that’s pretty much unparalleled anywhere else on the record. Even that’s hardly an exhaustive list of highlights, and no song on A Disconnect is realistically any less than an 8/10.
One thing that keeps A Disconnect so consistently gripping is the band’s impressive command of dynamics. This is true within the songs themselves, many of which juxtapose loud and quiet to powerful effect, but also in the way that the record features multiple tracks where they lay down the ferocity altogether. Sixth track Thin for example is a melancholy acoustic piece which features a particularly heartfelt performance from Dobb, who’s accompanied by album guest Maggie Lister’s rich and mournful cello. Elsewhere, the band wrap things up with the stunning, even haunting, album closer Mire – another firm highlight from the record. While these quieter pieces definitely serve to sharpen The Hyena Kill’s fiercer edges, they shouldn’t be viewed as just that, and feel as much an integral part of the album as the more high-energy tracks.
The reason ‘cathartic’ feels like a good word for A Disconnect is primarily down to the fact that it was written at what Dobb describes as “a very low point” in his life. This is abundantly clear from his consistently emotional and passionate delivery. Whether he’s screaming “I feel like I’m buried alive” on the album’s opener, or quietly pleading “I don’t wanna die” in Mire’s final moments, you can tell he means every word. By Dobb’s own admission “there are no happy endings or moments of clarity” on A Disconnect, but that doesn’t mean it’s an utterly depressing listen. Instead, it’s an album which provides a 45-minute outlet for those looking to scream, shout, bounce around, and perhaps even weep in a way that should hopefully leave many feeling a little less alone than they did going into it. The musical content of A Disconnect is definitely enough to make it well-worth repeated listens, but it’s this emotional resonance which sets the record apart as something quite special.