The Hyena Kill Album Launch @ The Deaf Institute
A ménage a trios of Manchester bands proving that, contrary to what Flea and so many other ageing rock stars will lead you to believe, rock is far from fucking dead.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Charlotte Wellings
The Hyena Kill’s headline performance at The Deaf Institue last year was no mere fluke or flash in the pan. Manchester’s filthiest rock n’ roll duo, back amidst the recent release of debut album Atomised, an album helping propel them to the kind of big time opportunities that have been richly deserved for these tireless hard workers, they are back headlining – and selling out – one of Manchester’s most characteristic venues.
Thing, still a relatively new band and fronted by Under drummer Andy Preece – tonight plying his trade on guitar, keyboards and main vocals – begin proceedings with their pysch-tinged rock. A sound awash with thick keyboards and a hazy, Stone Roses meets Joy Division rhythm section, it all amalgamates into a dense centre point. With video projections beaming behind them, showing sped up clips of a city road in the night and machines in factories, they create something of a lucid sound. Yet, while it could be easy to get lost in, the balance of their sound tonight doesn’t do them a great deal of justice. Expect for the poppy Hawkwind-esque jam of Carousel, buried under swathing effects, a lot of their songs begin to sound the same.
Bluesy stoner rock insurgents Sky Valley Mistress arrive on stage upon a bed of expectation. Having played Manchester and the rest of the country more times than the Von Trapp children have had hot dinners, they are a well established act. And so, for many audience members tonight this is their first introduction to a band that anyone who has seen them before has undoubtedly been raving about. But for the first half of their set they just felt a little flat, not their usual potent and vital selves. They just sounded like another run-of-the-mill rock band who have a bit of admiration for fuzzy tones and greasy rhythms. It was only when their songs flowed together, a firey She's A Fever flowing into Day of the Lion with a classiness, and other songs that began to flirt more effectively with soulful quiet and rambunctious loud and where their mystic hedonism began to blossom, that their energy kicked into another gear. The second half of their set was a reputation-justifying master class; drummer Maxwell Newsome channelling Songs For The Deaf era QOTSA, vocalist Kayley “Hell Kitten” Davies sounding like a more malicious Janis Joplin.
Under spasmodic, epileptic strobe lights, playing with an undiluted ire, the night was always going to belong to The Hyena Kill. When Steven Dobb and Lorna Blundell get onto stage and begin the play, their maelstrom music, which explodes with surging riffs of pummelling groove and drum beats that are both simple and driving and deceitfully complex, tactful and savage, becomes the extension of their venting souls. Fury and angst bleeds out through tracks of pure, unshackled musical escapism.
Choke grinds out a sordid kind of Muddy Waters and Refused hybrid – bluesy and taking notes from trad blues but playing it with a punk shaped vendetta. Crosses sounds like a yeti after a bag of cocaine exploded in its stomach; unstoppable, hairy and resolutely distinctive. The veins in Steven Dobb’s neck pulsate and flare to bursting point as he spits his lyrics, Lorna the puppeteer to your heartbeat for the evening through her sadistic drumming. She controls the crescendos and the chaos, she is both the calm and the storm.
Even as a pedalboard malfunction interrupts closing number Still Sick – and threatens to kill off the gig before the finale of one of their cataclysmic ‘fuck you’ anthem – they manage to deal with the hitch professionally and entertainingly. While a roadie runs, torch in hand, onto stage to assess the situation, Lorna rumbles through a myriad of ridiculously talented fills and beats. She stops, the crowd cheers, the room warm with admiration, then, realising the pedalboard is still fucked, she goes again. To massive elation, the pedalboard is fixed and Still Sick, which sounds like a match tossed into a firework factory, gives the band the perfect send off.