The warmth of The Notes Cafe in central Southampton wasn’t the only thing that took my mind off the rain on Sunday 16th October. Manchester based rock group The Hyena Kill played an intimate show with locally sourced talent that shook the venue to its foundations. The duo, made up of Steven Dobb on guitar and vocals and Lorna Blundell on drums, released their debut album Atomised in late May to resounding praise, and have since played a number of support shows throughout Europe and opened the Jagermeister Stage on Friday 12th August at Bloodstock Open Air.
Decapod were first up, a local five piece progressive metal and grunge band who dove head first into their set with spaced out prog guitars and moments of crushing hard rock lunacy. The vocalist’s creative use of a megaphone to augment the lyrical hook of the second track was an enjoyable surprise, and the whole performance was embodied by the band’s unique toss up between sublime, almost synth-like guitars and powerful scream vocals interspersed with a good number of noisy riffs. As with any prog rock band, though, the length of the songs can leave the unprepared flagging in the last quarter but Decapod did an admirable job of holding the focus of the audience throughout.
Up next were fellow Sotonians Toupé who gave what must undoubtedly be one of the most unique live music performances I have ever seen. It began with vocalist and bass guitarist Grant Sharkey walking around the venue shouting “Where’s Karl?” at the top of his lungs before mounting the stage in silence, strapping on his bass and, after a long pause and a good look at the audience, whispering into the microphone: “good evening, this song is called Where’s Karl”. Toupé then got on with the business of wowing the crowd with funky bass-led grooves reminiscent of old school punk, technical percussion and vocals with a flavour of spoken word poetry in their abrupt, off the cuff manner. Their songs dripped with political and social satirism which culminated in their closing number ‘Peepers’, an exploration of modern voyeurism and sexual deviancy which Sharkey dryly dedicated to Donald Trump.
The headliners took to the stage and launched straight into the furiously aggressive ‘Your Loss’ from May’s Atomised, a veritable orgy of swampy, undulating rhythms that hit like a lead pipe to the teeth. The following two songs, Dobb revealed to the audience, came straight out of their recordings for the upcoming second album, the first imbued with intensity and stoically haunting low points whilst the second was a rising crescendo of artistically crafted anger. It’s often said that second albums are always hard to pull off, but based on these tracks it looks like The Hyena Kill are doing just fine. They came back to Atomised with ‘Choke’ which oozed deep, passionate grooves and razor sharp percussion from Blundell before closing with the hard and fast ‘Still Sick’, rich with the band’s addictively gloopy riffs and hooks. Punctuated with charming modesty and gratefulness from Dobb and Blundell, their set at The Notes Cafe was an exemplary look at what The Hyena Kill do best: foot-stompingly noisy, hyperaggressive rock and good times all round.