I’ve been listening to this album for close to two weeks now, and only now do I feel qualified to analyse and review it, such is the depth of the music on offer here. Even after countless listens, sometimes something new jumps out. At first it may seem like a very difficult listen, but if you persevere, you’ll come to realise it’s nothing short of spectacular. Big call when it’s the debut album from a relatively unknown band from a country that always has something on display.
What this album has that sets it apart from the majority of ‘brutal’ and ‘technical’ progressive metal these days is the atmosphere it conjures up. This is a bleak, vitriolic and ugly album, with a brilliantly dark atmosphere, something which is often missing from death metal these days. Hyaena may have the technique and musicianship, but it’s not the primary focus here. The brooding riffs, the hard-edged, suffocating production courtesy of great Jamie King, acidic vocals, compelling guitar solos and crushing drum barrage combine to produce a sound that’s like no other band. If you really wanted to simplify it, it’s a mix of the twisted, dark riffing of Ulcerate, the “savagery” of Between The Buried And Me and oddly enough, the bleakness of bands like Isis and Neurosis, but really it sounds like none of them and to say so would be a disservice.
Speaking of the riffs, there is some amazing guitar work here. Alex and Jimmy (no last names given) definitely give a performance they can be proud of. It’s not particularly flashy, but it will get stuck in your head. There are a lot of riffs on this album, the songs are very linear and don’t repeat passages very often. You won’t get bored in a hurry. The tend to mix up, harsh, dissonant patterns with passages of eerie dark melodies, the tranquil moments provide a good contrast to the fury that tends to be unleashed shortly after. The best example of this can already be heard in the opening numbers “Ashbringer” and “Between Time & Space,” but there are other less obvious instances all the way through the album. Backing up the guitar work is a stellar drum performance from Christophe. His drumming is technical, interesting, not to mention fast as fuck! He doesn’t blast a whole lot, but tends to use furious double kick and awesome cymbal work to create immense walls of sound. His cymbal work tends to complement the riffs a lot, following the same patterns, it’s a technique I’ve not heard all that often and one I’ve grown to enjoy. Virgile’s vocal performance is nothing short of outstanding. His frenzied howls are the perfect compliment to the savagery of the drumming and guitar work, and convey a real sense of hatred and anger, something that ridiculous gutturals and pig squeals can never do. He does mix it up too with more typical growls and lower pitches, but in pair with cleans, his voice is a killer combo. Nathan’s bass playing is lively and precise, he is audible and easy-to-notice, especially on “Kingdom of Lions.”
If you are tired of the amount of sterile, clinical technical metal bands and are looking for something with a killer dark atmosphere, full of real passion, how prog death metal should be, then give Hyaena a listen. It may take a while to appreciate, but I guarantee if you stick with it you will not be disappointed.