On their first American release, Hamburg, Germany-based punk band Sick Hyenas serves up 11 short and hard-hitting tunes that could collectively serve as a recap of American punk’s common themes, sounds, and attitudes.
While their songs are similar enough to create a sense of community, the band may take that concept a bit too far on its self-titled record. Sick Hyenas exhibit a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of punk, but don’t show a variety of other influences, resulting in a fun, but stagnant record.
The slightly distorted vocals that have become a standard for Chicago punk music are a defining characteristic for Sick Hyenas. The vocals are presented with frantic energy, but they also come with a lazy diction that often makes the lyrics difficult to distinguish. When they are audible, however, they showcase a sharp sense of punk lyricism, using many of punk’s staple themes, including growing up (“Oh Mother”), women as a source of self-esteem (“Hoe”), and paranoia (“Radar Eyes”).
Much of Sick Hyenas’ LP seems to be an homage to the classic ’70s punk sound, juxtaposing moderate tempo love songs with quick-paced headbangers. Perhaps the best example of this juxtaposition can be found on “Howling Rags,” which is highly reminiscent of Ramones classics such as “Rock n Roll Radio” and “Pinhead.”
The influence, unfortunately, seems to stop at recognition.
Sick Hyenas are eager to show us how well they listen to classic punk acts like the Ramones and the New York Dolls, but do little to expand on that sound.
The songs on Sick Hyenas alternate between up-tempo rockers and mid-tempo rockers, blindsiding listeners with a nonstop, homogenous blur of angst.
Hyenas also take cues from ska and surf punk bands, but that influence appears almost exclusively in the guitar parts. From the ringing chords that introduce “Oh Mother” to the feedback emanating from the apocalyptic outro of “Wicked Sin,” the guitar on Sick Hyenas is easily its most enjoyable facet. While the songwriting lacks variety, the characteristic riffs played throughout the LP keep it interesting.
The band plays impressively tightly as a unit, especially considering how many of their songs are driven by off-beat rhythms. The riffs on “Surf’N Blood” in particular are as abrasive and creative as they were surely intended to be, but the abrupt changes in rhythm make it a disorienting number.
Sick Hyenas’ debut LP is a cohesive record that shows how well-informed the band is in the ways of punk rock, but doesn’t exhibit anything unique outside of its remarkable punkiness. Though solid musicianship and a devil-may-care attitude play key roles in this album’s character, there’s not much else underneath.
Like a skeleton emerging from a banana peel, Sick Hyenas have arrived in America as a bare-bones punk outfit, hellbent on reiterating the successful themes and sounds of the past.
Sick Hyenas – Sick Hyenas tracklist:
- “Handle Song”
- “Surf’N Blood”
- “Oh Mother”
- “Texas Cowboy”
- “Wicked Sin”
- “Radar Eyes”
- “Howling Rags”
- “Le Sac”
- “Honolulu Nights”
- “Weather of Death”