Review Summary: Petting the rabid dog can sometimes be fun.
I would have loved to have the lyric sheet to “You Can’t Pray a Lie” when I first listened to the album. There’s something quite exquisite about John Brannon’s vicious, unrelenting voice, not unlike a leashed dog desperately trying to break free from his chains. Just what the man is yelling about, I sadly have no clue. And yet, his fierce howls bring to mind Dax Riggs from Acid Bath, in that words are not needed to understand just what emotions he’s trying to convey.
This seemingly pure rage intertwines perfectly with the disparate guitar parts, which flow in and out of consciousness, weaving a wicked web of cacophony. The instrument itself acts more as a texture than a separate layer, which makes it refreshing in a time where many bands write one riff and then build whole songs off it. Such is not the case here. They went for a smart approach here – their anchor is in the rhythm section.
If Laughing Hyenas were a building, the bass would be the foundation, laying a strong and reliable base for the walls to be erected upon and give it a single, identifiable shape. As people and furniture started coming in – the other instruments – the building would be filled with life visible through its odd-shaped windows.
The “riffs” on this album are all bass-driven, as catchy as they are commanding, while the other instruments dance around them, giving their own interpretation of the music. In practice, this creates an album which, despite not varying much in terms of genre and song-structure, sounds new and fresh with each song and subsequent listen. There are just too many variations to fully comprehend the record on the first listen, but if one follows the basslines and the different ways the guitar, drums and voice dance around them, the music reveals a freshness that doesn’t come around often.
The record is sure to alienate a lot of people, due to its overly cacophonic nature. Its main flaw lies here – the music is too involved in itself to let the listener appreciate its beauty naturally. Brannon’s scream is prevalent during the whole album, and many people will automatically run at the sight of the rabid, ugly dog barking in rage before they see that there is emotional depth behind those eyes.
YCPL manages to cram many stories in little over half an hour, not dissimilar to how modern videogames let you replay the entire story again in order to see different endings with their own intricacies. However, for all its expansiveness, the record hides behind a veil of highly chaotic energy, making it difficult to ascertain its value on the first listen.
If you want to see what these hyenas are laughing about, you’ll have to get close enough to feel their breath.