Review Summary: It's disgusting. It's pornography. It's beautiful. It's art.
At the time of Prowler in the Yard
's release, Pig Destroyer were:
JR Hayes - vocals, lyrics
Scott Hull - guitars
Brian Harvey - drums
hail from Virginia and are the result of Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Anal Cu
nt guitarist Scott Hull's intention to return to the basic elements of grindcore. Accordingly, these elements are in ample supply on the band's first album for Relapse Records, 2001's Prowler in the Yard
: blast-beats, breakneck riffing and relentlessly angry vocals that are practically vomited out of the speakers. Opting to write, record and perform as a three-piece, it’s advantageous that each of the band sounds fuc
king huge on this disc. Hull is a pretty special guitarist, a master of chugging riffs, but equally capable of busting out a totally unexpected lick which breaks free from the sludge with all the entertainingly splattery shock value of one of the chest-bursters from the Alien
films – check out the middle eight of Mapplethorpe Grey
for probably the best such example on this album.
The throaty roar of Hull's seven-string guitar more than compensates for the lack of bass, and provides a none-more-black canvas for vocalist JR Hayes’ incensed tantrum-throwing: his throat-shredding screams are consistently punishing on the ears, especially visceral on the likes of Tickets to the Car Crash
and Ghost of a Bullet
. Drummer Brian Harvey, meanwhile, ably provides a pummelling backbeat to Hull’s wall-of-sound riffing. More than serving simply to fill in the gaps in the band’s sound, Harvey’s work is consistently impressive stuff, particularly in the minute-long drum outro to Hyperviolet
. When these elements come together, the results are frequently awesome: Heart and Crossbones
marries octopus-like fretwork with a thunderous breakdown, which combines with the only use of affected death growls on the album to thrilling effect.
I have to put my hands up and say that, as a grind novice, I initially found little to hold onto here, musically speaking. Coming from a more traditional metal direction, I was impressed to a greater extent by the relentless hatred that poured from the speakers, as well as the beyond-unsettling storytelling and highly intelligent lyricism of JR Hayes, which really colours the whole affair and gives it more depth and character than it might otherwise have had (had it been the type of one-dimensionally brutal goregrind that the ultra-violent Paul Booth cover art misleadingly suggests it is, for example).
If you’re a pop-tart who’s into stuff like vaguely identifiable song structures and the odd shard of melody, then allow me to direct you towards the 69 seconds of chewy goodness that comprise Sheet Metal Girl
, the relatively conventional, triplet-based Junkyard God
and the sprawling riff-monster Starbelly
. This being grind, none of these is what you could call accessible, but their hooks are likely the most immediate of the whole track listing. However, picking out highlights in an album which barely squeaks past the half hour mark (less when you consider that half of Piss Angel
’s eight minutes are given over to ghostly synth and vocal samples) is an ultimately futile exercise. Prowler in the Yard
is best enjoyed as a whole, and only really makes sense when book-ended by its absurdly entertaining speak-and-spell intro and outro. The disquieting subject matter and presentation of these two vocodered passages serves to highlight the sheer uniqueness of Prowler in the Yard
, as well as granting an insight into the warped minds of the three men who produced it.
Yes, Pig Destroyer may have upped their game on 2004’s follow-up, Terrifyer
, but for all its musical and lyrical progression, even this lacks the sheer fist-in-the-face initial impact of its predecessor. And yes, all the complaints that can be levelled at grind more generally apply here. The songs are all pretty short, but there are 22 tracks on this album, and their sheer aggression would only be diluted by unnecessarily dragging them all out to some “acceptable” length. The lyrics are helpfully provided along with the CD, so those who bellyache about incomprehensible vocals can also stop their whining. The album is crisply mixed, and aside from the unrelentingly abrasive nature of the music, there is nothing here that should offend the sensibilities of the discerning aficionado of all things fast and heavy.
Bottom line: if you’re into music which puts an emphasis on brutality and intellect, Pig Destroyer are highly recommended. Those looking to up the heaviness quotient of the music they listen to are particularly encouraged to invest in Prowler in the Yard
: if you’re going to taste ice-cream for the first time, it might as well be Ben and Jerry’s; similarly, if you’re taking your first tentative steps into the murky torture dungeon of grindcore, you can’t really do much better than this fantastic piece of work.