Review Summary: "Grindcore"? I would call this "horrorcore" if the juggalos didn't already own that label
Looking back to the last decade, if there’s one album that’s as distinguished as a pink gorilla within the cannon of extreme metal and hardcore based on its intensity, originality, and very real sense of menace, it would have to be Pig Destroyer’s 2001 grindcore masterpiece Prowler in the Yard. It takes the familiar and surrounds it with an atmosphere of horror that’s difficult to pull off convincingly, and Pig Destroyer succeeds in this department with flying colors. Anyone not accustomed to this type of music (which might even include some metal heads) may understandably feel a sense of fear while listening to this beast, and heck, the guy writing this review has been listening to metal since he was about seven years old and even he was a little freaked out after hearing that robotic voice tell the grisly tale of “Jennifer” right at the album’s start. Prowler in the Yard is a brutal, chaotic, and disturbing collection tracks. It also gets your head banging profusely and is just a plain joy to listen to.
Unlike later Pig Destroyer albums such as Terrifyer that opted for a more atonal powerviolence type of riffing, Prowler is rife with mid-paced grooves and breakdowns in tandem with catchy riffs that would not be out of place on a Slayer record. These slower passages that the band utilizes do a great job of breaking up the onslaught of manic blast beats and pounding double bass which are provided in equal measure, and separates them from other grindcore and powerviolence acts that offer a great deal in terms of speed and intensity while offering very little variety. Despite the fact that the album was recorded on an 8-track in a basement (and only seven tracks were used), the production on this album is surprisingly clear and crisp. The drums and cymbals cut through nicely and don’t sound buried under over-amped guitar noise, and the guitar tone is appropriately snarling without sounding mushy and oversaturated with distortion. The vocals sit perfect in the mix, and everything gels so nicely together that it makes you forget the fact that the band lacks a bassist. Lyrically, vocalist JR Hayes stands apart from the flock in the world of heavy metal where cliché topics and melodrama run rampant. His lyrical ability to become the demented characters he writes for is admirable and, as a good poet does, he keeps things vague and cryptic, forcing the listener to start over, re-read, and analyze, a task one would usually skip with most heavy metal lyrics. Envelop all of this in a foreboding, frightening aura (check out the Shining-esque atmospherics at the beginning of “Starbelly” for an example) and you have before you the musical equivalent of a terrifying psychological horror flick.
While Pig Destroyer never recaptured the same level of “scariness” on subsequent albums, that isn’t to say that they rested on their laurels. Still, many a fan will probably be revisiting Prowler more than anything else in Pig Destroyer’s discography due to its potent mix of catchy riffs, spooky atmosphere, and testosterone-fueled vein-popping-out-of-your-forehead extremity. It’s more than just a blast of intense noise; it’s foreboding, thought-provoking, well-performed and, dare I say, fun. It’s a heaping portion of what any extreme metal enthusiast wants in an album, and it has established itself as a staple in the underground metal universe where it rightfully stands. It’s a masterful example of abrasion united with a sinister appeal, and music this frightening must be heard to be believed.